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It was wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces at the SUNTA business meeting in San José, and special thanks to those who skipped the beginning of the Joint Sections Reception—which SUNTA is delighted to co-sponsor—in order to attend. We hope to see you again at the May SUNTA-SANA conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Board Transitions

We welcomed back to the board two new members: former SUNTA President Deborah Pellow (Syracuse University) starts her term as first year councilor, and former City and Society Editor Suzanne Scheld (California State University Northridge) returns to the board as president-elect and program chair for 2019. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Petra Kuppinger (outgoing past president) and Friederike Fleisher (outgoing councilor) as their terms come to an end. Both went above and beyond the call of duty in demanding roles and we thank them for their years of dedicated service. I move from the role of president to past president for the next two years, and I thank the board and members for making the past two years such a rewarding learning experience.


The prizes that SUNTA offers highlight important contributions to the field by emerging and established scholars. Look for next year’s call for nominations in AN or on the SUNTA website and consider submitting your work or that of your students.

Congratulations to Anthony Leeds Award recipient Caroline Melly (Smith College) for Bottleneck: Moving, Building, and Belonging in an African City. Named in honor of the late Anthony Leeds, the distinguished pioneer in urban anthropology, this prize is awarded to a book that exemplifies model research on complex, transnational, urban topics. The goal of the prize is to showcase work that advances the research agenda of anthropologists. This year there were 19 eligible submissions. In the Leeds Prize committee’s recommendation for Melly’s ethnography, members commented,

It is a deeply engaging ethnography of political economy, which does not loose sense of tactile textures of the everyday while illuminating structural forces that shapes and be shaped by such mundane practices. Melly’s remarkable book exemplifies the capacity of ethnography for revealing the complexities and contradictions of urban life, pointing once again to cities as critical sites for contemporary anthropology work.

The winner of the SUNTA Graduate Student paper prize was Tzu-Chi Ou (Columbia University) for the paper “Dwelling in Emptiness: Left Behind Houses and Spatialized Identities in China.” Chosen out of 16 submissions, the paper demonstrated great originality and innovative application of theory and ethnography. The paper examines how rural migrant workers to Beijing live in slum-like conditions in the city but build luxury homes in their village of origin. Tzu-Chi argues that through their spatial practices, these rural migrants are neither urban nor rural, and neither workers nor peasants “but instead occupy multiple binary-nonbinary lifeworlds.” The committee noted that Tzu-Chi “makes a powerful intervention in ethnographically demonstrating the ambiguity of dual poles that constitute migrant identity and space – worker/peasant, urban/rural, homeowner/tenant.”

Sarah Mahoney (University of California, Irvine) was award the Undergraduate Student Paper Award for “Kyoto Funiki: Atmospheres of Living.” There were four submissions in this category. The committee praised the paper for the “richness and quality of its analysis of its interlocutor—subjects’ experienced urban worlds.”

Kudos to Best Paper in City and Society awardee Allison Formanack (University of Colorado Boulder) for “My Land is My Land: Absence and Ruination in the American Dream of (Mobile) Homeownership.” Formanack’s article upends the social, legal, and financial ambiguity surrounding mobile homes and challenges the notion that owners, who are denigrated as “trailer trash,” are not true homeowners.

Announcements for 2019 SUNTA Prizes will be posted in early 2019 at and the SUNTA Facebook page.

Mentoring Program

As a follow up to the SUNTA mentoring sessions held in Washington, DC, last year, SUNTA hosted another session in San José. Many thanks to mentor Petra Kuppinger, Student Councilor Camile Frazier, and City and Society Co-Editor Derek Pardue who met with over 20 students and early career scholars. SUNTA also remains a supporter of the AAA Summer Internship Program. Please look for details about the Vancouver SUNTA mentoring program on and the listserv in October.

Committee on Refugees and Immigrants

Given the importance of ongoing immigration debates on the global scale, the Committee on Refugees and Immigrants (CORI), and in conjunction with SUNTA and the AAA, published in 2018 a second volume Porous Borders, Invisible Boundaries? The Vicissitudes of Contemporary Migration. The volume, co-edited by Deborah R. Altarmirano, Faedah M. Totah, Fethi Keles, and myself contains 22-powerful essays.

As we note on the back cover:

This volume explores from an anthropological perspective the complexities of borders and migration: the difficulties of crossing a militarized geographic boundary, engaging in the process of moving across a social barrier delineated by linguistic, religious, cultural or political differences, or aiding migrants’ survival through the arrival, resettlement and assimilation process.

The concise format of these sensitively written essays are designed to be helpful both to scholars and those looking to assign cutting edge essays to students. SUNTA thus is able to make this volume free for download for use in classes.

SUNTA-SANA Conference, 2–5 May 2019

We hope to see many SUNTA members at the SUNTA-SANA conference “Positive Futures” at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Please consult and SUNTA Facebook page for details about registration.

Urban-l Listserv

The AAA is planning to roll out a new program for email communication within sections in the spring. Please bear with us if you receive duplicate messages from the listserv during the transition.

Please contact SUNTA President Jeff Maskovsky ([email protected]) or SUNTA program chair Suzanne Scheld ([email protected]) with questions about, ideas for sessions, or special events in Vancouver, BC.

Ideas for SUNTA’s Anthropology News columns should go to Faedah M. Totah at [email protected].

Jayne Howell is SUNTA past president and professor of anthropology and Latin American Studies at California State University, Long Beach.

Cite as: Howell, Jayne. 2019. “President’s Annual Report.” Anthropology News website, January 9, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1248