Margaret Mead Award

The Margaret Mead Award - A Plaque Depicting Margaret Mead with a Walking Stick

Margaret Mead, for years among the best known women in the world, was also the best known anthropologist, with a particular talent for bringing anthropology fully into the light of public attention. The Margaret Mead Award, initiated by the Society for Applied Anthropology in 1979, and awarded jointly with the American Anthropological Society since 1983, continues to celebrate the tradition of bringing anthropology to bear on wider social and cultural issues.

The Margaret Mead Award is presented to a younger scholar for a particular accomplishment such as a book, film, monograph, or service, which interprets anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public. The award is designed to recognize a person clearly associated with research and/or practice in anthropology. The awardee's activity will exemplify skills in broadening the impact of anthropology -- skills for which Margaret Mead was admired widely.

Nominees for the 2024 award must have received the Ph.D. degree after January 1, 2014 (ten years or less ago). Each application must include the nominee's curriculum vitae, two letters of recommendation* describing the accomplishment and documenting its impact on relevant publics beyond the discipline, and five copies of the book or film. 

*Cannot be from the publisher or the author.

Please email nomination letter, CV, and one letter of recommendation to

Publishers: addresses for shipping books will be provided upon request to the SfAA office

Deadline for receipt of materials is February 15. Supporting material will not be returned.

The selection committee consists of two persons appointed by the Society for Applied Anthropology and two persons appointed by the American Anthropological Association.
Nominees' contributions will be judged using the following criteria: 

  • intellectual quality
  • clarity and understandability
  • the extent or depth of impact
  • breadth of impact
  • The 2024 Award winner will be announced and stipend will be made during the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Presentation of the Award plaque will be given during the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Spring 2025.

Previous Recipients


Michael Crawley, Ph.D.

Out of Thin Air.jpgMichael Crawley is an Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He completed his PhD thesis, entitled ‘“Condition”: Energy, Time and Success Amongst Ethiopian Runners’ at the University of Edinburgh, and also holds an MA in French and English literature from the same institution. He spent fifteen months living and training alongside Ethiopian long-distance runners in Addis Ababa and at rural training camps in highland Ethiopia, and wrote ‘Out of Thin Air: Running Wisdom and Magic from Above the Clouds in Ethiopia’ about his experiences. As well as winning the Margaret Mead Award, the book was longlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. Michael has conducted subsequent ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico and Nepal, and is interested in the themes of endurance, self-tracking and movement.


Amber Reed, Ph.D.

Nostalgia after Apartheid.jpgAmber R. Reed is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College in New York City. From 2014 to 2016, she was a postdoctoral fellow in Anthropology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been conducting ethnographic research in the rural Eastern Cape of South Africa since 2009, and has a particular interest in democratic education, historical memory, race, and the politics of culture. Her work has been supported by UCLA’s International Institute and the American Philosophical Society.


The Boards of Directors of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) and the American Anthropology Association (AAA) have selected Prof. Narges Bajoghli and Prof. Ashanté M. Reese to receive Margaret Mead Awards for 2020. Prof. Bajoghli was selected for her book “Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic,” published by Stanford University Press (2019). Prof. Reese was selected for her book “Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington D.C.,” published by University of North Carolina Press (2019).

Narges Bajoghli

Iran Re-framed.jpgBajoghli.pngNarges Bajoghli is an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. She received her PhD in Anthropology in 2016 from New York University and, before moving to SAIS, held a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
She is the author of Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic (Stanford University Press, 2019) and the director of the documentary film The Skin that Burns (2013), about chemical weapons survivors in Iran. She is currently working on her second book project on chemical warfare in the Iran-Iraq war and the long-term impact of exposure on survivors.

Ashanté M. Reese

Black Food Geographies.jpgReese.jpegDr. Ashanté Reese is assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and is affiliated with the Departments of Anthropology and American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She earned a PhD in Anthropology from American University in 2015 and a bachelors of arts in History with a minor in African American studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Broadly speaking, Dr. Reese works at the intersection of critical food studies and Black geographies, examining the ways Black people produce and navigate food-related spaces and places in the context of anti-blackness. Animated by the question, who and what survives?, much of Dr. Reese’s work has focused on the everyday strategies Black people employ while navigating inequity. Her first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., takes up these themes through an ethnographic exploration of antiblackness and food access. Black Food Geographies won the 2020 Best Monograph Award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society. Her second book, Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, is a collection co-edited with Hanna Garth that explores the geographic, social, and cultural dimensions of food in Black life across the U.S. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon foundation and has been published in a variety of academic and public venues: Antipode, Human Geography, and Gravy Magazine among others. 

Currently, Dr. Reese is working on a project tentatively titled, The Carceral Life of Sugar in which she explores the spatial, economic, and metaphorical resonance of the “plantation” in the early 20th century convict lease system in Texas and the ongoing carceral significance of sugar in everyday (Black) life. 


Claudio Sopranzetti

Picture1.pngThe Margaret Mead Award will be presented to Dr. Claudio Sopranzetti for his book, “Owners of the Map: Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok.” Sopranzetti is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Central European University.

Picturve1.pngHe received his PhD in 2013 from Harvard University and, before moving to CEU, held an All Souls Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Oxford University. He is the author of Red Journeys (Silkworm Books 2012) and recently published The King ofBangkok, his first anthropologicalgraphic novel (Toronto Univ. Press).


Jennifer Mack

2018 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - The Construction of Equality Jennifer Mack is Associate Professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Researcher at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University. She holds a PhD from Harvard University, an MArch and MCP from MIT, and a BA from Wesleyan University. Broadly, Mack’s work focuses on social change and the built environment, with ongoing research on the architecture and planning of mosques and churches in Sweden and on how discourses of “sustainability” and “democracy” are used in the renovations of the green, open, and public spaces created around Swedish multifamily housing during the 1960s and 1970s. Mack has previously published work on the “right to the garden” (with Justin Parscher), mid-20thcentury youth centers, and architects and bureaucratic expertise, among other topics. She is the co-editor of three forthcoming anthologies. Mack has also worked as an architectural and urban designer and is a member of several international research networks, including “RESPOND” and “New Towns, Arrival Cities.”

The Construction of Equality Author - Jennifer MackMack’s 2017 book, The Construction of Equality: Syriac Immigration and the Swedish City (University of Minnesota Press), investigates the Swedish town of Södertälje, which has become the global capital of the Syriac Orthodox Christian diaspora. Since the 1960s, this Syriac community has transformed the standardized welfare-state spaces of the city’s neighborhoods into its own “Mesopotälje,” defined by houses with international influences, a major soccer stadium, churches, social clubs, and more. Mack argues that these Syriac projects – which often highlight the group’s minority status – have challenged the postwar principles of Swedish utopian architecture and planning that explicitly emphasized the erasure of difference. Neither are such projects merely the result of the grassroots social practices usually attributed to immigrants; instead, they emerge through dialogues between residents and accredited architects, urban planners, and civic bureaucrats. Using interdisciplinary methods from anthropology and architectural history, Mack investigates urban development and the immigrant experience in Europe over a fifty-year period.


Sameena Mulla

2017 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - The Violence of CareProf. Mulla was selected for her book, “Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses and Sexual Assault Intervention”, published by the New York University Press (2014).  Prof. Mulla is currently an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Marquette University.  She is a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropology Association. She is an active participant in the SfAA’s Gender-Based Violence Topical Interest Group, which she chaired for two years.

Dr. Mulla received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University where she began her research for The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses and Sexual Assault Intervention. As she discusses in the introduction of the book, her interest in sexual assault intervention grew out of her experiences supporting a growing circle of victims and survivors among her network of friends, colleagues and students. Cultivating a dual focus in medical anthropology and legal anthropology, Mulla saw an ethnographic approach as having the potential to capture all of the complexities and nuances of sexual assault response. She undertook research in the emergency room in the role of rape crisis advocate, choosing a very embedded position from which to support patients navigating the medico-legal examination while doing research.

The Violence of Care Author - Sameena MullaLike many anthropologists who have devoted their studies and their activism to human suffering, Mulla relies on a broad cohort of other scholars and activists to sustain her work. She is currently collaborating with sociologist Heather Hlavka on a courtroom ethnography on sexual assault adjudication in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While she resides in Milwaukee, she travels frequently to visit her family in Washington, D.C., and her in-laws in Petionville, Haiti. As the daughter of immigrants, she credits her diverse community of first generation and immigrant friends as attenuating her anthropological sensibility and preparing her for a career as an anthropologist at home, researching the intricacies of gender-based violence in U.S. culture. 


Jason De Leon

image-4.jpegJason De Leon is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Faculty Associate, Latina/o Studies Program at the University of Michigan.  His research interests include violence, materiality, undocumented migration and deportation, archaeology of the contemporary, forensic science, and photoethnography. 

The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail focuses on the Arizona-Mexico border in the Sonora Desert.  The book documents how US policy utilized the lethal landscape of the desert to deter migrants from crossing.  The author uses careful observation and brings a combination of anthropological methods including ethnographic, forensic, and archaeological approaches to make visible the realities of life, death, and imposed suffering that migrant crossers face. 

The Land of Open Graves Author - Jason De LeonThe Land of Open Graves has received exceptional reviews in anthropology and in other venues including National Geographic. Noted scholar Philippe Bourgois describes the author as “creatively critical” and the book as “aesthetically and emotionally powerful.”  Noted scholar Randall H. McGuire reaffirms the sentiment and labels the book “an exceptional work of anthropology.”


Mark Schuller

2015 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Killing with KindnessMark Schuller is Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti.

Supported by the National Science Foundation Senior and CAREER Grant, Bellagio Center, and others, Schuller’s research on NGOs, globalization, disasters, and gender in Haiti has been published in two dozen book chapters and peer-reviewed articles as well as public media, including a column in Huffington Post

He is the author of two monographs, including Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti (Rutgers, 2016) and co-editor of five volumes, including Tectonic Shifts: Haiti since the Earthquake (Kumarian Press, 2012).

He is co-director / co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009).

Schuller is co-editor oKilling with Kindness Author - Mark Schullerf Berghahn Books’ Catastrophes in Context: a Series in Engaged Social Science on Disasters and University of Alabama Press’ NGOgraphies: a Series of Ethnographic Reflections of NGOs. 

Recipient of the Margaret Mead Award, he is board chair of the Lambi Fund of Haiti and active in several solidarity efforts. 


Seth M. Holmes

image-3.jpegFresh Fruit, Broken Bodies provides an intimate examination of the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants in our contemporary food system. An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes’s material is visceral and powerful. He trekked with his companions illegally through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the U.S., planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. This “embodied anthropology” deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which social inequalities and suffering come to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care.

Seth M. Holmes, a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician, focuses broadly on social hierarchies and health inequalities. Based on five years of research in the field, traveling with and working with migrants, his book uncovers how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Dr. Holmes is Martin Sisters Endowed Chair Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies Author - Seth M. HolmesDr. Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies and health disparities in the context of US-Mexico migration and the ways in which these inequalities become understood to be natural and normal. This project draws on approximately eighteen months of full-time participant-observation, during which time Dr. Holmes migrated with undocumented indigenous Mexicans in the United States and Mexico, picked berries and lived in a labor camp in Washington State, pruned vineyards in central California, harvested corn in the mountains of Oaxaca, accompanied migrant laborers on clinic visits, and trekked across the border desert into Arizona. An article from this work has been awarded the Rudolf Virchow Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology. Concurrently, he is conducting research into the processes through which medical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social difference. In addition, Dr. Holmes is exploring new research into race and racism among youth in indigenous Mexican mixed citizenship status families in the United States.  


Sera L. Young

2013 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Craving Earth Craving Earth by Sera L. Young is a ground-breaking work that examines the cross-cultural behavioral phenomenon called pica that has often been misunderstood and condemned by the biomedical community.  In the spirit of Margaret Mead, the book presents a difficult subject and findings that are supported by extensive and rigorous research in a very readable form.

Craving Earth highlights the public health significance of pica by quantifying the widespread prevalence of the behavior and examining its potential positive and negative health consequences.  Dr. Young identified, gathered, and then quantified the findings of 482 ethnographic reports of geophagy spanning 500 years and many languages using software that she and a collaborator designed for the project.  Her meticulous work has proven that pica is a behavior common across time and space and is often seen among some of the most vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and young children.  Dr. Young’s cross species examination of geophagy, and her study of the metabolic binding mechanisms of many of the non food substances consumed and their use in medical and industrial applications today, has helped to reframe pica as a potentially adaptive behavior.  It has also helped to discredit the commonly held belief that pica functions as a micronutrient supplement.  Craving Earth is a significant anthropological contribution that will improve the understanding between the biomedical and public health professionals and the communities in which they practice.

Dr. Sera Young has a personal and professional commitment to public health in low-resource settings that stems from more than a decade of first-hand experiences with the devastating consequences of poor maternal and child health.  She received a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan.  Subsequently she pursued an MA in Medical Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam and began studying maternal anemia in Zanzibar, Tanzania.  She continued with this topic while working on her Ph.D. in International Nutrition from Cornell University and began to construct a database quantifying cultural-level reports of pica; the biochemical analysis of pica substances; and parasitological analyses of pica substances.  These data, combined with a large epidemiological study among an obstetric population in Tanzania, yielded the richest dataset on pica to date.

Craving Earth Author - Sera L. YoungDr. Young held post-doctoral and faculty positions at University of California at Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco.  She started working with a number of NIH-funded studies pertaining to HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.  In mid-2011, she returned to Cornell to join the faculty of the Division of Nutritional Sciences where she continues to pursue issues related to maternal and child nutrition and global health. 


Erin P. Finley

2012 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Fields of Combat Dr. Finley received her Ph.D. in medical anthropology in 2009 from Emory University. She received her undergraduate degree in anthropology (with high honors) from Emory in 1999; in 2006, she earned the Masters of Public Health degree from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory. Dr. Finley’s primary research interests include PTSD and the implementation of evidence-based treatment for veterans.

“Fields of Combat” is a careful and sensitive description of the suffering from, and healing of psychic wounds of war trauma. The book documents the cultural context of the struggle by returning soldiers for social re-incorporation and re-creation of a productive life.  The author uses a careful analysis of the socio-cultural context from which the soldiers derive to explain the response to war.

Fields of Combat Author - Erin P. Finley“Fields of Combat” has received exceptional reviews in prominent professional journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association. Noted scholars in the field have described the research as “ground-breaking” and the book as “elegantly written”. One scholar concluded, “Margaret Mead would have loved it because (the book) deals with an incredibly important topic and clearly demonstrates the power of anthropological research.”


Frances Norwood

2011 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - The Maintenance of LifeDr. Frances Norwood is Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at George Washington University and Director of Research with Inclusion Research Institute in Washington, DC. She earned her PhD in medical anthropology from the University of California-San Francisco and Berkeley. She is currently interested in exploring innovative solutions for long term and end-of-life care through the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Dr. Norwood received a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology in 2005 from the University of California-San Francisco and Berkeley.  Her research interest include long term care health policy, disability, innovative health care solutions, quality improvement, spirituality and health, vulnerable populations, health care reform and heath policy, critical medical anthropology, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, United States and the Netherlands.

The Maintenance of Life Author - Frances NorwoodThe Maintenance of Life is about what has developed in one present-day society to address social death and modern dying.  It is based on a 15-month qualitative study of home death in the Netherlands with general practitioners, end-of-life patients, and their family members.  The book develops from two study findings: (1) that euthanasia in practice is predominantly a discussion, which only rarely culminates in a euthanasia death; and (2) that euthanasia talk in many ways serves a palliative function, staving off social death by providing participants with a venue for processing meaning, giving voice to suffering, and reaffirming social bonds and self-identity at the end of Dutch life.  Through the mainstream practice of euthanasia talk, space has been created within healthcare which helps people live longer as active participants engaged in Dutch social networks at the end of life.  Using direct observation and in-depth interviews with patients, families, and physicians, this book looks critically at Dutch euthanasia policy and broader end-of-life practices from a cultural perspective and in comparison with US end-of-life practices and policies.  It concludes with a discussion of what lessons the US may take from the Dutch experience maintaining life at the end of life.


Jessaca Leinaweaver

2010 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - The Circulation of ChildrenI did undergraduate work at Whitman College, majoring in anthropology and Spanish literature with a minor in gender studies, and I received the M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 2005. The dissertation on which the book is based (Familiar ways: Child circulation in Andean Peru) won the Horace R. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award.

I worked at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada for 3 years (2005-2008) and then joined Brown University's Department of Anthropology in 2008. I am also a member of Brown’s Population Studies and Training Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Along with child fostering and adoption, the topics of this book, my research interests include migration, gender, childhood, and aging. Currently I am doing ethnographic research in Madrid with Peruvian migrants and adoptees. The new project is funded by NSF, Wenner-Gren, and Fulbright. I have also completed international collaborative research (funded by Wenner-Gren as well) with a colleague in Peru, Jeanine Anderson, and thirteen anthropology students.

The Circulation of Children Author - Jessaca LeinaweaverI became interested in this topic when I went to Peru in 1999 to study Quechua in Cuzco through Michigan's collaboration with the Centro Bartolome de las Casas. I had originally planned to study tourism and conflicting representations of present-day Quechua speakers in an area (Cuzco) where tourism about long-gone Incas was most lucrative. But on more than one occasion my friends and I were offered babies, and I was very struck by these encounters, some joking and others seemingly quite serious. So I began reading more deeply in the andean ethnographic literature about child-rearing and families, and found that it was quite common for kids to grow up in households that were not the ones they had originally been born into. That was the beginning of this study, which expanded to include a consideration of orphanages and of transnational migration, but which had its beginning in the localized movements of young people from one house to another, and the "gift" of a child. The book is about the various reasons why the urban Peruvians I knew engaged in this practice, which I called "child circulation" to highlight its similarities with practices in West Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere that anthropologists have studied such things. I found that the sending parents have certain ideas about how things will work, the receiving family another, and the young person her- or himself still others.


Sverker Finnström

2009 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Living with Bad SurroundingsSverker Finnström was born in Umeå in 1970, but grew up in Linköping. He moved to Uppsala in 1992 to study anthropology. Besides anthropology, he has studied The History of Religions, Logic and Metaphysics/Theoretical Philosophy, Science of Religions, Human Ecology, Modernism/Post Modernism, and Method, Practice and Theory in the Humanities.

Living with Bad Surroundings Author - Sverker FinnstromHe defended his PhD in 2003. He has taught courses in Investigative Anthropological Methodology, The History of Anthropological Theory, African Studies, Civil Society, and Culture in Armed Conflicts. He has also been the team coordinator of the Living Beyond Conflict Seminar, a Sida funded research environment at Uppsala University. He joined Stockholm University in 2007.


Daniel Jordan Smith

image-5 copy.jpegThe Boards of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology have selected Daniel Jordan Smith, an associate professor at Brown University, to receive the Margaret Mead Award for 2008.  Smith was selected for his book, A Culture of Corruption. Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria.

The Margaret Mead Award is sponsored jointly by the two associations and presented annually.  The Award is presented to a young scholar for a particular accomplishment which employs anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public.

The Award honors the memory of Margaret Mead who in her lifetime was the most widely-known woman in the world and arguably the most recognized anthropologist.  Mead had a unique talent for bringing anthropology into the life of public attention.  The Award was initiated in 1973 by the Society and with Mead's approval.  It has been presented jointly with the American Anthropological Association since 1983.

In the spirit of the Mead Award, A Culture of Corruption. Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria is a fascinating, timely, and compelling ethnography about how fraud and scams are a critical source of income in Nigeria as well as a part of the country’s domestic cultural landscape. Based on extensive field experience, Smith documents and analyzes how various types of corruption permeate Nigerian society, how Nigerians live with andcreatively manipulate corruption, and the dilemmas Nigerians face daily to survive in a society riddled by corruption and their ambivalences about the situation. The theoretically sophisticated book, with its clear articulation of the author’s engagement in the research situation, tackles head on the issues and feelings about corruption so that it becomes understandable from the Nigerian point of view as a topic used to vent frustrations with dysfunctional bureaucracies, an embedded moral economy, as an example of the tension between individual entrepreneurialism and power, an extension of kinship, and as cultural production. This book will also help dispel essentializing assumptions that corruption causes poverty in developing African economies and bring new understandings of how individuals think about, live with, fight, manipulate, and criticize corruption. Smith’s bold and courageous study of corruption at the micro and macro levels shows the messiness of daily life and opens discussion about an area that anthropologists want to keep at arm’s length. In the tradition of Mead, Smith’s work will speak to a large audience, in part because it is well written, understandable, and often witty, but also because everyone with a computer has received an email proposing the need for an urgent business relationship from a Nigerian and wonder why these attempts at fraud so often originate in Nigeria. A Culture of Corruption speaks to a broad readership, including policymakers and the international media, who will see commonalities with corruption in other cultures around the world, especially those based on systems of patronage.

A Culture of Corruption Author - Daniel Jordan SmithDr. Smith has worked in Nigeria since the late 1980s as a public health adviser with an NGO and as a research anthropologist. He has shown a solid commitment to service and public engagement in issues ranging from demography, disease (HIV/AIDS), international health, fertility, and violence to social organization, migration, ethnicity, social status, gender, religion, and human behavior and their articulation in culture.


João Biehl

2007 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Vita: Life in a Zone of Social AbandonmentThe Boards of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology have selected Prof. João Biehl to receive the Margaret Mead Award for 2007.  Biehl was selected for his book Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, published by the University of California Press in 2005.  Biehl is currently an Associate Professor of Anthropology on the faculty of Princeton University.

The Award will be formally presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 28, 2008.

Vita is an ethnography of social death and care in a globalizing Brazil.  It tells the story of a young woman living at Vita, an asylum for the sick, mentally ill and poor in the southern city of Porto Alegre. Due to a misdiagnosed neurodegenerative disorder, Catarina becomes paralyzed, is considered insane and is abandoned by her family. Through intense listening and proceeding like a detective, Biehl reconstructs Catarina's life history and uncovers the multiple forces -- economic, medical, political, familial -- that brought her to Vita and that make such ungoverned institutions of last resort proliferate in Brazil and beyond. As Biehl assesses the moral and technological failures of the broader, industrialized society, he also illuminates the edges of human imagination that Catarina and others at Vita keep expanding. Biehl's analysis is beautifully complimented with a series of extraordinary photographs (by Torben Eskerod), prompting a comparison with the collaboration between James Agee and Walker Evans in the classic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

The Margaret Mead Award is sponsored jointly by the two associations and presented annually.  The Award is presented to a young scholar for a particular accomplishment which employs anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public.

The Award honors the memory of Margaret Mead who in her lifetime was the most widely-known woman in the world and arguably the most recognized anthropologist.  Mead had a unique talent for bringing anthropology into the life of public attention.  The Award was initiated in 1973 by the Society and with Mead's approval.  It has been presented jointly with the American Anthropological Association since 1983.

Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, Prof. Biehl was a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. He earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley (1999) and a doctorate in religion from the Graduate Theological Union (1996). He earned undergraduate degrees in theology and journalism and a master's degree in philosophy from academic institutions in Brazil. Vitahas received five other major book awards, including the Basker Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology and the Stirling Prize from the Society for Psychological Anthropology.  Biehl's research and writing has been supported by grants from the MacArthur and the Wenner-Gren Foundations. He wrote Vita while a member of the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study. He was a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes and received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton in 2005.

Author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment - Joao BiehlProf. Biehl authored numerous articles and book chapters and co-edited the volume Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations (University of California Press). He recently published a new book, Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival (Princeton University), exploring the polictical economy and ethics of global AIDS treatment initiatives.


Luke Eric Lassiter

mead2007.jpegThe Society for Applied Anthropology is pleased to announce that Prof. Luke Eric Lassiter has been selected to receive the Margaret Mead Award for 2005.  Prof. Lassiter is the Director of the Graduate Humanities Program at the Marshall University Graduate College in South Charleston, West Virginia.  He is also Professor of Humanities and Anthropology at the University.  The announcement was made by President Don Stull.

The Mead Award was initiated in 1979 by the Society and has been awarded jointly since 1983 with the American Anthropological Association.  It is presented annually to a younger scholar for a particular accomplishment such as a book, a film, or a service.  The guidelines specify that the particular accomplishment should interpret anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful to a broadly concerned public, skills for which Margaret Mead was admired widely.

Margaret Mead joined in 1941 with other prominent applied social scientists to form the Society.  Later (1978), she authorized the use of her name on the Award.  At the time, it was the first association-sponsored award which bore her name.

Prof. Lassiter was selected for his book, The Other Side of Middletown: Exploring Muncie's African American Community, which was published in 2004 by the AltaMira Press.  Muncie, Indiana, is the site of the then path-breaking "Middletown" studies, first initiated by Robert and Helen Lynd in 1929.   Prof. Lassiter noted that the book was a collaborative effort wherein "faculty, students, and community members together designed and implemented a collaborative ethnographic field project....” The purpose of the study was to recount "the largely unrecorded history of Muncie's black community which the Lynds and subsequent researchers downplayed".

The Other Side of Middletown Author - Luke Eric LassiterThe selection of Prof. Lassiter was announced at the Meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C., in early December.  Prof. Lassiter will also be honored at the Meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Vancouver, Canada, in late March.  Previous recipients of the Award include Paul Farmer, Susan Scrimshaw, Marc Sommers, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes.


Donna Goldstein

2004 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Laughter Out of PlaceDonna Goldstein combines her career in academic anthropology with an interest in politics and the ideals of intellectually engaged scholarship.  She challenges much of what we think we know about the "culture of poverty" in her book, Laughter Out of Place.  Drawing on more than a decade of experience in Brazil, Goldstein provides an intimate portrait of everyday life among the women of the favelas, or urban shantytowns.  According to Goldstein, women are left to cope on a daily basis with unbearable suffering, sickness, chaos, injustice, violence and social abandonment—all of which are characteristic of communities on the edge of the developing world.  The women of the shantytowns create stories filled with an aesthetically distinct black humor and share them as a means to ease constant humiliation, anger and despair.  It is their stories that carry the reader through the book and engage the public to grasp and critique the complex history and daily practices that perpetuate the current system.

In addition to her work in the shantytowns of Brazil, Professor Goldstein is interested in fostering a politically engaged anthropology that investigates poverty, gender, race, and sexual inequality, as well as urban violence, HIV/AIDS, and human rights.  She has also carried out research on ethno-nationalism in the "new" Europe, and has written about ethnic nationalism and Jewish identity in post-War Hungary.  Recently, she has initiated a research project in Argentina on the effects of pharmaceutical politics and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on local populations.

Laughter Out of Place Author - Donna GoldsteinThe 2004 Margaret Mead Award will be presented to Donna Goldstein on Friday, April 8thfrom 7:30-9:00 p.m. at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  A reception co-sponsored by the Society and the Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, will immediately follow the Award presentations.


Marc Sommers

Marc Sommers is the recipient 2003 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Fear in Bongolandof the 2003 Margaret Mead Award. Sommers is recognized for his book, Fear in Bongoland: Burundi Refugees in Urban Tanzania (2001), an ethnography of Burundi refugee youths living clandestinely and in fear of ethnic genocide in Dar es Salaam. Sommers exemplifies Mead’s tradition of making anthropology meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public, as evidenced by the wide range of nominating letters which attest to the value of his “insight into the mechanisms by which fear and violence are maintained and transmitted across generations.”

Fear in Bongoland Author - Marc SommersAs one nominators observes, Sommers’ work is “immensely readable and of interest to a wide audience—to those interested in the world or urban alienation, to those trying to understand African cities, to those working with and for refugees and other crisis affected populations, to those with a love of Africa and to those who recognize the critical importance of youth to development and our future.” Sommers received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Boston University in 1994. Since 1995, he has been a research fellow at the Boston University’s African Studies Center, a Youth at Risk Specialist for CARE USA, and an international consultant on humanitarian and postwar concerns.


Tobias Hecht

2002 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - At Home in the StreetTobias Hecht, Ph.D. (1995, University of Cambridge) is the recipient of the 2002 Margaret Mead Award. Hecht’s ethnography, At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil (1998, Cambridge University Press) is a clear demonstration of how anthropological work can touch and engage a broader concerned public. Hecht’s work engaged not only academic audiences, but moved anthropological insights into the discourse of national and international agencies and political entities concerned with street children and their well-being. Demonstrating an exquisite sensitivity to his research “subjects,” Hecht did not patronize street children by speaking for them, but rather allowed their voices to direct an understanding of their daily lives, strengths and struggles. Collaborating with children, for example by providing access to his tape recorder to do their own “radio” workshops, stands as an exemplar of anthropological creativity and participatory research. Working with local volunteer agencies in Brazil, Hecht sought to inform rather than direct policy initiatives.

At Home in the Street Author - Tobias HechtIn this impressive anthropological work, Hecht provides a carefully nuanced discussion of the ethics of working with such a marginalized group, clearly evidencing the respect that he accorded them.


Mimi Nichter

2001 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Fat TalkMimi Nichter, Ph.D. (1995, University of Arizona) is the recipient of the 2001 Margaret Mead Award. Nichter has translated anthropological expertise in public health issues, particularly teen’s and women’s health concerns, to a more broadly concerned public. Following a record of publications on women and children’s health issues, Nichter’s book, Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting (2000,Harvard University Press), shows how culture, body image, and dieting are inextricably linked. Using the girls’ own “talk,” Nichter employs anthropological research to focus attention not just on the pathology of dieting girls, but also on the strengths evidenced by girls’ narratives. As stated in a nominating letter, “The “fat talk” of the title is a routine through which girls ritually lament their own bodily flaws. Yet, rather than represent this widespread practice as pathological or indicative of girls’ low self-esteem, Nichter argues that “fat talk” is a rich and complex resource for expressing solidarity, with intricate functions in adolescent interaction.”

Fat Talk Author - Mimi NichterNichter points to the importance of understanding adolescent girls on their own cultural grounds, and demonstrates how prevention and intervention cannot be understood without the girls’ own narratives. Nichter has conveyed her anthropological research on these issues and others, including women’s use of tobacco, to policy organizations including The Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Heath Organization. Her work has been widely disseminated in the media.


Kathryn M. Dudley

2000 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - The End of the LineKathryn M. Dudley is the recipient of the 2000 Margaret Mead Award. Kathryn Dudley received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1991 and is currently an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Yale University. Dr. Dudley is recognized in particular for her book, The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America (1994, University of Chicago Press), which examines the impact of the closing of auto plants in the Midwest. Dr. Dudley situates the economic restructuring, and the ideology and meaning surrounding this restructuring, that has had such an impact on American society into a discussion accessible both to her anthropological peers and a broader public audience. This is evidenced by the wide range of letters in her nominating materials, including not only anthropologists, but also labor historians, rural activists, and Union leaders.

The End of the Line Author - Kathryn M. DudleyDr. Dudley follows in the footsteps of Margaret Mead's efforts to understand her own society and explicitly ties her work to the tradition set by Mead. Dr. Dudley also has assumed a leadership role in the American Anthropological Association's effort to set an agenda for future work on the American middle class, editing with Margaret Mary Overby, Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Future Research Agenda (2000, American Anthropological Association). As one of her nominating letters noted, Dr. Dudley has "a particular gift for understanding American culture in all its contradictory glory."


Paul E. Farmer

1999 Margaret Mead Award Winning Book - Infections and Inequalities Paul E. Farmer is the recipient of the 1999 Margaret Mead Award. Dr. Farmer, an Associate Professor in Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is that rare combination of an anthropologist/physician, receiving both the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University in 1990. As one of his nomination letters put it, "Dr. Farmer is at the forefront of scholarly efforts to understand the impact of social inequalities worldwide on emerging infectious diseases, and he is at the forefront of applied efforts to do something about these linked problems." Another letter praised Dr. Farmer, "Paul Farmer is a unique individual whose intellectual talents, passion for justice, and commitment to scholarship and teaching seem to know no bounds." Dr. Farmer has created a public voice for anthropology on important issues of worldwide disease and social justice while maintaining high credibility in scholarly circles in both anthropology and medicine. His first book, AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (1992, University of California Press) epitomizes his approach and has rapidly become a classic in the literature. His subsequent works are equally impressive.

Infections and Inequalities Author - Paul E. FarmerDr. Farmer has contributed to the merging of policy and political critique without compromising either and demonstrating effectiveness and creativity in both. He unflinchingly confronts important challenges to applied anthropology and anthropology more generally, of bridging disciplines and worlds, and bringing medical care to chronically underserved, marginalized and stigmatized populations. Dr. Farmer's work stands as a example of the very best of Margaret Mead's legacy in its combination of accessible scholarly writing and high profile public service.


1997 - Philippe Bourgois

1995 - Katherine A. Dettwyler

1993 - Leo R. Chavez

1991 - Will Roscoe (Award becomes every-other-year)

1990 - Wenda Trevathan

1989 - Mark Nichter

1988 - Alex Stepick III

1987 - Myra Bluebond-Langner

1986 - Jill Korbin

1985 - Susan C.M. Scrimshaw

1984 - Sue E. Estroff

1983 - Ruthann Knudson

1982 - Mary L. Elmendorf (Award becomes joint with AAA)

1981 - Nancy Scheper-Hughes

1980 - Brigitte Jordan

1979 - John Ogbu (Award originated with SfAA)

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