News for Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SAR Alum Omri Elisha Awarded Cultural Horizons Prize

Omri ElishaOmri Elisha2007–2008 Social Science Research Council Resident Scholar.Omri Elisha2007–2008 Social Science Research Council Resident Scholar.

SAR 2007–2008 Resident Scholar Omri Elisha was recently awarded the 2009 Society for Cultural Anthropology's Cultural Horizons Prize, given yearly by a jury of doctoral students for the best article appearing in the journal Cultural Anthropology.

The Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) has long been distinguished by having the largest graduate student membership of any section of the American Anthropological Association. Recognizing that doctoral students are among the most experimentally minded—and often among the best read—of ethnographic writers, this award asks of SCA's graduate student readers, "Who is on your reading horizon?"

The commendation for Dr. Elisha's prize reads:

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great,” begins Omri Elisha’s article, with this quote from Luke. In “Moral Ambitions of Grace: The Paradox of Compassion and Accountability in Evangelical Faith-Based Activism,” Elisha traces the mutually-constitutive and at times irreconcilable ethical demands of compassion and accountability as they shape the work of evangelical activists in Knoxville, Tennessee. Elisha uses rich and convincing ethnographic material to show that evangelicals themselves “explicitly recognize the paradox” between compassion and accountability, seeing the relation as dialectical rather than contradictory. Elisha’s attention to this paradox and his informants’ awareness of it illuminates not only the everyday practices of the evangelical activists, but also informs much larger projects of care and compassion—be they humanitarian, governmental, religious, or even anthropological. As Elisha notes, the “unsettling indeterminacy” introduced by these competing and dialectical demands relies on and in turn creates specific objects of intervention—“obstacles and hardships”—ones that “reinforce narratives of embattlement.” That such languages of embattled gifting create vertical relations of accountability rather than empowerment raises provocative questions about the daily intimacies not only of evangelical activism but also of international humanitarian work, philanthropy and democracy-serving military action.

SAR congratulates Dr. Elisha on this distinguished prize, as well as to his recent appointment to the faculty of Queen's College of the City University of New York.

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