J. I. Staley Prize

2017 Staley Prize Recipient

Alien Ocean, by Stefan Helmreich
Alien Ocean, by Stefan Helmreich

The School for Advanced Research (SAR) presents the J. I. Staley Prize to a living author for a book that exemplifies outstanding scholarship and writing in anthropology. The award recognizes innovative works that go beyond traditional frontiers and dominant schools of thought in anthropology and add new dimensions to our understanding of the human species. It honors books that cross subdisciplinary boundaries within anthropology and reach out in new and expanded interdisciplinary directions.

By recognizing groundbreaking books and their authors through the J. I. Staley Prize, SAR seeks to stimulate the best in anthropological research and writing. Authors other than anthropologists are eligible to receive the Prize if their work has had a significant impact on scholars and practitioners in the field of anthropology.

The J. I. Staley Prize carries a cash award of $7,500.


Instructions for nominating a book for the J. I. Staley Prize can be found here.

For further information, call the J. I. Staley Prize coordinator at (505) 954-7201 or e-mail staley[at]sarsf.org.

Prize Recipients

Alien Ocean, by Stefan HelmreichAlien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas by Stefan Helmreich

Working alongside marine biologists in the water and in labs, Stefan Helmreich explores how the use of new technologies such as molecular biological techniques, gene sequencing, bioinformatics, and remote sensing have changed the way scientists study the Earth’s oceans and seas and how these changes affect the interface between human and non-human. The smallest microbes, living in the most extreme conditions known to man, have become the means of disrupting the nature/culture binary and humans’ understanding of life itself.

2009. University of California Press
Malignant: How Cancer Becomes UsMalignant: How Cancer Becomes Usby S. Lochlann Jain

Pulling together reams of cultural analysis across a range of material, Dr. Lochlann Jain writes a brilliant narrative about cancer, the expectations of patients to display fortitude and optimism, and the confusion generated by the seemingly never ending research into treatments and cures. Jain guides the reader through the morass of the complex and conflicting “War on Cancer.”

2013. University of California Press
Converting WordsConverting Words: Maya in the Age of the Crossby William F. Hanks

Drawing on an extraordinary range and depth of sources, William Hanks documents for the first time the crucial role language played in the Spanish colonization of the Yucatec Maya. He explores how colonial Maya emerged in the age of the cross, how it was taken up by native writers to become the language of indigenous literature, and how it ultimately became the language of rebellion against the system it produced.

2010. University of California Press
The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New MexicoThe Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexicoby Joseph MascoJoseph Masco explores our national amnesia about the dawn of the nuclear age and its institutionalization. Situated in Los Alamos, NM, his ethnography portrays five communities that have not forgotten—Puebloan, Nuevomexicano, and Anglo residents, as well as nuclear scientists and anti-nuclear activists.2006. Princeton University Press
Vita: Life in a Zone of Social AbandonmentVita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonmentby João BiehlBeginning with a chance encounter in an asylum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, this book traces the life story of resident “Catarina,” as gradually understood by medical anthropologist João Biehl. In relating the six years that follow their meeting, Biehl captures a gripping account of social abandonment and one woman’s creative perseverance in the face of appalling living conditions.2005. University of California Press
Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual UnderstandingMothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understandingby Sarah Blaffer HrdySarah Blaffer Hrdy’s sophisticated and provocative book Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding (Harvard University Press, 2009) lays out a new and carefully argued hypothesis to explain the evolution of our uniquely human need to share views, feelings, and meanings, and enjoy cooperating with each other.2009. Harvard University Press
The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania by Katherine VerderyThe Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvaniaby Katherine VerderyBased on long-term fieldwork and masterful synthesis of political economy, ethnography and history, Katherine Verdery’s book offers a powerful critique of the economic logic of neo-liberal development schemes.2003. Cornell University Press
Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society by Joel RobbinsBecoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Societyby Joel RobbinsJoel Robbins’s Becoming Sinners is an ethnographic case study of a small Papua New Guinea indigenous community that illuminates how global processes of culture change and religious conversion have played out among local peoples around the world.2006. University of California Press
Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice by Sally Engle MerryHuman Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justiceby Sally Engle MerryThis innovative book examines the application of international human rights law addressing gender violence to local cultural contexts. Drawing on a sophisticated, multi level analysis, she examines how global human rights discourse is translated from international organizations to local communities and families through the mediation of NGOs.2006. University of Chicago Press
What It Means To Be 98% Chimpanzee by Jonathan MarksWhat It Means To Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genesby Jonathan MarksMarks uses the “molecular factoid” that we share 98 percent of our genetic material with chimps as a springboard to survey and critique with razor-sharp humor a range of hot-button issues in molecular anthropology, from the role of science in society to racism, animal rights, and cloning.2002. University of California Press
Painting Culture by Fred R. MyersPainting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Artby Fred R. MyersPainting Culture tells the complex story of how, over the past three decades, the acrylic “dot” paintings of central Australia were transformed into objects of international high art, eagerly sought by upscale galleries and collectors.2002. Duke University Press
Stories in the Time of Cholera by Charles L. Briggs with Clara Mantini-BriggsStories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling During a Medical Nightmareby Charles L. Briggs with Clara Mantini-BriggsCholera is preventable and easily treated. Yet in Venezuela in the 1990s and in 21st century refugee camps, the disease proves unrivaled in the breadth and speed with which it kills. Stories in the Time of Cholera untangles in harrowing detail how inadequate medical services, failures in public health administration, and deeply rooted prejudices against indigenous peoples combined to allow a modern medical tragedy to unfold.2003. University of California Press
Pathologies of Power by Dr. Paul FarmerPathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poorby Dr. Paul FarmerPassionate and principled in his claim that health care is a fundamental human right, Dr. Farmer draws upon 20 years of front-line clinical experience among the poorest social outcasts in Haiti, Peru, Boston, and Russia to shake readers from complacency and mobilize them to action.2004. University of California Press
The Symbolic Species by Terrence W. DeaconThe Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brainby Terrence W. DeaconDeacon’s book blends anthropology with neurobiology, linguistics, and philosophy as it examines the evolution of language.1997. London and New York: W. W. Norton
Life and Death on Mount Everest by Sherry B. OrtnerLife and Death on Mount Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineeringby Sherry B. OrtnerA compelling study of the relationship between mostly Western mountain climbers—the "sahibs"—and the essential guides, or "Sherpas" in Nepal.1999. Princeton University Press
Testing Women, Testing the Fetus by Rayna RappTesting Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in Americaby Rayna RappIn 1983, cultural anthropologist Rayna Rapp set out to map the terrain of the emerging technology of amniocentesis, a prenatal diagnostic test used to screen fetuses for chromosomal anomalies and other problems.1999. Routledge
No Aging in India by Lawrence CohenNo Aging in India: Alzheimer's, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Thingsby Lawrence CohenCohen studied geriatric and gerontological practice in the United States as a medical student before moving his research to India, where he found no diagnostic counterpart to the North American preoccupation with what has been labeled Alzheimer's disease.1998. University of California Press
The future of Us All by Roger SanjekThe future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York Cityby Roger SanjekSanjek chronicles the Elmhurst-Corona neighborhood in Queens, New York, over a thirteen-year period in which social relations changed dramatically.1998. Cornell University Press
Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western ApacheWisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apacheby Keith BassoBasso explores how the Western Apache of the greater Cibecue region use the names of geographic places to carry multiple layers of meaning and information.1996. University of New Mexico Press
Death Without Weeping by Nancy Scheper-HughesDeath Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazilby Nancy Scheper-HughesA medical anthropologist, Scheper-Hughes followed the narrative threads of infant mortality and the medicalization of social trauma to create a sweeping ethnography of poverty-stricken Northeastern Brazil.1992. University of California Press
Crafting Selves by Dorinne K. KondoCrafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplaceby Dorinne K. KondoCrafting Selves is a vivid account of everyday life on the shop floor of a small family-owned confectionery factory in Tokyo.1990. University of Chicago Press
Anahulu by Patrick V. Kirch and Marshall SahlinsAnahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaiiby Patrick V. Kirch and Marshall Sahlins (two volumes) 1992. University of Chicago Press
Encounters with Aging by Margaret LockEncounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North Americaby Margaret Lock 1993. University of California Press
Priests and Programmers by J. Stephen LansingPriests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Baliby J. Stephen Lansing 1991. Princeton University Press
Anthropology Through the Looking-Glass by Michael HerzfeldAnthropology Through the Looking-Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europeby Michael Herzfeld 1987. Cambridge University Press
Alabi's World by Richard PriceAlabi's Worldby Richard Price 1990. Johns Hopkins University Press
Sound and Sentiment by Steven FeldSound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expressionby Steven Feld 1982. University of Pennsylvania Press
Karl Marx Collective by Caroline HumphreyKarl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farmby Caroline Humphrey 1983. Cambridge University Press
Culture and the Evolutionary Process by Robert Boyd and Peter J. RichersonCulture and the Evolutionary Processby Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson 1985. University of Chicago Press
Europe and the People Without History by Eric R. WolfEurope and the People Without Historyby Eric R. Wolf
1982. University of California Press
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