Congratulations to SHA Prize Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2011 Turner Prizes and the SHA Ethnographic Fiction and Poetry contests.

Turner Prize winners

The Turner Prize committee, composed of Regna Darnell, Tracey Heatherington, and Misty Bastian, awarded first prize to Neni Panourgiá for her Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State (Fordham). Second prize went to Amira Mittermaier for Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination (California). The committee decided to award a special prize for an Oral History and Collaborate Ethnography and they selected Shirleen Smith and the Gwich’in First Nation’s People of the Lakes: Stories of Our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders/Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in (Alberta).

Ethnographic Fiction winner

The committee of Jessica Falcone and Kirin Narayan awarded the Ethnographic Fiction prize to Kristen Ghodsee for her short story, “Tito Trivia.”

Ethnographic Poetry winners

The committee of Misha Cahmann-Taylor, Lorraine Healy and Renato Rosaldo awarded ethnographic poetry prizes of first place to Carolyn Moore for “Translator’s Notes on the Island of Unst’s Norn Fragment, Forkortning Saga,” second place to Susan Settlemyre Williams for “KV55: Its Voices,” third place to W. F. Lantry for “Yungas Valley,” and honorable mention to Worth Summers for “Coyote, Clacier Point Winter” and Christine Eber for “Do You Want Me To Cut More Vegetables, Boss ?”



Regna Darnell’s introduction for Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State (Fordham) by Neni Panourgiá.

Neni Panourgiá’s wonderful, complex ethnography takes seriously the multiplicity of positions within any historical context.  She is player in her own story although we learn more about stories she has heard from family and neighbours than about her personal biography.  The history of Greece from pre-World War II dictatorship to German invasion to civil war and renewed dictatorship can be and usually is told from a god’s eye view.  But this book tells the microhistory of how events and people’s reactions to them shattered the civility and openness of a society as state sponsored terror defined some citizens as outside the pale of righteous society.  The tumultuousness of living with violence emerges in both directions from conventional history – the microhistory of narrative and the metahistory of interpretation.  Exiles and prisoners were ordinary people powerless to predict what might bring state attention and its attendant violence.  Danger lurked in the eye of the beholder and separated citizens from one another.

The format and genre effectively highlight the contingency of history:  the text in the usual sense tells the history as most would agree that events occurred.  But the retrospective certainties of this narrative are disrupted by the shadow text in the margins, with longer excursions from the centre gathered as endnote essays, producing a layered reading experience that can be sampled in multiple non-consecutive and overlapping ways.  We are left to contemplate “an oblique theory of anthropological knowledge” (p. 179).  The text names the elephant in the room, the hubris that allows a reading out from humanity of whole categories of person and that underlies so much of recent Western history.
Tracey Heatherington’s introduction for Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination (California) by Amira Mittermaier.

I am very honoured to present the second prize for the Turner Prize in ethnographic writing. The book that takes this award is a monograph that impressed the committee for its originality, its vivacious theoretical and interpersonal engagements, its genuinely reflexive voice, and its superb ethnographic rendering. You know you have found a really important work of ethnography when it draws you into an account of someplace utterly unrelated to your own research, when despite encroaching fatigue, despite the tasks waiting and the distractions beckoning, the author poses a question that compels you to keep reading. This is what happened when Amira Mittermaier introduced me to her Cairo and challenged me to perceive how the world might look if the mundane and anxious business of daily life were truly affected by our nightly business of dreaming.  In her beautiful ethnography, Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination, Mittermaier sketches out for us the sociopolitical disruptions and possibilities made real through the sharing and interpretation of dreams in several facets of contemporary Islamic tradition. Challenging the just-so stories of Freudian and Jungian paradigms, Mittermaier shows us why anthropology should take dream culture seriously, and why the anthropology of dreaming should matter to a much broader field of serious scholarship.  I’m pleased to award the second prize for the Turner competition to Amira Mittermaier from the University of Toronto, for her book, Dreams that Matter.
Regna Darnell’s introduction for People of the Lakes: Stories of Our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders/Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in (Alberta) by Shirleen Smith and the Gwich’in First Nation.

This extraordinary award recognizes the humanistic achievement of the Vuntut Gwitchin oral history project.  The category of collaborative research and oral history encapsulates SHA’s commitment to the ethnography part of ethnographic writing as the sine qua non disciplinary credibility.  The community’s anthropologist, Shirleen Smith, is less visible on the surface than most anthropologists as authors.  I first came to know Old Crow, Yukon Territory, through reading the Edmonton Sun columns of Edith Josie reprinted from the Whitehorse Star.  Old Crow has also been mightily visible in the world outside its boundaries through its stewardship of the porcupine caribou herd and now shares its traditional knowledge of land and community through this elegant volume of texts and photos – with well-deserved kudos to the University of Alberta Press.  Organization of the text by generation reflects the real-world mode of transmission of knowledge, a longitudinal perspective that animates the dynamism of oral tradition by linking generations through experience-based narratives of known and named persons.  “Long-ago Stories” come from the generations no longer remembered by name; the first generation of elders were first interviewed in the 1980s and speak about 19th century rapid changes.  The second generation of elders, many still active, were the last to live fully on the land.  Young people from the community are now creating an archive around the words of generations of elders.  The result is a pedagogical resource for the community and for outsiders seeking to understand the continuity of traditional ways in northern communities despite extensive consequences of recent culture change.

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