2012 Graduate Student Paper Prize Winner

The APLA student paper prize committee has recently announced a winner and honorable mention for our annual competition. This year the committee members—Erica Bornstein, Jennifer Hamilton, Angelique Haugerud. — are pleased to recognize the work of two graduate students.  Together, they demonstrate the strength and creativity of political and legal anthropology. The authors will be recognized at the APLA business meeting in San Francisco on Saturday November 17.

APLA awards a cash prize of $350.00, plus travel expenses of up to $650.00 if the prize winner attends the 2012 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (San Francisco) to receive the prize in person. The prize winner will be announced in Anthropology News, and the winning paper will be published in the peer-reviewed journal of the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, PoLAR: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

Congrats to Rachel and Eli!


Rachel Dotson (Indiana University): Citizen-Auditors and Visible Subjects: Mi Familia Progresa and Transparency Politics in Guatemala

In this article I analyze the politics of transparency in Guatemala in relation to Mi Familia Progresa, a state social program based on the conditional cash transfer model of poverty alleviation. I argue that concepts of transparency and audit that permeate national-level political discourse in Guatemala work to create dual classes of citizens: taxpayers, who have the right and responsibility to audit social programs, and recipients of state benefits, who are viewed as legitimate objects of public scrutiny. Through combined analysis of political discourse and ethnographic research on Mi Familia Progresa in the Guatemalan highlands, this article provides a view into how the terms of these emerging forms citizenship are being negotiated and with what results for those Guatemalans who rely on Mi Familia Progresa to meet their day-to-day needs. I conclude that efforts to make state social programs transparent, while often portrayed as empowering and democratic, actually work to reinforce long-standing forms of exclusionary citizenship, and at the same time obscure critical questions such as whether social programs are addressing issues of poverty and inequality.

Honorable Mention:
Eli Elinoff (University of California, San Diego): “Sufficient” Citizens: The Cultural Politics of Sustainability and the Redistribution of the Sensible in Northeastern Thailand

The Baan Mankong “stable housing” project links poor communities with academics, government officials, architects, NGOs and other poor communities in the aim of improving urban housing, city infrastructure, and transforming the political position occupied by the urban poor in Thailand.  The policy’s proponents argue that its participatory structure not only creates new spaces of participation for poor citizens but it also helps create more livable, sustainable cities.  Planners seek to make cities more sustainable by instructing residents in notions of “sufficiency economics,”—a theory of economic growth and sustainability promoted by the Thai King following Thailand’s 1997 economic implosion.  This paper examines the intersection between this notion of “sufficiency” and the politics of citizenship in Khon Kaen, arguing that sufficiency plays a complex and sometimes contradictory role in promoting development and environmental change.  On the one hand, planners and government officials attempt to promote sustainability by targeting the affective lives of poor citizens in order to reform their desires and encourage collectively oriented behavior.  By promoting moderation and seeking to train poor citizens to understand “enough,” planners argue that these communities will be stronger and ultimately more sustainable. Residents, on the other hand, incorporate sufficiency as a means of demonstrating their membership in the broader political community and their intentions to develop the city.  By employing an aesthetics of sufficiency in their community projects, residents demonstrate their status as legitimate members of the nation and make claims to long-term occupancy rights on the railway’s land. Even though this paper suggests that residents use sufficiency as a means of “redistributing the sensible” (Ranciere 2004) their claims to land and “rights to the city” remain tenuous.

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