APLA Graduate Student Paper Prize

By Karin Friederic

Children at Buk bilong Pikinini (books for children) which is an independent not-for-profit organisation based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, which aims to establish children’s libraries and foster a love of reading and learning. Photo taken by Ness Kerton for AusAID. CC BY 2.0.

The APLA Student Paper Prize Committee (Karin Friederic, Mindie Lazarus-Black, and Roberto Gonzalez) is proud to announce the finalists for the 2016 award. We received 46 submissions this year, a greater number than ever before. We have continued the APLA tradition of pairing the authors of the five most highly-ranked papers with mentors. Here, we recognize the five finalists and the political/legal anthropologists who have graciously offered their time and expertise to offer feedback on these papers.

The 2016 APLA Winning Student paper was “We Do Not Qualify for Free Education”: Citizenship in The Segregated Political Economy of Service Delivery in Urban Papua New Guinea’ by Michelle Rooney, Research Fellow at the Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

According to the APLA Paper Prize Committee, “Rooney’s paper, which examines the harsh realities of social service delivery in Papua New Guinea, is characterized by methodological rigor, fine-grained ethnography and theoretical sophistication.  Through participant observation and interviews with people living in illegal spaces, as well as NGO members, church members, and teachers who provide services that the state refuses to provide, she demonstrates the intricacies of patterns of inclusion and exclusion in Port Moresby. Her innovative portrayal reveals a “segregated political economy” in which those living in illegal settlements seek support from non-state actors to meet their needs, such as water and schools for their children. Through a multi-level analysis, she highlights the contradictions between the discourse of democracy, universality and human rights communicated through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the realities of the state service provision and citizens’ experiences. The paper draws upon a number of inter-disciplinary literatures and contributes to our understanding of citizenship, human rights, urban development, political ecology, and the paradoxes of the state.”

We would also like to thank Alex Golub at the University of Hawaii Manoa for serving as a mentor for this paper.

 The Honorable Mention was “Memory Against Archive: Challenging Enforced Disappearances Using the ‘Ways of the Law’ in Pakistan” by Salman Hussain, Anthropology, The Graduate Center, CUNY.

In this elegantly written paper, Hussain analyzes the politics of protest in Pakistan as practiced by human rights activists and litigants seeking justice for people disappeared by state military and intelligence agencies. His paper teaches us about power, resistance, and a remarkable group of activists, family members, and friends who create “dossiers of memory” to recall the memory of the disappeared and keep them in public view and in the public record. Based on innovative and long-term fieldwork, Hussain shows us how activists and family members challenge the “selective amnesia” imposed by the state as it prosecutes the so-called war on terror. He thus draws our attention to how “subjugated voices” can “enter the archive” and locates for us different places, in and around the courts, in which lawmakers and law-breakers change the course of individual lives, but also that of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Thanks to Antonius Robben,  Professor of Anthropology at Utrecht University for his mentorship of Hussain’s paper.

Additional Top-Five Finalists and their Mentors

 “Gifting as Governance: NGO Service Projects and Disciplinary Power in Rural Migrant Settlements in Contemporary China,” by Yang Zhan, Anthropology Department, Binghamton University. APLA Mentor: Erica Bornstein.

  “Drug Courts and Their Magic: The Fetishes of Urine Tests, Objectivity, and the Evidence-Based Paradigm,” BY Emily Metzner, Univ. Illinois Urbana Champaign, Anthropology. APLA Mentor: Sameena Mulla.

 “Policing in the Digital Porno-Tropics: Artifice, Entrapment, and the New Surveillance of Child Exploitation,” by Mitali Thakor, MIT Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology & Society. APLA Mentor: Martin Manalansan.

Congratulations not only to the five finalists but everyone who submitted. We are especially pleased by the quality and diversity of the submissions this year.

About Jennifer Curtis

Jennifer Curtis is an Honorary Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh: http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/staff/social_anthropology/curtis_jennifer.

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