Book Prize

The Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA) is pleased to invite nominations for the 2018 APLA Book Prize competition. The association will recognize work that best exemplifies creativity and rigor in the ethnographic exploration of politics, law, and/or their interstices. The 2018 APLA book prize will be awarded at the American Anthropological Association meeting in San Jose, California and will be reviewed in PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. It also carries an award of $1,000. An honorable mention may be identified by the committee, if appropriate.


The Association will recognize work that best exemplifies creativity and rigor in the ethnographic exploration of politics, law, and/or their interstices. Either single- or multi-authored books are eligible, however edited volumes, reference works, or second editions of previously published works are excluded from consideration.  The book must have been published during the year prior to the competition (2017).  Books translated into English from another language are eligible for consideration.  In such cases, the year that the translation was published is considered the year of publication for purposes of eligibility. Authors of nominated books must be members of APLA. Authors of the book prize and honorable mention are expected to serve on the APLA book prize committee the following year.

The Committee will look for books that: are ethnographically strong; advance theoretical insights related to political/legal anthropology; have original and well-substantiated arguments; speak to compelling issues and problems beyond its geographic location/particular topic; are well-written; and have the potential to be a major work in its field/s.

Nomination Process

For consideration, authors or their publishers should send a cover letter and a copy of the nominated book no later than May 1, 2018 directly to each of the APLA book prize committee members:

Denise Brennan (Prize Committee Co-Chair)
Department of Anthropology
Georgetown University
Car Barn, Suite 308
Washington, D.C. 20057

Christine Folch (Prize Committee Co-Chair)
Cultural Anthropology
Duke University
205 Friedl, Box 90091
Durham, NC 27708

Manissa Maharawal
Department of Anthropology
Hamilton Building
American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Antina von Schnitzler
Graduate Program in International Affairs
The New School
72 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10011

Nitzan Shoshan
Centro de Estudios Sociologicos, El Colegio de México
Carretera Picacho Ajusco 20
Col. Ampliación Fuentes del Pedregal
CP 14110 Tlalpan
Ciudad de México, Mexico

APLA 2017 Book Prize Winner: Karina Biondi 

SHARING THIS WALKAn Ethnography of Prison Life and the PCC in Brazil

This year’s APLA Book Prize goes to Karina Biondi for Sharing This Walk: An Ethnography of Prison Life and the PCC in Brazil. This book was edited and translated by John F. Collins and was published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Sharing This Walk is a gripping exploration of the First Command of Capital (or PCC), São Paulo’s infamous prison gang that dominates the inside of many of Brazil’s carceral facilities. Innovative in method and its approach to questions of democracy, organization, and the state, the book is based on Biondi’s years of work with collaborators whom she met through her own personal navigation of Brazil’s prison system. In a time when prisons are bursting in much of Latin America (as elsewhere), and in which conventional wisdom holds that prison gangs are highly organized, hierarchical, and invested in forms of authority that constitute a “counter-state,” Biondi’s account is full of surprises that double as incisive exposés of how much we get wrong about prison life.


Dedicated to what she calls the “possibility of a novel anthropology,” Biondi’s ethnography blurs the line between memoir, field report, astute analysis, and theoretical tour de force. The PCC emerges as a decentralized organization founded on its members’ shared commitment to equality, a rule that assures that no individual becomes associated with any particular position within the gang. Rather than reading hierarchy and state-ness into the structure of the PCC, Biondi listens for the incipient forms of democracy that inhere in the PCC’s version of politics. It’s a politics born in prisons—the very center of the state—but which transcends the place of the prison or the body of the individual gang member. Showing how prisons are places for everyday experiments of democratization is both the book’s contribution and its challenge for us all to think more carefully about our concepts and our methods.

In the committee’s view, Biondi’s venture into a Deleuzean anthropology is inspiring, not least because it leads political anthropology back to questions first posed by Clastres on how societies can be organized against state-like hierarchies. John Collins’ deft translation holds fast to Biondi’s affecting prose and lucid style. Sharing This Walk strikes us as a rare achievement: a rich and approachable text for teaching and a bold signal for the future of political anthropology.


This year, APLA recognized two honorable mention books: Antina von Schnitzler, for the book Democracy’s Infrastructure: Techno-Politics and Protest After Apartheid, published by Princeton, and Nitzan Shoshan, for the book The Management of Hate: Nation, Affect, and the Governance of Right Wing Extremism in Germany.

The committee was excited by von Schnitzler’s identification and analysis of how everyday infrastructures in South Africa – especially those related to water and electricity – have become key sites for battles over the country’s political transformation from apartheid. We loved her rich ethnographic focus on contests over prepaid water meters as evidencing new forms of techno-politics. We were impressed by the way the book opens up important analytic space to understand less obvious forms of activism in our contemporary moment, and how they are produced through engagements with material technologies – with major consequences for the futures of citizenship and democracy.

The second honorable mention goes to Nitzan Shoshan, for the book The Management of Hate: Nation, Affect, and the Governance of Right Wing Extremism in Germany, published  by Princeton. Our committee found Shoshan’s ethnography of marginalized right-wing youth in Germany to be brave, sensitive, and theoretically sophisticated. We think it is exceptionally useful for understanding not only the current rise of the right wing in Europe (and perhaps worldwide), but also its persistence. Finally, we deeply appreciate Shoshan’s rethinking of governance as an affective project that attempts, and often fails, to manage cultural difference.

This year’s book prize committee: Jeremy Campbell, Catherine Fennell, Jeffrey Martin, Samuel Martinez, and Jessica Winegar, chair.