Distinguished Achievement Prize

SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America
The annual SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America has been given each year since 1994. The scope of the Prize is explained in the following guidelines clarified by SANA in 2002:

The SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America is awarded to a senior anthropologist for broad-based contributions to research, teaching and service related to the development of critical studies of North America, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The award recognizes a distinguished long-term program of research and publication, and also takes into account contributions in other areas, such teaching and training, SANA/AAA service, and community, activist, practice, or policy involvements outside academia.

2016 AAA Minneapolis, MN

The 2016 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America was awarded to Setha Low.

Inaugurated in 1994, the SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement recognizes scholars with a notable long-term program of research and publication, and also takes into account contributions in other areas, such as teaching and training, SANA/AAA service, and community, activist, or policy involvements outside academia. Dr. Low  – Professor of Environmental Psychology and Anthropology at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York – has excelled in all of these areas.

2015 AAA Denver, CO:

The 2015 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America was awarded to Emily Martin.

Inaugurated in 1994, the SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America recognizes scholars with a distinguished long-term program of research and publication, and also takes into account contributions in other areas, such as teaching and training, SANA/AAA service, and community, activist, or policy involvements outside academia. Professor Emily Martin has excelled in all of these areas.

Dr. Martin received a BA in anthropology from the University of Michigan, followed by a Phd in anthropology from Cornell. She has held faculty positions at UC Irvine, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton. She is currently in the Department of Anthropology and the Institute for the History of Production of Knowledge at New York University.

Over the course of a long and distinguished career, Professor Martin has published six books, and endless numbers of articles – over 80 at last count. It’s worth noting that she was an accomplished China scholar early in her career – something that is often forgotten in the focus on her remarkable contributions to the anthropology of North America. Having said that, I’m nevertheless going to go ahead and focus on the U.S. work, since it is for that work that she is receiving this award.

Professor Martin’s last three books – The Woman in the Body, Flexible Bodies, and Bipolar Expeditions – have each been ground breaking. The Woman in the Body provides an elegant analysis of metaphors of economy and of the body as machine as they play out in the narratives of variously race- and class- located women and in the views and practices of the medical establishment. Flexible Bodies explores shifts in constructions of the body and the immune system over the course of the 20th century, and the articulation of these shifts with changes in how both selves and organizations are construed. And in Bipolar Expeditions, Professor Martin explores the cultural dimensions of psychiatric diagnoses, inserting her own experiences into the analysis in a way that best represents what auto-ethnography is supposed to do. Her next book, Experiments, which explores the history of the human subject in experimental psychology, promises to be equally revealing of U.S. cultural formations. And if I had to choose one of her articles to mention, it would of course be “The egg and the sperm,” which I’m sure many of us have used, repeatedly, in our teaching, and which has been translated into German, Mandarin, Greek, Polish, Spanish, French, and Vietnamese; and reproduced in no less than 20 edited collections. I should add, of course, that The Woman in the Body has gone through three editions and has German and Portuguese translations, Flexible Bodies has been translated into Japanese, and Bipolar Expeditions has been translatedinto both French and Chinese.

Professor Martin has received numerous awards and honors, including the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize for The Woman in the Body, and the Diana Forsythe Prize for Bipolar Expeditions. Her work has been supported by Fulbright-Hayes, the Spencer Foundation, Wenner Gren, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among many others. And, like her articles, her invited talks and lectures are too numerous to review – although I’ll mention one: her keynote talk at the conference on body, gender, sexuality and medicalization, held at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, Aotearoa/New Zealand when I was in my first year as a faculty member there. I was in awe then, and am in even greater awe now.

Throughout her career, Dr. Martin has been tireless in her commitment to students, collaborating with them on research and publication, and mentoring a long line of now highly successful scholars – some of whom are no doubt in this room. She has also played a pivotal role in the dissemination of anthropology into arenas outside of academia. Particularly noteworthy here is her role as a founding editor of Anthropology Now, a journal and website that represent the best of a public, engaged anthropology, exploring critical and compelling social and political issues in clear, accessible language.

I’d like to conclude by quoting from one of Dr. Martin’s nomination letters, which notes that her articles and books, “all ethnographically rich, have flowed from her creative search for metaphor, history, and power in North American social life through multi-sited locations that speak to key concerns, from women’s bodies in medicine, to the cultural impact of the AIDS epidemic, to so-called epidemics in certain psychological diagnoses, to her current deep exploration into the epistemology of ‘the mind’ in contemporary ‘psy-ences.’ The articles, interviews, websites, and teaching that she has produced, curated, and shared make her an outstanding significant figure as both a distinguished scholar of North America, and a key contributor to the more general field of North American anthropology.”


The 2014 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America was given to Johnnetta Betsch Cole.
Johnnetta Betsch Cole.jpg
Johnnetta Betsch Cole (picture from National Museum of African Art)

The Committee States:

Inaugurated in 1994, the SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America award recognizes scholars with a distinguished long-term program of research and publication, and also takes into account contributions in other areas, such as teaching and training, SANA/AAA service, and community, activist, or policy involvements outside academia. Professor Johnetta Cole has excelled in all of these areas.

Dr. Cole received her BA in sociology from Oberlin (having started her undergraduate degree at the age of 15), and both her MA and PhD degrees in anthropology from Northwestern University. She has held a number of faculty positions, including at the University of Massachusetts, Hunter College, and Emory University, in Anthropology, Women Studies, and African American Studies. She became the first African American Woman President of Spelman College in 1987, a position she held for a decade; and also served as President of Bennett College for Women. Under her presidency, both colleges flourished: Spelman was named the #1 liberal arts college in the South, new academic programs were initiated at both, and she left both in better financial shape than when she arrived. In 2009 Dr. Cole took up her current position as Director of the Smithsonian Institute for the National Museum of African Art.

Over the course of her long and distinguished career Professor Cole has published eight books. Among these, her 1985 book, All American Women: Lines that Divide, Ties that Bind, represents a particularly noteworthy contribution to and intervention in women studies as well as in anthropology, speaking to the differences within gender, providing a groundbreaking analysis of intersectionality in relation to concerns with the politics of rights, equality and inequality, and social justice. This is a thread that runs through Dr. Cole’s publications before and since All American Women, including in Gender Talk, another key contribution. It also informs her work in the areas of art, representation, and identity, as evidenced in her Discussion Series at the National Museum of African Art. In addition to the books – some targeting academics, some targeting undergraduates, and some for a wider readership, Professor Cole has published over 30 journal articles and chapters.

Throughout her career, Dr. Cole has coupled rigorous scholarship with tireless public engagement. In addition to her leadership roles in higher education, she has served on a range of boards – including a term as the first African American Chair of the Board of the United Way of America – and contributed to a number of governmental committees, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Committee on Transformational Diplomacy and President-elect Bill Clinton’s Transition team.

Professor Cole has received numerous awards and honors, including, to mention only a few, from the United Way, the Women’s Equity Action League, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Legal Defense Fund, the Public Relations Society of America, the American Academy of Achievement, the National Council for Research on Women, the Anti-Defamation League, and, of course, the American Anthropological Association, which recognized her with a Distinguished Service Award in 1993, and invited her to deliver the 2008 Distinguished Lecture. She is member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has received more than 60 honorary degrees.

In choosing Professor Cole as the latest recipient of this award, the SANA Prize Committee found especially compelling her pairing of a theoretical focus on the intersections of gender and race in the context of American society with a tireless public commitment to education, equality, and social justice. The consummate engaged scholar, Professor Cole is exactly the kind of person the Prize was designed for.


The 2013 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America was given to Dr. Lee Baker.
Dr. Lee Baker
Dr. Lee Baker

The Committee States:

Lee Baker’s pioneering scholarship deploys historical and contemporary analysis to trace the history and politics of racial formation. By tying the development of anthropological constructions of race to the social and political contexts that they both draw upon and alter, Dr. Baker has provided new understandings of both the dangers and possibilities of anthropology’s engagement with public discourse on race in the United States. In doing so, Dr. Baker has reconstructed our understandings of both the anthropology of race and racism and of American history overall: showing how social scientific debates over race, culture, biology, and racial assimilation impacted the civil rights movement, Dr. Baker has shed new light on both this chapter of American history and the development of contemporary discourses and debates. While this scholarly agenda on its own represents an important contribution to public discourse, Dr. Baker has served a public intellectual in other ways, as demonstrated by his work on the African Burial Ground Interpretative Center and his record of publication in mainstream media outlets like NPR, PBS, The New York Times, and the Durham Herald Sun. The purview, political relevance and intellectual acuity of Dr. Baker’s work makes him an especially apt recipient the Society for the Anthropology of North America’s Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America.

Currently, Dr. Blakey is Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Dean of Academic Affairs of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Anthropology and African and African America Studies at Duke University. Dr. Baker received his BA from Portland State University, a PhD in Anthropology from Temple University in 1994, and a Certificate in Africana Studies from the University of Ghana-Legon in 1995. Before coming to Duke in 2000, Dr. Baker taught at Columbia University for several years; he also did a short initial stint at Duke after receiving his doctorate.

Dr. Baker as received a number of prestigious grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Ford Foundation, the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institute and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University. He’s also received a number of awards and honors, among them the Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence from Duke University. Indeed, the authors of Dr. Baker’s nomination letter stressed his devotion to his students, his skill as a teacher, and his role as a graduate student mentor, as well as his role as a leader on campus before and after becoming an administrator.

Dr. Baker is the author of numerous publications. His several dozen book chapters and, articles have appeared in journals as varied as North American Dialogue, Souls, Transforming Anthropology (which he also edited from 2005-2007), The American Philosophical Society Proceedings, and the Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences, as well as in edited volumes on American Insecurity, Anthropological Writing, Anthropological Theory, African American Intellectuals, and the Anthropology of the United States. He’s the author of two books, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954, published by UC Berkeley Press in 1998 and Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture (Duke University Press, 2010), and the editor of Life in America: Identity in Everyday Experience (Blackwell Publishing, 2003). In From Savage to Negro, using two key court cases, Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education as bookends, Dr. Baker demonstrates the role that intertwined developments in law, politics, and the constitution and meaning of racial categories played during this transformative period in American history. In Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture, he demonstrates the social and political impact of distinct ethnological treatments of Native American and African Americans around the turn of the 20th century. In these two book Dr. Baker succeeds spectacularly in accomplishing something many anthropologists have attempted: elucidating in great specificity the ways in which anthropological analysis both produces and reflects the broader social, political, and cultural context.

In conclusion, I want to mention Dr. Baker’s record of service to the discipline. He has served on the AAA Executive Board, as well as in other AAA and section leadership roles. And of course, he has been a longtime leader and supporter of SANA, serving as president from 2003-2005. During this period he drew on his political savvy and strong principles to shepherd SANA through a number of challenges, including changes to the AAA governance structure and the development and implementation of AnthroSource, that posed significant threats to role and health of sections, particularly smaller ones like SANA. In doing so, he solidified and strengthened bonds between SANA and other section like ABA, ALLA, AFA, SUNTA and so on which have been and still are vital to SANA’s growth and health. This commitment to our section continues to this day: our fantastic spring 2013 conference was hosted by Duke University, and Dr. Baker not only provided help in securing space and support but was an active and involved presence during the conference itself.

For all of these reasons, it is a great honor to present the 2013 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America to Dr. Lee Baker.


Dr. Michael Blakey awarded The 19th Annual SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America
The statement from the prize committee:

Dr. Michael Blakey
Dr. Michael Blakey

Michael L. Blakey’s pathbreaking, interdisciplinary, and internationally known scholarship uses both physical and cultural anthropology to explore the bioarcheology of the African Diaspora in North America and the social history of theories that connect biology, nature, social inequality and behavior. In a variety of contexts, but perhaps most importantly in that of the New York African Burial Ground Project, he has used the tools of science, cultural analysis, and social theory to make profound contributions to our understanding of race, and therfore to the understanding of life in North America. Dr. Blakey’s work has embedded theorizations of “race” in their political, economic, and cultural context and has demonstrated the impact on these theorizations of the active engagement of African Americans with processes of knowledge production. Moreover, Dr. Blakey stimulated and supported just that active engagement, and has created a remarkable legacy of mentorship and organization, contributing to the careers of numerous scholars as well as to the founding of the Society of Black Archeologists. The purview, political relevance, intellectual acuity, of Dr. Blakey’s work makes him an especially apt recipient the Society for the Anthropology of North America’s Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America.

Currently, Dr. Blakey is the National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. He is also a Professor of American Studies, and directs William and Mary’s Institute of Historical Biology. Dr. Blakey received his BA from Howard University and a Masters of Arts and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Before coming to William and Mary in 2004, Dr. Blakey taught at Howard University for many years, where he was the curator of the W. Montague Cobb Human Skeletal Collection, one of the largest systematic collections of documented human skeletons in the world. He has held visiting positions at a variety of institutions, including Spelman College, Universita Di Roma, the Smithsonian Institutions. Columbia University, and Brown University.

Dr. Blakey is the author of numerous publications. He’s coedited two important collections that well represent the work he has done: The New York African Burial Ground: Unearthing the African Presence in Colonial New York, Vol. 1; Skeletal Biology of the New York African Burial Ground, co-edited with LM Rankin-Hill and published by Howard University Press in 2009; and 1983’s The Socio-Politics of Archaeology, co-edited by JM Gero and DM Lacy. Dr. Blakey has published dozens of articles in refereed publications, including in SANA’s own North American Dialogue. I want to highlight two. The first, “Bioarchaeology of the African Diaspora in the Americas: its origins and scope”, in Annual Review of Anthropology (2001, 30:387-422), was an important summation of Dr. Blakey’s work, examining African Diasporic bioarchaeology and its relation to African Diasporan studies, one that made clear the impact of social, political, economic and ideological factors on that that field. “Seizing Intellectual Power: The Dialogue at the New York African Burial Ground” co-authored with Cheryl La Roche (1997; Historical Archeology) was an exploration of and call for community collaboration in the conduct of bioarcheology.

Dr. Blakey has received a plethora of prestigious honors and awards from, among others, the Library of Virginia, the Africana Studies Association, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Wenner Gren Society. Dr. Blakey’s engagement with various publics is demonstrated by the numerous reports he has written for policy-makers and government agencies, as well as his contributions to the website of the New York African Burial Ground National Monument as well as to other monuments and museums, film documentaries, and other forms of public media.

I want to conclude by making one point about Dr. Blakey’s work. This is the first time the SANA’s Distinguished Achievement Award has not gone to a cultural anthropologist. As this farfrom- complete description of his achievements should make clear, Dr. Blakey’s work as a bioarcheologist alone would make this a most fitting break from precedent, as he takes his rightful place among the luminaries of North American Anthropology who have also received this prize. But Dr. Blakey’s ability to combine scientific rigor with the critique and reconstruction of both the conceptual apparatus and social makeup of the fields in which he was worked is what really places him apart. Dr. Blakey not only excelled in his subfield, he reconstructed its theoretical underpinnings and social makeup. In doing so, he reconstructed the entirety of the anthropology of race in North America. And this scholarly legacy is matched by that of his prolonged public engagement with a subject that is contentious, emotional, and subject to profound misunderstanding. It is a great honor to present the 2012 SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America to Dr. Michael Blakey.


Ellen Lewin, University of Iowa, awarded the The 18th Annual SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America
The statement from the prize committee:

Ellen Levin with her dog Dinah
Professor Lewin with Dinah Ellen Lewin has been awarded the 18th Annual SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America.

Ellen Lewin is Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa. Her long career exemplifies her commitment to social justice and to the value of that extraordinary combination of doing superior research and scholarship, all the while being a teacher/ administrator/ activist in and outside of the academy. Dr. Lewin’s major research interests center on motherhood, reproduction, and sexuality particularly as they are played out in American cultures. Over the years, focused on low- income Latina immigrants in San Francisco, lesbian mothers, and lesbian and gay families, gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies and gay and lesbians in the discipline of anthropologists. Ellen Lewin’s work has long concerned the ways in which women make sense of their multiple identities they derive from ethinicity, race, class, sexual orientation and maternal status. She turns her empirical and ethnographic talents to a range of American families. Her book, Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America, based on research conducted in California and Chicago, won the 2009 Ruth Benedict Prize from the Association for Queer Anthropology.

All of her books, as Rayna Rapp says in her letter of nomination “are wonderful books to read and to teach; indeed, nothing quite like them exists, especially in the study of North American mainstream culture.” These texts include Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture (1993), Recognizing Ourselves: Lesbian and Gay Ceremonies of Commitment (1998), editor of Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America (1996), and in collaboration with William Leap, Out in the Field (1996), Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology (2002), and Out in Public: Lesbian and Gay Anthropology in a Globalized World (2009). Ellen Lewin is the editor of Feminist Anthropology: A Reader (2006), Feminist Anthropology: A Reader (2006). Her introductory essays in that volume are an extraordinary resources for teaching the rich intellectual history of feminist contributions to the field of anthropology. Lewin’s Feminist Anthropology: A Reader is a classic on its own merits.

In their nomination letter, Bill Leap, Esther Newton and David Valentine wrote, “Dr. Lewin continually challenges her readers and us anthropologists to complicate our assumptions about what we know about ourselves in the US.” They go on to say “She is a well-recognized as a powerful and important mentor and teacher for her students and junior scholars in her field and as a forceful advocate and challenging critic.” She has enriched the cultural anthropology of North America in such a way that as Rayna Rapp notes “we owe her a debt of intellectual gratitude.” The Award committee and the SANA board all agree that Ellen Lewin deserves the SANA accolade.


Catherine Lutz and Patricia Zavella awarded the 2010 Distinguished Achievement prize
The statement from the prize committee:

Professors Lutz and Zavella have made outstanding contributions as scholars, public anthropologists and serve the discipline and the communities they represent. They are both outstanding choices for the SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America, as co-prize winners.

Cathy Lutz is Professor of Anthropology at Brown University and is affiliated with Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies. She has come to distinguish herself as one of the most pathbreaking, original and politically engaged cultural anthropologists of our generation. In her book, Unnatural Emotions her portrait of life on the atoll provided a deeply humanistic understanding of a way of life too often exoticized by the west. Her co-authored book with Jane Collins, Reading National Geographic has sold over 25,000 copies, was reviewed in the New York Times, the New Yorker and other prominent venues, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Homefront provided a deeply moving account of the impacts of militarization on a North Carolina community. This brave and provocative book won the Anthony Leeds Prize of the American Anthropological Association as well as an honorable mention for the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. A follow-up co-edited collection, Local Democracy under Siege, drew together similar studies of other towns whose fate was linked to large military or corporate operations.

Most recently Dr. Lutz is researching the role of the automobile in U.S. culture in a project tentatively entitled Full Metal Jacket: The Car, U.S. Cultures and their Contradictions. It explores the cultural centrality of the automobile in American life and the ways in which it is embedded in core normative discourses of individuality, freedom, technology, and family. She provides an ethnographic lens on the way Americans use and experience and live with their cars makes clear that these are practices with significance for fuel consumption and global warming, highways deaths and maiming, and for consumer debt.

Professor Lutz has distinguished herself as a public intellectual continuing to write and speak about legacy of U.S. bases in the South Pacific for the popular media (e.g. the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Southern Exposure, Women’s Review of Books, the New York Times). She has posted on-line articles on non-combatant death in Iraq and Afghanistan, contributed to ROTC newsletters and been interviewed by many news venues, providing tremendous amount to publicize anthropological approaches to militarism, imperialism and war.

Pat Zavella, UC Santa Cruz is a very distinguished scholar who has shaped the field of Anthropology in the arenas of gender, race, political economy, and Chicano and Latino/Studies. She has provided significant service to the profession of Anthropology in her work as president of ALLA, as a Member-at-Large for SANA, as an elected member of the AAA Executive Board, and as an organizer of many outstanding panels. She served as chair of the Feminist Studies track for the Latin American Studies Association.

The seven co-edited books she has produced have been foundational to the study of gender in Anthropology in general and in Latino/a Anthropology in particular. Her first monograph, Women’s Work and Chicano Families (now in its sixth printing), was a pioneering book that examines the relationship between Chicano family life and gender inequality in the workplace, specifically among cannery workers in the Santa Clara Valley. It was the first single-authored book written by a Chicana about Chicanas in any field, let alone in anthropology and brought feminist theories of political economy together with ethnography and actor-centered narratives.

Dr. Zavella’s forthcoming co-edited volume is truly outstanding. In the project of extending the borderlands concept to include both metaphorical spaces as well as actual geographical spaces beyond the physical U.S.-Mexico border, the optic of gender is a crucial tool in bringing U.S.-Mexico integration to light. Denise A. Segura’s and Patricia Zavella’s rich and expansive edited volume, Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, is crucial in connecting historical and contemporary policies and political economies of Mexico and the U.S. It is important not only because it positions gender front and center, but because it also adds flesh and bone to the borderlands concept by bringing in cultural representations, identity construction and reconstruction, structural, personal and symbolic violence, sexuality, popular culture, transnational social networks, marriage and motherhood into the discussion. Of particular importance in this volume are the ways in which race and difference by class, sexuality, ethnic group, generation and locality relate to women’s shifting identity formation through time and in the space of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

Professor Zavella’s single-authored forthcoming book with Duke University Press, I’m Neither Here nor There: Negotiating Mexican Identity through Migration, promises to be an important intellectual contribution which touches on a topic of vital intellectual and political importance: the complexity of the growing Mexican migrant and Mexican-American population in the United States.

In 2003, Professor Zavella was named “NACCS Scholar of the Year,” an award given by the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. Her book, Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios, co-authored with the Latina Feminist Group, was winner for the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Outstanding Book Award of 2002. Most recently, Professor Zavella was honored in September of 2008 at Founder’s Day as one of three prominent individuals recognized at UC Santa Cruz – look at YouTube for the video clip.