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Department of Social Anthropology


Judging the Competition


This year's Judges, Adam SmithTimothy CooperSophia Hornbacher-Schönleber, Naomi Richman found it even more challenging than usual to rank the submissions.

The entries were all excellent in quality, as well as very diverse in their strengths. Every student’s photographs were in the ‘top three’ for at least one of the judges, and when the judges’ rankings were mathematically combined, the field was very close. We are grateful to all students for submitting their entries.

The prizewinners this year are, in a tie for first place, Anel Lopez de Romana and Devi Chakrabarti, and in third place, Tim Pöhlmann.


Joint first place: Anel Lopez de Romana - A food ethnography in the Southern Peruvian Andes: women and changing peasant economic strategies in Amantaní, Puno

Anthropologists regard food as a total social fact. Food constitutes a system, a set of representations, knowledge, discourses and practices that are related not only to eating but also to the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food in a particular historical, ecological and economic context. Food ethnographies are therefore powerful – and surprisingly neglected - analytical tools where foodways emerge as a lens towards the organization of human life, human-environment relationships, gender roles and the division of labour, kinship, and processes of social and cultural change including the integration of indigenous people to new labour and consumer markets. 





Joint first place: Devi Chakrabarti - The Afterlives of a Disaster: Post-Earthquake Reconstruction and Spiritual Life in Bhaktapur, Nepal

My study explores the unexpected interconnections between devotional life and post-earthquake reconstruction in Bhaktapur, Nepal, one of the world’s most distinctive reconstruction sites, where a Communist municipal government has committed the locality’s resources to the rebuilding of worship sites. My project is concerned with the remarkable initiatives to rebuild the many structures that were demolished in the 2015 earthquakes, in Nepal’s most important centre of spiritual activity and principal international tourist destination.

My key focus is on understanding how rebuilding projects are experienced as affective spiritual initiatives, and how restoration activities relate to my interlocutors’ perception of the city’s entwining of material and sacred geographies. My fieldwork documents the interaction between devotees for whom the city is a site of multiple interacting devotional sites and traditions, and groups of officials concerned with the city as an officially valorised heritage site. I explore the complex temporality of my interlocutors’ lives as contributors to the city’s rebuilding schemes, which they pursue as a matter of their personal interest, as victims of the earthquake, and as devotees who seek protection from local deities.


Third place: Tim Burger - Agriculture in a Depopulated Place

How does it feel do cultivate land perceived as already ‘lost’? I spent much of my fieldwork on São Jorge Island, Azores, with small-scale farmers who believe that their livelihoods are becoming increasingly impossible to maintain: outmigration has drained the working population, fertile topsoil is eroding, agrarian subsidies are focused only on dairy livestock.

These structural conditions converge for many farmers in the emblematic figure of ‘lost’ land (terra perdida). As the terraced fields are gradually abandoned for a lack of labour, they are soon overgrown by brushwood. Watching the forested slopes slowly approach their villages, islanders perceive the sight and feel of vanishing property as fundamentally distressing. The withered population coupled with the changed landscape causes a situation in which their surrounding fails to make sense to them.

While engaging in a resigned rhetoric about this predicament, farmers nonetheless respond with vibrant and defiant horticultural action. Keeping fields under cultivation, producing and consuming wine, or celebrating powerful draft animals, all practically enact many people’s understanding of desirable agrarian sociality. These images try to capture how farmers live out their experience of depopulation along such practical lines.


Other entrants: 

Erin Williamson

Tuya Shagdar

Xinying (Tracy) Liu

Sean French