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Department of Social Anthropology


Recent MPhil student, Spencer Kaplan, has been awarded The Society for the Anthropology of Work’s Eric R. Wolf Prize, for his research entitled,’ 'Bringing Your Full Self to Work': The Fashioning of LGBTQ Bankers on Wall Street’.

The prize recognises graduate student research on the topic of the anthropology of work, broadly defined. The prize is awarded to the paper that best demonstrates an anthropological approach to the study of work in the tradition of political-economic scholarship modelled and encouraged by the anthropologist Eric Wolf.

Spencer’s research examines corporate diversity and inclusion as it is experienced by LGBTQ bankers on Wall Street. It analyses the trope of ’bringing your full self to work’ (a popular refrain within this group) as an ethical project where one cultivates one’s 'authentic self’ to embody the established virtues set for Wall Street’s front-office employees. These virtues include smartness, prestige, and hard work which set bankers apart as elite authorities over the market. Whereas queer difference was once seen as marginal to such virtues, it is now presented as productive of them. Following the ethical models presented by the banks’ most senior LGBTQ figures, these bankers deploy queerness as a form of human capital and pursue visibility as a way to gain positive recognition for LGBTQ people more generally.

Speaking of his award, Spencer said, ‘I am thrilled to receive recognition for this work. While not a traditional site of anthropological attention, this topic is of great contemporary importance. I am grateful for the chance to explore it using what I’ve learned during the MPhil programme. This award validates my belief that an anthropological approach to this topic can be valuable and motivates me as I continue my graduate education in the discipline. I would like to thank the Department and in particular my supervisor, Professor Laidlaw, for their support over the past year.’

Head of Department, Professor Laidlaw congratulated Spencer on this prestigious award.