2019 Diana Forsythe Prize Winners

The Diana Forsythe Prize was created in 1998 to celebrate the best book or series of published articles in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology, including biomedicine.

The prize is awarded annually at the AAA meetings by a committee consisting of one representative from the Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW) and two from the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC). It is supported by the General Anthropology Division (GAD) and Bern Shen.

2019 Winner: Lilly Irani

The Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) of the General Anthropology Division (GAD) and The Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW), announce Lilly Irani as the winner of the 2019 Diana Forsythe Prize for her book, Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press 2019).

Chasing Innovation is a fearlessly ambitious work of scholarship that weaves together history, ethnography, and critique of a seductive vision of entrepreneurial citizenship. Through its pages, Lilly Irani illustrates how discourses of innovation were articulated with the distinctive context of a liberalized India hungry to climb global chains of value. Marked, at times, by a raw and searching reflexivity as its author reflects on the failures of imagination produced by her own socialization as a tech worker, the book pushes back against the “subsumption of hope” by innovation and points to mass politics—for all its inefficiencies—as the true locus of democratic futures.

Irani is a careful ethnographer who gets inside the optimistic dreams of entrepreneurs, whose impetus to “move fast and break things” in their speculative world-making betrays a certain innocence about the violence of the market economy. Her work brings us into a high-end design studio where the free will of innovators relies on unfree labors of devalued service staff and on the extraction of solutions from subaltern subjects who are framed as improvisers rather than as innovators. The key actors in Chasing Innovation “attempt to stabilize, manage, and profit from uncertainties and futurities” even as they themselves are constrained by the design thinking through which innovation for the developing world is increasingly channeled.

Lilly Irani is Associate Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of California, San Diego.

2019 Honorable mention: Juno Salazar Parreñas

The Forsythe Prize committee also awarded Juno Salazar Parreñas honorable mention for her book Decolonizing Extinction :The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation (Duke University Press, 2018).

Decolonizing Extinction traces tenuous moments of encounter across species lines at orangutan rehabilitation centers in Sarawak, Malaysia. Juno Salazar Parreñas poignantly refers to these moments of encounter as an “interface of confusion,” where conservation involves multiple and embodied relationships with death and care, risk and the inevitability of loss. The concept work that she builds up from these moments illuminates a decolonizing moment in humans’ relationship to nonhuman others, at which fantasies of control over the relationship of animals and humans must at times be relinquished. Decolonizing Extinction centers forms of labor too often occluded in ethnographies of science, from the embodied expertise of technicians to the participation of the orangutans themselves in the production of a spectacle for consumption. It also daringly extends feminist and queer writing on the duty of reproduction to ask how the concentration of nonhuman life can produce a system of sexual violence. Parreñas stages the incompleteness of our understanding of the politics of care in a time of extinction, while enacting a principled refusal of definitive resolutions.

 Juno Salazar Parreñas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University.