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, and/or technology, including biomedicine. The Prize is awarded annually at the meeting of the American Anthropological Association by a committee consisting of one representative from the Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW) and two from the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC). It is supported by the General Anthropology Division (GAD) and Bern Shen.

2017 Forsythe Prize Winner

Sareeta Amrute, 2017 Forsythe Prize Winner.

Encoding Race, Encoding Class: Indian IT Workers in Berlin, by Sareeta Amrute, is a critically conceived, resourcefully researched, and astutely theorized ethnography of middle-class Indian programmers who live, labor, and circulate between Germany and India. Heralded by German elites as model knowledge workers, Indian IT laborers often struggle to advance beyond the narrow roles in which they are slotted due to immigration policies and longstanding racial stereotypes about their capacities. Amrute traces how they navigate this double bind, in part, by carving out spaces of pleasure and leisure. Thus, while the book represents a rich contribution to anthropological work on computing cultures and the cultural life of neoliberal economies, it also carves out new angles by putting its findings in conversation with an autonomist Marxist literature on capitalism, cognitive labor, and eros. There is no such thing as a generic, universal, or disembodied worker, Amrute reminds us, emphasizing instead the ethical ways of life that are etched out between middle-class aspirations and racialized realities confronted both in the workplace and in public culture. In a justly remembered paper delivered a few years before her death, Diana Forsythe showed how the field of medical informatics marginalized women by “discounting their work and systematically bracketing them out of the category of ‘people who count.’” Encoding Race, Encoding Class carries on the legacy of Forsythe’s pioneering scholarship, while recompiling it for an inescapably transnational world in motion.

2017 Forsythe Honorable Mention
Plastic Bodies: Sex Hormones and Menstrual Suppression in Brazil, by Emilia Sanabria, is one of the first truly anthropological accounts of sex hormones. This beautifully written ethnography takes the reader from the world of elite research to Brazilian compounding pharmacies to women’s intimate bodily experiences. Sanabria unpacks that singular and now almost mundane medical object, “the Pill” to show that hormonal contraceptives have multiple forms and lived effects. While these pharmaceuticals are prescribed with a logic of population control in Brazilian public hospitals, in private and self-care they are enlisted to reach a range of goals, from menstrual suppression to managing relationships to libido boosting (through the addition of testosterone). Challenging distinctions between intended drug effect and “side effect,” Sanabria brilliantly demonstrates how a routine medical therapy came to acquire new experimental – and often disturbing – uses. She not only reveals the gendered constructions of female biology at play in contraceptive marketing, but also portrays with great sensitivity the social worlds that shape how women experience these drugs. At a time when hormones are invoked as determinants of so much of human sexuality and behaviour, this book demonstrates the urgent need for understanding the different uses and effects these chemicals come to have in varying medical and social environments.

Past Winners of the Diana Forsythe Prize

Nominations: Due June 1, 2018
Self-nominations are welcomed. To be eligible, books (or article series) must have been published in the last five years (copyright of 2013 or later). Nominations should be sent via email to Selection Committee Chair Alexander Edmonds at [email protected]. Publishers, please send a copy of nominated titles to each of the selection committee members listed below.

Alexander Edmonds
18 Buccleuch Place 3.24

Gabriella Coleman
Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy
Department of Art History & Communication Studies
McGill University
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Room 265
Montreal, PQ
H3A 0G5

Marcel LaFlamme
Department of Anthropology, MS-20
Rice University
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892