2020 GAD New Directions Award


The GAD New Directions Award is offered in two categories—Group and Individual—to recognize work that presents anthropological perspectives to publics beyond the academy across diverse forms of media, with methodological rigor and ethical engagement.



Elemental Productions

The General Anthropology Division (GAD) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is pleased to announce Elemental Productions as the 2020 winner of the GAD New Directions Award (Group category). Since 2007, Elemental Productions has been producing ethnographic films rooted in psychological and visual anthropology that explore the intersection of mental health, culture, and personal experience in Indonesia under the direction of anthropologist Robert Lemelson.

Elemental Productions has produced over a dozen films ranging from topics such as neuropsychiatric and psychotic disorders (Afflictions series), genocide and trauma (40 Years of Silence, Shadows and Illuminations), child development (Kites and Monsters), rituals (Ritual Burdens), globalization (Memory of My Face), stigma and social rejection (The Bird Dancer), funerary practices (Ngaben), trance and possession (Jathilan), and polygamy and gender based violence (Bitter HoneyThorn).

In the last decade, Elemental’s work has diversified in experiments with new media and new possibilities for use, distribution, collaboration and interaction.  They have created an iBook on mental illness (Shadows Multi-Touch), a blog on psychocultural cinema (PCC), a sensory ethnography (Tajen) and an interactive multimodal project on the Balinese cockfight (Tajen: Interactive), a journal and blog article on the process of making a multimodal web documentary (American AnthropologistMultimodal Anthropologies).  The Elemental team is currently working on an ethnographic film, sensory experiment and multimodal project on autism in Java.

In making their selection, the GAD Awards Committee recognizes Elemental Productions for its expansive and wide-ranging contributions to anthropological media and for films that depict complex social experiences and cultural quandaries in ways that make cultural difference accessible to a broader audience, precisely in the spirit of the GAD New Directions Awards.


Thurka Sangaramoorthy

The General Anthropology Division (GAD) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is pleased to announce Thurka Sangaramoorthy as the 2020 winner of the GAD New Directions Award (Individual category) for the project “Afterlives of AIDS: Oral histories of Black women living and aging with HIV.” This on-going, multimodal project centers African American women’s journeys of finding meaning and community in the face of persistent violence and trauma. Afterlives of AIDS illustrates how HIV has shaped women’s lives and how it has impacted their historical and contemporary roles within Black familial systems and broader communities. The project presents holistic and complex stories of African American women who have long been ignored in the history of HIV and often cast aside as drug addicts and prostitutes in popular and scientific discourse. It also documents women’s own analysis of their experiences of intersectional stigma, chronicity, and aging.

Sangaramoorthy builds on traditional forms, such as oral history and photography, with innovative approaches to bring racial justice-focused activism to anthropology, the use of storytelling to elevate the voices of those most impacted by the HIV epidemic; to better inform policy and practice, and contribute to social action. The Afterlives of AIDS project encompasses digital video, interviews; photographs, op-eds in national newspapers and magazines, including pieces reprinted in the Washington PostHuffington Post, and Newsweek reaching over 45,000 readers; and a forthcoming book. All project-related materials—including portraits, oral history transcripts, digital voice recordings, and published literature—have also been acquired by the Smithsonian Institute for their permanent digital archival collection, to be housed in the Smithsonian’s Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) by the end of 2020. Sangaramoorthy is also collaborating with The Story Collider—an organization which works with storytellers from both inside and outside science to develop stories, and shares them through weekly podcasts and live shows around the world—to design and lead a one-day workshop to support women and gender minorities who are HIV positive to develop and tell their personal stories, along with their community of clinicians, researchers, and policymakers, a necessary first step to launching a national storytelling campaign that creates intentional spaces for African Americans to share their stories of the lived experience of HIV and for the public to hear these narratives.

In making this award, the GAD Awards Committee recognizes the impressive scope, methodological rigor, ethical and public commitment of Sangaramoorthy’s work.  The Afterlives of AIDS project crosses multiple borders, expanding access to anthropological knowledge to new publics, in new forms and contexts.