James Howe Prize

MIT Anthropology James Howe Prize

2015 James Howe Prize winners: Andrei Klishin and Peter Haine

MIT Anthropology is pleased to announce that the 1st place winner of the 2015 James Howe Prize is Andrei Klishin for his paper, “Trade of the Futures.” Andrei’s paper was originally written for the subject 21A.461 What is Capitalism? The paper explores the very different understandings of mathematical modeling employed by Wall Street traders and “quants” and its implications for the Financial Crisis of 2008. The review committee was especially impressed by the creativity and insightfulness of the analysis and the author’s ability to offer a specifically anthropological take on the problem even while drawing upon insights from a wide range of academic disciplines. This commitment to the importance of ethnography in making sense of crucial problems in the world fits in well with the legacy of Professor Howe’s scholarship.

We are also delighted to announce that the 2nd place prize winner is Peter Haine for his paper, “MOOCs & STEM Fields: Rethinking Assessments.” Originally written for 21A.150 Teaching and Learning: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, this paper offers a nuanced account of the way educators adopt and adapt new educational technologies. The committee was particularly impressed by the author's use of qualitative data (in this case, based primarily on interviews) to build theoretical interpretations. This is crucial component of sound ethnographic analysis, richly exemplified in the work of Professor Howe.

Congratulations to both awardees!

The James Howe Prize is awarded each spring — students interested in submitting work for the Prize can check back on this page for updated deadlines and information at the beginning of the spring semester.

About the Prize

The annual James Howe Prize honors the contributions of Professor of Anthropology James Howe, who retired in 2012. Professor Howe's scholarship has focused on the history and political struggles of the indigenous Kuna population in Panama. He has also promoted human rights throughout his distinquished career. A renowned photographer and political activist, Howe has undertaken ethnographic work to support the rights of the Kuna people. He is a longstanding board member of Cultural Survival — an organization that provides support to and advocates on behalf of the linguistic, cultural, and property rights of indigenous populations around the world.

Guidelines for Submission

Students may submit multiple entries. The topic is open.

Entries written for MIT Anthropology classes or as part of an undergraduate anthropology thesis (i.e. a thesis chapter) are eligible. Papers may be revisions of essays written and graded for MIT Anthropology subjects.

Works that have been published previously are not eligible for submission.

Papers should be at least 10 double-spaced pages in length, but must not exceed 25 pages.

Submissions must include a title, as well as a consistent and thorough citation style and bibliography. The student’s name should not appear anywhere on the paper itself.

Each paper should be submitted with a cover sheet that includes:

  • Student name:
  • Submission title:
  • Anthropology subject for which the submission was produced:
  • Major:
  • Expected year of graduation:
  • Email address:
  • Phone number:
  • Student ID number:

Please submit entries and cover sheets to: jhprize@mit.edu.

Please address questions to jhprize@mit.edu.

2014 James Howe Prize winner: Sofia Essayan-Perez

Howe Prize winner Sofia Essayan-Perez with Anthropology facultyMIT Anthropology is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2014 James Howe Prize is Sofia Essayan-Perez for her paper, “The Role of Physicians in Distributing Resources to Autistic Patients: Perspectives on Knowledge Flows, Biosociality, and Triage.” Sohpia's paper was originally written for the subject, 21A.300 Practicum in Global Health and Development.  Based on interviews with physicians working with pediatric autism as well as clinical observations of patient-family-clinician interactions, Sophia’s paper traces the multiple, bi-directional knowledge flows between physicians and patient families that, together, help to constitute autism diagnosis and care.  The selection prize committee recognizes the originality of Sophia’s field research, the thoroughness of her engagement with relevant literature, and the clarity of her writing. 

We are also pleased to announce an honorable mentioned award to Natalia Guerrero. This paper was originally written for 21A.501 Art, Craft, Science. The selection committee was impressed by Natalia’s use of anthropological theories of art to illuminate the cultural resonance of photography as a “technique of enchantment.” Focusing on captivating scientific images produced by Harold Edgerton, Bernice Abbott, and the Hubble Space Telescope, the paper carefully analyzes the magic behind the photographer’s craft—and the craft behind the photographer’s magic. The committee felt that this topic, and the writer’s thoughtful treatment of it, beautifully reflected the spirit of James Howe’s own commitment to using photography as a medium of ethnography and a mode of engagement.
Congratulations to both awardees!

2013 James Howe Prize winner: Iris Sheu

Howe Prize winner Iris Sheu with Anthropology facultyMIT Anthropology is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 James Howe Prize is Iris Sheu for her paper entitled “Patient Barriers to Mental Health Care for the Cambodian Population in Lowell, MA.” Iris's paper was originally written for the Spring 2012 subject, 21A.300 Practicum in Global Health and Development. The selection prize committee recognizes the caliber of Iris's writing, the originality of her field research, her attention to history and judicious use of social theory, as well as the paper's contribution to contemporary literatures on immigrants and refugees. By suggesting interventions to improve communications between Cambodian populations and health care providers, her paper offers practical solutions to reduce disparities of health status and treatment affecting these populations in the United States. Finally, Iris Sheu's essay demonstrates how ethnographic methods can contribute to understandings of social experience more generally. In so doing, she has embodied the spirit of James Howe's exemplary writings. Congratulations!

The James Howe Prize is awarded each spring — students interested in submitting work for the Prize can check back on this page for updated deadlines and information at the beginning of the spring semester.