James Howe Prize

MIT Anthropology James Howe Prize

2018 James Howe Prize winners: Jackie Liu and Gabriella Zak

MIT Anthropology is pleased to announce that the first place winner of the 2018 James Howe Prize is Jackie Liu. She wrote “Clashing Colors, Blinking Backgrounds, Under-Construction Signs: GeoCities’ Aesthetic Legacy and the Future of Web Culture” for 21A.504 Cultures of Computing. Jackie is in the class of 2018. CREATIVE AND ENGAGING, THIS paper explores the contemporary, nostalgic revivals of the content of GeoCities -- the 1990s and early 2000s web community. The current revival addresses an idealized longing for a more democratic vision of a World Wide Web, and constitutes a reaction to the current domination by a corporatized and homogenizing Internet culture. Nostalgia for a more “democratic” web didn’t mean it was necessarily more democratic but rather recognizes that this is a symbolic longing for perceived lost hopes.

MIT Anthropology is also very pleased to announce that the second place goes to Gabriella Zak. Her paper, “Higher Education Inc.” was written for 21A.461 What is Capitalism. Gabriella is in the class of 2020. The paper is  about the social exploitation of low income groups in the U.S. through predatory lending practices associated with for-profit higher education in the build-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Well-written and researched, this original paper offers  a complex and nuanced analysis of the economic, political, and social factors at play.

Congratulations to both awardees!


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.


2017: Ankita Reddy and Haley Strouf
2016: Paige Omura
2015: Andrei Kilshin and Peter Haine
2014: Sofia Essayan-Perez
2013: Iris Sheu