2019 Praxis Award Recipients

Since 1981, the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA) biennial Praxis Award competition has recognized outstanding achievement in translating anthropological knowledge into action as reflected in a single project or specific endeavor. The 2019 Praxis applications included a number of highly innovative projects, submitted from Germany, Great Britain, Israel, the United States, and Uruguay. The next Praxis competition will occur in 2021.

This year our panel of jurors gave particularly high ratings to three projects. Normally a single winner is selected. Reflecting the jurors’ assessments the Praxis Award Committee decided to present two Praxis Awards and one Honorable Mention. Congratulations to our winners for their outstanding achievements.

2019 Award Recipient: Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence During Conflict (Bangladesh)

Researcher: Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University, UK).

Project clients & stakeholders (partial): Ministry of Liberation War Affairs (Bangladesh); Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (United Kingdom); Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation (Netherlands).

This work is a response to the widespread use of sexual violence against women in conflict situations, notably the 1971 Bangladesh War. Prof. Mookherjee collaboratively produced guidelines and a graphic novel in Bangla and English, co-authored with Bangladeshi graphic artist Najmunnahar Keya and in collaboration with Research Initiatives Bangladesh, to foster ethical conduct by researchers, journalists, and government officials when documenting such crimes. The goal of the project is to contribute to the welfare of survivors by ensuring their process of giving testimonies does not prove to be another source of trauma along with the past experiences of sexual violence. The guidelines and graphic novel are available in Bangla and English at Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence During Conflict.

Juror comment: "This is a really excellent example of how academic research can be translated into pieces that are useful for non-academics. A graphic novel is a brilliant idea and the applicant’s engagement with institutions and media is impressive." 

Biographic information:

Nayanika Mookherjee is Professor of Political Anthropology at Durham University, UK. She works and publishes on gendered violence in conflicts, reconciliation, and transnational adoption. This project is based on her award-winning book The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (2015, Duke University Press). She holds an MA from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Najmunnahar Keya is a freelance artist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She completed her MFA from the Tokyo University and Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is the recipient of various awards and fellowships.

Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB) is a non-governmental organization and their approach is Participatory Action Research (gonogobeshona). Through this it has reached many marginalised communities and has been promoting processes of collective self-enquiry, self-determination and capacity building. Its Executive Director is Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta (PhD, York University), who is a survivor of the war of 1971 and was a professor of International Relations in Dhaka University.

2019 Award Recipient: Deal Island Peninsula Project (Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA)

Researchers: Michael Paolisso, Christine Miller Hesed, Katherine Johnson, and Elizabeth Van Dolah (University of Maryland, USA)

Project clients & stakeholders (partial): Deal Island Peninsula residents, rural church communities in Dorchester, Wicomico, and Somerset Counties, county and state policymakers and managers.

Climate change affects coastal communities worldwide through sea level rise, nuisance flooding, erosion, intensifying storms, and changes in marine and coastal ecosystem services. Developed by anthropologists in collaboration with environmental researchers, resource managers, and local communities, the Deal Island Peninsula Project applies anthropological theory, methods, and teaching to improve the adaptation and resilience of the Deal Island Peninsula socio-ecological system, located on the lower Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  More information is available at Deal Island Peninsula Project.

Juror comment: "This project is really a beautiful example of anthropology at work across multiple dimensions – from specific methodologies to the general influence of an anthropological perspective on mutual respect and development of collaborative relationships. On top of that, in a local context it is addressing an issue of global importance."

Biographic information:

Michael Paolisso is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Since 1997 he has conducted applied anthropological research on human and environmental issues confronting the Chesapeake Bay, including management of fisheries and agriculture, water pollution, restoration, social justice, socio-ecological adaptation and resilience, and climate change. He has also done research in Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, Kenya, and Nepal.

Christine Miller Hesed is an environmental anthropologist and conservation biologist whose work focuses on engaging underrepresented communities in climate changeadaptation planning. As post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland, she was the project director of Engaging Faith Communities for Coastal Resilience. She is a former EPA STAR Fellow.

Katherine Johnson is a Social Scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Maryland.  Her career interest is to use qualitative research and policy analysis to assist communities in enhancing their resilience to natural hazards risks. Her current work concerns earthquake hazard risk mitigation.

Elizabeth Van Dolah is an environmental anthropologist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland - College Park, where she serves as the current coordinator for the Deal Island Peninsula Project. Her work focuses on coastal resilience to climate change, and the integration of human dimensions into coastal adaptation research and governance. She received her Ph.D. in 2018 from the University of Maryland.

2019 Honorable Mention: Complex Households and the Undercount of Young Children (US-wide)

Researchers: Laurie Schwede (anthropologist), Eric Jensen, Deborah Griffin,  Scott Konicki, and Janet Wysocki (United States Census Bureau)

Project clients & stakeholders (partial): U.S. Census Bureau, Census Scientific Advisory Committee, Census Bureau National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Partnership for America’s Children, 2020 Census Complete Count Committee on Young Children, Population Association of America, and American Statistical Association.

In the 2010 U.S. Census, 1 in 20 children aged 0 to 4 were missed, the highest net undercount rate of any age cohort. Prior research showed a relationship between household structure and undercounts. The project team used a range of ethnographic, demographic, and statistical methods to reanalyze all 2000 and 2010 Census households through a new complex household typology, identifying three complex household types at risk of young-child undercount: households with (1) nonrelatives, (2) distant relatives, and/or (3) those with more than two generations. The Census Bureau is using the results of this study to modify the 2020 Census questionnaire and improve messaging to populations particularly subject to undercounting children. More information is available at The Undercount of Young Children.

Juror comment: "This is a brilliant example of how anthropologists can work with mixed methods and multidisciplinary teams to have an impact on society." 

Biographic information:

Laurie Schwede is a cultural anthropologist with 29 years’ experience as a survey researcher/anthropologist in the Census Bureau’s Center for Survey Measurement. Her work involves survey design, qualitative and evaluation methods, household complexity, race/ethnicity, and census coverage. In 1991 she earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Cornell University after conducting dissertation fieldwork in Indonesia among the matrilineal Minangkabau.

Eric Jensen earned his Ph.D. in Rural Sociology from Penn State University. He is the Senior Technical Expert for Demographic Analysis in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. He leads the Demographic Analysis Program, which is one of two operations that the Census Bureau uses to measure coverage in the decennial census.

Deborah Griffin is a mathematical statistician with a B.S. in mathematics and graduate courses in statistics and survey methodology. As a special assistant to the Chief of the American Community Survey, she led the 2013 Undercount of Young Children Task Force. After retiring, she led the overall Undercount of Young Children Research Team.

Scott Konicki earned a Master’s Degree in Survey Methodology with a concentration in statistics from the University of Maryland. He is a Mathematical Statistician in the Census Bureau’s Decennial Statistical Studies Division.

Janet Wysocki is the Census Bureau’s Population Division Programmer who developed the programming to create the new complex household variable and custom census datasets and replicated the new complex household frequency distributions with prior results from another study.

Left to right: Janet Wysocki, Laurie Schwede, Eric Jensen, Deborah Griffin, Scott Konicki (not pictured)

WAPA thanks our panel of anthropologist jurors for their thoughtful review of the 2019 Praxis Award applications.

  • Mark Edberg is Associate Professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health at The George Washington University. A cultural anthropologist with a focus on public health (domestic and global), he is particularly knowledgeable about how poverty and marginalization intersect with key health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, substance use, and youth violence.
  • Kerry Fosher is the Director of Research at the Marine Corps University’s culture center. She is a socio-cultural anthropologist who focuses on the integration of social science in security institutions and activities. She directs the research projects of a multidisciplinary staff on topics such as organizational culture, resilience, ethics, security futures, and assessment.
  • Erik Kjeldgaard is an analyst in tribal affairs at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where his recent work has focused on the federal government’s role in addressing looting and trafficking of Native American cultural property, and efforts to repatriate it. He is a past president of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists.
  • Erin Taylor is Principal Consultant at Canela, a research agency based in the Hague specializing in "messy human problems" in finance and technology use. She is the author of Materializing Poverty: How the Poor Transform Their Lives (2013) and co-author of the Consumer Finance Research Methods Toolkit (2016).
WAPA Praxis Award Committee, 2019-2020: 

Charles Cheney, Patricia M. Clay, Shirley Fiske, Terry Redding, Robert Winthrop (chair), and Bob Wulff

Updated 26 March 2020

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