Naisargi Dave Wins 2013 Ruth Benedict Prize
The Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA) is very pleased to announce that Naisargi Dave has been awarded the 2013 Ruth Benedict Prize, in the category “Outstanding Single-Authored Monograph,” for Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics (Duke University Press, 2012).
The Ruth Benedict Prize is presented each year at the American Anthropological Association’s national meeting to acknowledge excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective about a topic that engages issues and theoretical perspectives relevant to LGBTQ studies.
Queer Activism in India makes a significant contribution to the anthropology of ethics and to the ethnography of queer social movements and identity politics in India. Dave chronicles the formation of lesbian activist and communicative institutions in India, specifically Delhi, beginning with a body of letters same-sex women began writing to one another in the 1980s and following their trajectories through lesbian call centers, support groups, and political actions into the early 2000s. Dave argues that lesbian activism in India is an ethical practice that includes critique, invention, and relationships; but she emphasizes that for these women, justice is not synonymous with law. As such, Dave examines what she calls “something extraordinary”—the emergence of lesbian activism—in order to more closely understand the “exceedingly ordinary”: a shared desire by lesbian women in India to experience their sexualities as possibility and potential. Most theoretically innovative is Dave’s attention to the process of containment for lesbian ac
tivist organizations, which can fix potential in a normative form: while containment yields security, Dave tells us, it is not always identical to normativity. Dave presents these arguments while seamlessly weaving fine-grained and candid ethnographic experiences throughout her analysis. These narratives illuminate Dave’s location as both anthropologist and friend for many of the women who are portrayed, and whose critical analyses of Dave’s work inform what we read. Queer Activism in India is a beautifully-written ethnography that showcases the theoretical strengths of both queer anthropology and the anthropology of ethics.
The Ruth Benedict Prize will be presented to the winning authors during the AQA Business meeting at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Chicago in November 2013. AQA would like to thank the Benedict Prize Committee for their thoughtful work, including 2012 Benedict Prize winner Gayle Rubin and graduate student representatives Erin Durban-Albrecht and Timothy Gitzen. For questions or additional information, please contact the Committee Chair, Scott Morgensen, at email@example.com.