Jessaca Leinaweaver, the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor of Anthropology, has won the 2010 Margaret Mead Award for her book, The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption, and Morality in Andean Peru (Duke University Press, 2008). The award is given jointly by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology to a younger scholar for an achievement that helps make anthropological research meaningful to the public.
The book explores “child circulation,” informal arrangements in which indigenous Andean children are sent by their parents to live in other households. She shows how relocations of children are often understood differently by parties, ranging from the Peruvian state adoption office to anti-child-trafficking NGOs to the children in question.
In the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology News, the award committee writes that it selected The Circulation of Children for Leinaweaver’s “clear voice that allows both anthropologists and the public to see how the fieldwork transpired and led her to such important conclusions.” The committee writes that the book is a particularly compelling nominee for the Margaret Mead award because, “much like Mead’s work, this is essentially an ethnography that could only have been produced by a female anthropologist, in that she had unique access to a highly gendered world of mothers and their daughters, godmothers and their female companions, and extended lineages through the relationships among women and children.” The committee concludes, “This is, quite simply, a work that shows what it is that anthropologists do and why it matters.”
“I’m honored to think that my work might be read by, or valuable to, a broader audience than my anthropologist colleagues and our undergraduate and graduate students, and it’s important to me to write accessibly,” Leinaweaver said. “Also, I greatly admire Margaret Mead — both her path-breaking work on young women and children and her uncanny ability to connect with the U.S. public on anthropological topics — and am really pleased to receive an award that honors her work.”
Leinaweaver’s work has been translated into Spanish and published in the global South, so it is now accessible to child welfare institutions in Latin and South America.
Leinaweaver joined the Department of Anthropology in 2008. She is also a member of Brown’s Population Studies and Training Center and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She did her undergraduate work at Whitman College, where she majored in anthropology and Spanish literature, and she received both her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. She is currently investigating international adoption and migration of Peruvians to Spain.
Leinaweaver will formally receive the award on April 1, 2011, at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Seattle.