Anthropologist Alan Klima Wins Bateson Prize

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Alan Klima's ethnographic writing releases a middle zone, an in-between that haunts the kind of thought accreted by Euro-enlightenment. And it is beautifully done, unfolding, cascading, easing a shift in realism that starts by troubling a conventionally recognized real, material world and ends up dominated by the voice of a double, a possession. Ethnography #9 is an amazing and wonderful book by a masterful and compelling writer.” — Kathleen Stewart, co-author of The Hundreds

A book by UC Davis anthropology professor Alan Klima on Thai spiritual and financial practices is the winner of a 2020 Gregory Bateson Book Prize from the Society for Cultural Anthropology.

Ethnography #9 is one of three recipients of this year’s Bateson Prize, given for works deemed “interdisciplinary, experimental and innovative.”

Written in a literary style of storytelling, Ethnography #9 examines money-lending, gambling, funeral casinos and the consultation of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers.

Klima uses multiple voices — from ethnographic modes to a first-person narrative in which he channels Northern Thai ghostly tales and the story of a young Thai spirit — to challenge the “earnest realism of anthropological discourse as a method of critical thought.”

In addition to being sold in paperback, Ethnography #9 is also available free in an open access PDF edition, thanks to an initiative of library and university press associations called TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem), and the support of UC Davis.

The Society for Cultural Anthropology is the largest section of the American Anthropological Association. The Bateson Prize is awarded at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association and comes with an honorarium of $500.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist, College of Letters and Science

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