Anthropologist Daniel Jordan Smith wins Margaret Mead Award for book on corruption in Nigeria

The award honors Smith’s “socially relevant” study of a population that has become inured to graft and deceit.
By TAB Staff  |  December 5, 2008  |  Email to a friend

:   Daniel Jordan Smith, associate professor of anthropology and associate director of Brown’s Population Studies and Training Center, has won the 2008 Margaret Mead Award for his book A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria (Princeton University Press, 2007). 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 award committee’s chair, University of Arizona professor Nancy Parezo, noted that Smith’s book “is a fascinating, timely, and compelling ethnography about how fraud and scams are a  critical source of income in Nigeria as well as a part of the country’s domestic cultural landscape.”

The book, Parezo continued, “will speak to a large audience, in part because it is well written, understandable, and often witty, but also because everyone with a computer has received an email proposing the need for an urgent business relationship from a Nigerian and wonder why these attempts at fraud so often originate in Nigeria.”

Smith joined the Department of Anthropology in 2001. He received an A.B. in sociology from Harvard (1983), an MPH from Johns Hopkins (1989) and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Emory University (1999). From 1999-2001 he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Anthropological Demography at the Population Studies and Training Center. He conducts research in medical anthropology, anthropological demography, and political anthropology in sub-Saharan Africa, with a specific focus on Nigeria.

Daniel Smith:   Daniel Smith In his book, Smith documents and analyzes how various types of corruption permeate Nigerian society, how Nigerians live with and creatively manipulate corruption, and the dilemmas Nigerians face daily to survive in a society riddled by corruption. The book shows how corruption becomes understandable from the Nigerian point of view and explains how individuals think about, live with, fight, manipulate, and criticize corruption.

“Smith’s bold and courageous study of corruption at the micro and macro levels,” said Parezo, “shows the messiness of daily life and opens discussion about issues that many anthropologists want to keep at arm’s length.” 

Smith will be formally presented with the award on March 20 at the annual meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico.