Jessica Cattelino Awarded the 2011 Cultural Horizons Prize

SCA is proud to award the tenth annual Cultural Horizons Prize to Jessica Cattelino (UCLA) for her article "The Double Bind of American Indian Need-Based Sovereignty" (Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 2 (May 2010): 235-62).

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Jessica Cattelino, "Jessica Cattelino (UCLA)." March 22, 2011.

This year's doctoral student jury, consisting of Robert Y. Chang (NYU), João Felipe Gonçalves (U Chicago), and Marry Murrell (UC Berkeley), writes:

Jessica Cattelino’s rich essay explores “need-based sovereignty” as a modality of settler colonialism in the United States. Focusing on the Florida Seminoles, Cattelino juxtaposes two historical moments: the 1950s, when the tribe successfully repelled the threat of termination; and 2007, when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their tribal reorganization. Between the two moments the Florida Seminoles moved from impoverishment to wealth, attracting renewed calls for the end to their sovereignty. A fundamental tension marks both historical moments: is the federal government’s relationship with indigenous polities based on need or is it based on recognition and a trust relationship?

Cattelino uses Gregory Bateson’s concept of a “double bind” to describe the predicament of the Florida Seminoles: sovereignty brings wealth and yet, due to the structures of expectation within the settler-colonial society, wealth may undermine sovereignty. Cattelino suggests that this double bind cannot be undone by the Florida Seminoles alone because individuals caught in double binds can neither comment on the contradictory demands placed on them nor totally control the terms of their own representation. It is up to others, perhaps especially the anthropologist, to change the cultural expectations of settler colonialism.

Cattelino uses Gregory Bateson’s concept of a “double bind” to describe the predicament of the Florida Seminoles: sovereignty brings wealth and yet, due to the structures of expectation within the settler-colonial society, wealth may undermine sovereignty. Cattelino suggests that this double bind cannot be undone by the Florida Seminoles alone because individuals caught in double binds can neither comment on the contradictory demands placed on them nor totally control the terms of their own representation. It is up to others, perhaps especially the anthropologist, to change the cultural expectations of settler colonialism. 

Combining historical, theoretical, and ethnographic inquiry, Cattelino’s essay brings multiple strands of analysis to bear on a contemporary dilemma. In clear prose, she describes the lived practices and discourses of the Seminoles as well as the political, economic and cultural environment in which they find themselves. With subtlety, sophistication and rigor, she provides the basis not just for understanding but also political action. For these reasons, we find it exemplary of the best contemporary anthropological writing. 

This year the jury also designated an honorable mention:

Marisol de la Cadena (UC Davis) for her article “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections beyond 'Politics'” (Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 2 (May 2010): 335-370). 

Read the entire 2011 commendation here.

About the Cultural Horizons Prize

The SCA has long been distinguished by having the largest graduate student membership of any section of the AAA. Recognizing that doctoral students are among the most experimentally minded--and often among the best read--of ethnographic writers, this award asks of SCA's graduate student readers, "Who is on your reading horizon?"

This spirit gave rise to the Cultural Horizons Prize, awarded yearly by a jury of doctoral students for the best article appearing in Cultural Anthropology.

View the Prize Page