The SCA is proud to award the sixth annual Gregory Bateson Prize to Eduardo Kohn (McGill University) for his book, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human (University of California Press).
This year’s Bateson Prize winner presents a profound and generative challenge to the ways we conceptualize and pursue ethnography. Based on four years of fieldwork among the Runa in Ecuador, Eduardo Kohn develops a series of encounters with “greater than human webs of semiosis,” engagements with an array of nonhumans who similarly work at making sense of the manifold, mutable living forms of the Upper Amazon. Kohn’s account depicts the rainforest as “an emergent and expanding multilayered cacophonous web of mutually constitutive, living, and growing thoughts”—a landscape or “multispecies assemblage” where long running anthropological concerns and conundrums are first figured and then transformed. Kohn charts a deep “relationship between life, self, and thought,” that ranges through copious forms, all engaged in or framing semiosis. Fittingly, he draws on Gregory Bateson’s examples of thinking through and with patterns that connect living beings to each other and their environment.
The Gregory Bateson Prize is awarded annually at the meetings of the American Anthropological Association and carries a honorarium of $500. This year's prize competition saw ninety-seven entries from fourty different presses. The jury included John Hartigan (University of Texas), Jackie Orr (Syracuse University), Andrew Barry (University College London), and Molly Mullin (North Carolina State University).