Ilana Feldman Awarded the 2008 Cultural Horizons Prize

SCA is proud to award the seventh annual Cultural Horizons Prize to Ilana Feldman (George Washington U) for her article "Difficult Distinctions: Refugee Law, Humanitarian Practice,and Political Identification in Gaza" (Cultural Anthropology 22, no. 1 (February 2007): 129-169).

The 2008 doctoral student jury, consisting of Tina Harris (CUNY), Chris Kortright (UC Davis), Martha Lincoln (CUNY), and Susanne Unger (U Michigan), writes:

"In this deeply researched and thought-provoking analysis, IlanaFeldman details the processes that created new categories of political identification and legal status for Palestinians in the Gaza strip following World War II. Drawing on Aihwa Ong's definition of citizenship as not only "a bundle of rights," Feldman's historical research reveals that the efforts of relief agencies created and reinforced two categories--those of "refugee" and "native/citizen"--and, in so doing, unintentionally curtailed the political circumstances and living conditions of all Gazans. Her discussion of the positioning of international aid agencies vis-a-vis their intended beneficiaries underscores the political tensions and power dynamics that are often animated by relief efforts or acts of "charity." She pays close attention to the processes and social consequences of border-making across many levels, showing how documents such as ration cards can shape "new political values connected to . . . geography."

Through her use of archival materials, Feldman provides a robust analysis of the relations between a range of regional actors--from Quaker relief workers to 'natives' to internally displaced persons--demonstrating how their relationships were transformed both by tension and by cooperation. Contextualizing her study in both in Palestinian history and the history of humanitarian aid, Feldman never loses sight of the ethnographic detail, pressing home that the processes she describes were frequently humiliating experiences which "for many people marked their transition from citizens to refugees."

A powerful contribution to research agendas with critical-historicist as well as activist commitments, this article is of interest for a wide audience, particularly those working on issues of citizenship, humanitarian aid, displacement, legal anthropology, and the state.

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.