In their commentary on Lucas Bessire’s Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life, the winner of the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s 2015 Gregory Bateson Prize, the members of the prize jury pointed to the way in which Bessire revealed “the limits of the contemporary political technology of indigeneity” with searing insights into “the consequences of extreme social disintegration.” Behold the Black Caiman wrestles with the complexity of life and the ways in which it can be both dehumanized and endured. The book’s innovative, elegiac style is not merely an aesthetic device, but rather a provocation. Bessire is asking us, as readers, to think with him.
In our inaugural Bateson Book Forum, three graduate students in Cultural Anthropology’s Contributing Editors program have done just that. Like the Cultural Horizons Prize awarded each year for the best article in Cultural Anthropology as selected by a jury of doctoral students, the Bateson Book Forum represents an opportunity for early-career scholars to evaluate and engage with cutting-edge ethnographic writing.
The contributors to the 2016 Bateson Book Forum are:
Ned Dostaler is an incoming graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ann Iwashita is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University.
Toby Austin Locke is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University College London.
Lucas Bessire is the winner of the 2015 Gregory Bateson Prize and an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.