Cosmologies of Credit Receives 2012 Geertz Prize

2012 First Prize

SAR has awarded the 2012 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion to Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China by Julie Chu (Duke University Press, 2010). In her monograph Chu, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, crafts a masterful depiction of the cosmology of aspiration in Fuzhou, China. She focuses on Fuzhounese efforts to recast their social horizons beyond the limitations of “peasant life” in China. Transcending utilitarian questions of risks and rewards, she considers the overflow of aspirations in the Fuzhounese pursuit of transnational destinations. Chu attends not just to the migration of bodies, but also to flows of shipping containers, planes, luggage, immigration papers, money, food, prayers, and gods. By analyzing the intersections and disjunctures of these various flows, she explains how mobility operates as a sign embodied through everyday encounters and in the transactions of persons and things. The prize was awarded at the general business meeting of SAR during the annual meeting of AAA.

Lauren Leve, Chair of the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee, presents the Geertz Prize in Anthropology of Religion to Julie Chu.
Lauren Leve, Chair of the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee, presents the Geertz Prize in Anthropology of Religion to Julie Chu.

2012 Honorable Mention

In addition to the First Prize, the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee awarded an Honorable Mention to Stambeli: Music, Trance and Alterity in Tunisia, by Richard C. Jankowski (University of Chicago Press, 2010). In his monograph, Jankowsky, an Associate Professor of Music in Ethnomusicology at Tufts University, presents a vivid ethnographic account of the healing trance music created by the descendants of sub-Saharan slaves brought to Tunisia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Stambeli music calls upon an elaborate pantheon of sub-Saharan spirits and North African Muslim saints to heal humans through ritualized trance. The book explores the way the music evokes the cross-cultural, migratory past of its originators and their encounters with the Arab-Islamic world in which they found themselves. Stambeli, Jankowsky avers, is thoroughly marked by a sense of otherness—the healing spirits, the founding musicians, and the instruments mostly come from outside Tunisia—which creates a unique space for profoundly meaningful interactions between sub-Saharan and North African people, beliefs, histories, and aesthetics.


Evey year, SAR selects an excellent book in the anthropology of religion to honor Clifford Geertz, one of one of the field’s best-known representatives. For past recipients of the Geertz Prize and other Honorable Mentions, details on nominations for future prizes, and other information relating to the Geertz Prize please visit the dedicated Geertz Prize page.