Marsh Award for Anthropology in the World

This Award is run in partnership with the Royal Anthropological Institute and recognises an outstanding individual based outside academia who has applied anthropology or anthropological ideas in order to have a positive influence on, or help us better understand, the problems facing our world today.

Nominations are judged by the Royal Anthropological Institute Honours and Awards committee and the winner is presented with their Award at the Royal Anthropological Institute annual AGM.

See here for more information on how to nominate.

John Lord 2021

John initially trained as an archaeologist and has been extensively called upon by English Heritage to demonstrate and implement the craft of early stone technology in public works, restoration and education. Alongside his wife Val, John strove to master the art of flint knapping, the making of flaked or chipped stone tools which was used in prehistoric times to make both practical tools and weapons. They have shared their knowledge with the public and demonstrated their skills to hundreds of schoolchildren. John became a professional flint knapper and has worked in the construction industry to assist with the production of flint for building purposes. He leads many workshops to showcase his skills and preserve them for future generations and has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the flint industry. John has always combined flintknapping with lithic work, the analysis of stone tools and chipped stone artefacts for universities and museums.

Previous Winners

Sandi Toksvig

Sandi has been recognised for her public contribution as a writer, comedian, broadcaster, actor, and producer and striving for gender equality. Sandi has received many awards and honours over the years and is a patron of Humanists UK. She began her comedy career in a one woman show and her television career in 1982 and wrote her first musical in 1993, with one following which focuses on post-traumatic stress among British servicemen. She has written 12 children’s books and 10 books for adults. Sandi supports the charity and pressure group Liberty and hosted its 2012 awards ceremony. She was appointed president of the Women of the Year Lunch. In 2003 she stood as a candidate for the Chancellorship of the University of Oxford supports a campaign against student’s fees. Although she did not win the first election, she went on to become Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth. In 2015, Sandi and Catherine Myer launched and chaired the first conference of a new political party, the Womens Equality Party and raised funds for the party through a comedy tour. The party aims for equality in women’s pay, representation in politics and education, treatment by the media, parenting rights and to end violence against women.  

Johnny Clegg OBE

Johnny Clegg was a South African musician, also known as the “white Zulu” as he was a vocal critic of the apartheid government which ruled until 1994. Johnny was a torchbearer and one of few white artists to bravely and openly confront the apartheid government in the late 1970s and 1980s.

At a young age Johnny was introduced to Zulu language, music and dance by Zulu migrant workers. He was inspired by the way they kept their traditions alive through music and dance and could relate to their feeling of marginality in the city. He studied anthropology at Wits University focusing on Zulu music and dance where upon graduating, he stayed on as a lecturer. He was bold in challenging apartheid laws that prohibited mixed-race performances in public venues, by forming a mixed-race band with a self-taught street musician and migrant worker, Sipho Mchunu.

Johnny Clegg made an indelible mark in the music industry, especially with the 1987 hit song Asimbonanga. The song, part of a South African music trend following the 1976 Soweto uprising, combined politically conscious lyrics with jive and dance rhythms. It was a tribute to Nelson Mandela written at the time he was imprisoned on Robben Island, and became an anthem for South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. He and his hybrid music were a powerful rebuke to the white-minority government, and a reminder that apartheid was a political choice.

It is felt among South Africans that Johnny powerfully showed what it was to assimilate and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. Johnny passed away in July 2019.

David Lan

David is a polymath parallel who has built connections between the world of the social sciences, inter-continental understandings and the humanities and performing arts. He has applied these talents while leading theatre companies both artistically and practically with their building projects.

David first trained as an actor before beginning to write and direct for the theatre. When he moved to London in the 1970s, he took a degree in Social Anthropology, followed by a PhD which would be published in 1985 as Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe, an original study of the role of rural, religious practitioners in the struggle to bring an end to the Rhodesian racist regime. The book made an enormous impact at the time and thirty years later has become an undisputed modern classic. Following his PhD, David travelled extensively in Africa writing films and drama documentaries for the BBC and continuing to write plays for major companies and venues.

David has connected scholarship, and geographical and cultural differences with complete disregard for conventional boundaries: educating through performance and taking every opportunity to help younger and less well-placed artists at each stage of a career that is currently at its height. He is a fine example of practising the characteristics of an anthropological informed mindset appraising the contemporary world.

Dr Julienne Anoko

Dr Julienne Anoko is a Cameroonian social anthropologist who gained her PhD from the Sorbonne University in France. From 2005-2014, Dr Anoko supported the World Health Organisation and UNICEF during the Ebola and Marburg outbreaks in Central Africa, as well as the H1N1 influenza pandemic in both developed and developing countries in Africa, America and Europe. Within days of the Ebola outbreak in the Republic of Guinea, Julienne travelled to the region and advised on key social dimensions that the humanitarian organisations addressing Ebola should take into account. Eventually, her work became instrumental in ensuring community-based responses to the crisis were implemented. Julienne’s understanding of anthropology has directly impacted on the success of the international community in tackling the Ebola crisis.

Dr Peter Bennett

Dr Peter Bennett worked as a Senior Manager in the England and Wales Prison Service for 28 years, including 18 years as Governor of Nottingham, Wellingborough, Spring Hill and Grendon prisons. He has considerable experience in the overall management of prisons, as well as in developing prison reform programmes.

From January 2011 until August 2014, Dr Bennett was Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies based in London, overseeing the dissemination of knowledge and research on prison systems worldwide, also undertaking project work on prison reform and human rights in many countries, including China, Algeria, Libya, Panama, Chile and the Philippines. He has a PhD in social anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and has published a book and several articles on religion, caste and sect in South Asia, as well as being widely published on criminological and prison management themes.

Sheila Kitzinger

This year the Award was given posthumously to Sheila Kitzinger, for her work in empowering women to become more informed on childbirth, and raising awareness of matters related to childbirth through a range of disciplines. She campaigned vigorously for women to have the information the need to make the choice about childbirth, especially working to provide a voice for mothers in prison through childbirth and after, to try and keep mother and baby together where possible.

Sheila lectured to midwives all around the world, was an honorary professor at Thames Valley University and taught the MA in Midwifery in the Wolfson School of Health Sciences. She also taught workshops on the social anthropology of birth and breastfeeding and on unhappiness after childbirth for birth educators and postnatal counsellors too. She combined birth activism with research, writing, lecturing and radio and TV appearances.

Dr Gillian Tett

Dr Gillian Tett studied anthropology at the University of Cambridge, conducting her PhD on Tajikstan, which explored the relationship between faith, power and gender within a small-scale community. She then joined the Financial Times where she has held a number of roles, currently as assistant editor and columnist where she covers a range of economic, financial political and social issues throughout the globe. Through regular writing and lectures, Dr Tett has long indicated the applicability of ideas developed within social anthropology to the world of finance and business.

Dr Tett is particularly renowned for her work in using social anthropology to cast grave doubts upon the sustainability of the derivatives boom, which led to the 2007 financial crash. In her book, Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe, she uses the application of anthropological ideas such as control of cultural discourse and the role of sub-cultures and social silences, to help explain the financial crisis. She has great influence through her articles, books, reviews and reporting, and has shown that anthropology has contemporary relevance.