Congratulations to our inaugural M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund award recipient!

Benita Menezes, Johns Hopkins University

Project: The Politics of Dispossession: Neoliberal Subjects, Law and the Market in Rural Maharashtra, India

Abstract: My dissertation examines how new forms of economic and political reasoning are integrated into the social life of villagers facing dispossession for India’s industrial corridors. I ask how does bureaucratic and judicial reasoning unfold in the lives of villagers and how do they in turn contest dispossession? My project examines how a shift in governmental reason transforms the role of the state in regulating markets as it responds to particular information that the market provides through price mechanisms and market failures regarding land. I hypothesize that dispossession acts as a rupture, transforming the everyday reality of villagers, within which brokerage emerges as a critical institutional mechanism to expand our understanding of political action beyond resistance. Brokerage as a social process expands and contracts the space for individual and collective action with regard to the market wherein challenges to privatization do not disappear altogether but are dispersed across state and market institutions.




Curious about M. Estellie Smith’s scholarship? Click here for a list of some of her publications.

The M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund honors Dr. Smith’s vibrant personality and her dedication to scholarship, mentorship, and the application of social science knowledge to real world issues. During her long career as an anthropologist, Estellie followed her intellectual curiosity through diverse subjects including Pueblo Indians, European societies, societal evolution, maritime anthropology, linguistics, and Portuguese communities. A past president of SEA, Estellie is fondly remembered for her generous attention to students, to whom she provided critical and helpful advice.

To celebrate Estellie’s spirit of mentorship and concern for pressing world issues, the M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund provides graduate student awardees small grants specifically to supplement dissertation fieldwork expenses (typically, $2000) and subsequent travel money to present their findings at the Society for Economic Anthropology annual conference (typically, $500).

Applicants must demonstrate how their research will address the field of economic anthropology as well as significant and pressing world issues, offering potential theoretical or applied advances that could make the world a better place particularly for vulnerable peoples.


  1. Any student enrolled in an anthropology (or allied field) doctoral program, regardless of citizenship or nation, is eligible for the award.
  2. Funds must be spent on travel, field, or lab expenses directly related to the student’s dissertation, as approved by their academic advisor and committee, and all applicants must be ABD by the time the research would be conducted. Status and eligibility should be reflected in letters of recommendation.
  3. The funds are not intended for predissertation fieldwork or language study.


Applicants who meet the eligibility requirements may apply for the award by providing the following materials prior to the deadline listed below. All materials should be submitted via email to sea.smithaward@gmail.com by December 14, 2018. Awards are will be announced in early February 2019.

  1. Proposal Cover Sheet
  2. Abstract (100 words)
  3. Project description, 500 words or less about research goals, itinerary, primary research tasks, potential outcomes
  4. 300 word discussion of how the research will address significant and pressing world issues, offering potential theoretical or applied advances in economic anthropology that could make the world a better place particularly for vulnerable peoples.
  5. Curriculum Vitae
  6. Letter of recommendation (included or under separate cover)
  7. Budget description, including detailed description of what this $2000 award will pay for; other sources of funding that the student has applied for, plans to apply for, or has received; and how remaining expenses will be covered.
  8. Before funds will be disbursed, the applicant must provide official documentation from their department of A.B.D. status (candidacy).
  9. All materials excluding letters of recommendation should be submitted as a single PDF document.


  • Recipients receive $2,000 for PhD research, issued upon acceptance of the award and notification to the Treasurer of the SEA.
  • Recipients receive a one-year membership in the Society for Economic Anthropology (for those already members of the American Anthropological Association).
  • Recipients receive $500 to supplement the costs of traveling to the SEA spring conference during the year following the research award to present a poster or paper on the dissertation research or background work.