About The M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund

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 smithaward@econanthro.org by January 20, 2024. Awards are will be announced in early February 2022.

  1. Proposal Cover Sheet
  2. Abstract (100 words)
  3. Project description, 1000 words or less about research goals, itinerary, primary research tasks, potential outcomes. Note that the review panel will rate projects according to their (a) contributions to economic anthropology, (b) feasibility, and (c) creativity and innovation.
  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. 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.
  7. One letter of recommendation, sent separately, by the letter writer, to smithaward@econanthro.org

Before funds will be disbursed, the applicant must provide official documentation from their department of A.B.D. status (candidacy). All materials excluding the letter 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.

Congratulations to our 2024 M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund award recipient!

Kanikka Sersia, Geneva Graduate Institute (Switzerland)

Project: The making of algorithmic labour in the platform economy

Abstract: The rise of app-based labour platforms constitutes a paradigmatic shift in the contemporary modes of employment relationship. At the heart of this lies the algorithmic management of work—i.e. Algorithms having the ability to allocate, track, manage, and remunerate the platform workforce. These algorithmic systems are not simply technological artifacts but are also the product of sociocultural dynamics. My doctoral research situates itself at the confluence of these socio-technological forces, that inform the logic of these algorithmic systems. Through an ethnographic study in a platform company building mobility app in Bengaluru’s tech milieu in India, this research aims to explore how software developers, tech capitalists, and the state co-construct the development of an application, with a consequential impact on the livelihoods of app-based workers in the platform economy.