Nayanika Mathur wins the American Ethnological Society's (AES) Sharon Stephens Prize

front paper tiger

We are delighted to announce that Professor Nayanika Mathur has won the Sharon Stephens Prize awarded by the American Ethnological Society (AES) for a first book for her recent publication: Paper Tiger: Law Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India.

The awards committee noted:

"Paper Tiger uses the sensational story of a man-eating big cat on the run to tell a much more subtle story of the everyday life of law and bureaucracy on the Himalayan borderland. It reveals the complexity of bureaucratic practice as it unfolds in its most ordinary everyday embodiment—in the way government officials read and write letters, hold meetings, file, produce and circulate documents, reflect on their official postings, and the spaces officials occupy. The point of it all is to demonstrate the myriad ways in which the state presents itself through and by the laws it intends to implement. 

The committee was impressed with the detailed account of paper and its circulation, which works to reveal the unintended consequences of reforms, the problems with implementing new programs and the inability of state officials to act when faced with crises. The book was simply a joy to read: rich, lively, and theoretically compelling. Paper Tiger pushed us to rethink how the state operates in India and beyond.

The committee felt that a major strength of this book was that its theories can and (we believe) will be applied to a vast number of ethnographic contexts. Although it presents a unique explanation for what progressive laws can and cannot do in post-liberalization India, the way Mathur theorizes the Indian state’s effort to render itself more transparent and accountable will be helpful to many anthropologists as they wrestle with the double-edged effects of reform in a variety of settings."

The book is available as a hardback from Cambridge University Press, priced £69.99 in the UK or as an e-book for $88.00.