2020 Winner

Figuring it Out

Care, Futurity and Urban Transformation in Tarlabasi, Istanbul.

by Alize Arican

The AES is pleased to award Alize Arican, a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, Chicago, with the 2020 Elsie Clews Parsons prize.

The Parsons prize is awarded yearly to the best graduate student paper that engages with AES's core commitments to combining innovative fieldwork with rich theoretical critique. This year, we are delighted to honor Arican’s well written, engaging paper entitled, “Figuring it Out: Care, Futurity and Urban Transformation in Tarlabasi, Istanbul.”

Arican’s imaginative paper explores the creative and collective ways urban residents of the Tarlabaşı neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey work to shape their neighborhood and well-being despite considerable structural obstacles and hostility from the state. The Turkish government designated the neighborhood as a “risk zone” and targeted it for urban renewal programs that would displace resident migrant and minority groups. Yet through long term fieldwork, Arican reveals the multiple ways residents refuse their marginalization. Rejecting fatalism and moving beyond a tangle of bureaucratic engagements, people cope with an uncertain future not by passively waiting for it to unfold, but by innovating and shaping their own destinies.


The Elsie Clews Parsons prize is named for the past president of AES (1923-25) who was also the first woman president of the AAA (1941). Parsons was known especially for her work among the Hopi and Pueblo in the southwest United States, and for her commitment to anthropology as a vehicle for social change. The selection panel is pleased to present Alize Arican with this prize and is encouraged by the excellent submissions we received from graduate students who submitted work this year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AES reluctantly cancelled its 2020 Spring meeting in Austin. Therefore, we plan to present the Parsons award at the business meeting at the 2020 AAA meetings in St. Louis. The AES would like to thank the selection panel, which consisted of Katherine McCaffrey (chair, Montclair State), Danielle Good (University of Texas, Austin), and Jacqueline Solway (Trent). Please keep an eye out for the next competition, deadline at the end of 2020.