The Elsie Clews Parsons Prize is awarded yearly for the best graduate-student paper that engages with AES’s core commitments to combining innovative fieldwork with rich theoretical critique.

The AES Board invites individuals who are students in a graduate degree-granting program (including M.A. and Ph.D.) to submit stand-alone papers demonstrating outstanding ethnography for consideration for the Parsons Prize.

History of the Elsie Clews Parsons Award

The Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for the best Graduate Student Essay was awarded by the American Ethnological Society as long ago as the 1960s, well before the AES became fully incorporated into the AAA in 1984. It was suspended for approximately a decade and reinstated in the 1990s. The American Folklore Society, for whom Parsons served as President 1919 -20, presented an Elsie Clews Parsons Book Prize during the 1980s.

Papers should engage with AES core commitments to combining innovative fieldwork with rich theoretical critique. Papers should not exceed 8,000 words (including notes and references) and should follow AAA style guidelines. Submissions should be unpublished manuscripts not currently under review elsewhere, forthcoming, or in press. Submission is open to current students and those who received their degree in the calendar year of submission.

Please submit two PDFs: One containing a cover sheet with the author’s name, contact information, paper title and acknowledgments and the other containing the paper’s title, text, notes and references but not otherwise identifying the author and excluding acknowledgements. Papers will be read in a double-blind process by a committee of AES members. The committee members will be identified when the prizewinner is announced. Submission portal:

The Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for the best graduate student essay began in the early 1960s and is named for Elsie Clews Parsons, a 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.

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Past Awardees

  • The Gun That Backfires

    by Ellen Sharp

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  • Audibly Present

    by Reighan Gillam

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  • Protecting the Archive

    by Sarah E. Vaughn

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  • A World Unmade

    by Amy Moran-Thomas

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  • Diabetes and the Occult in Northern Ghana

    by Limor Samimian Darash

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  • A Cursing of History, A History of Cursing

    by Marc David

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  • Isle Evangelista

    by Helena Hansen

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  • Fermenting Flows

    by Gavin Hamilton Whitelaw

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