ASAA Mid-Career Book Prize Past Winners

ASAA Mid-Career Book Prize Past Winners

2024 – Yamini Narayanan, Mother Cow, Mother India: A Multispecies Politics of Dairy in India (Stanford University Press 2023) 

The 2024 MCR Prize Committee included Professor Vera Mackie (University of Wollongong), Associate Professor Patrick Jory (University of Queensland) and Professor Taylor Sherman (UNSW).

The Committee provided the following citation of the winning book:

Mother Cow, Mother India takes the form of a multi-sited, multi-species ethnography of the dairy industry in India, conducted in multi-caste, multi-racial and multi-religious communities. It engages with the latest theoretical perspectives from the field of Animal Studies and applies it to a new field of inquiry: the dairy industry in India. It examines human-animal hierarchies and relations – a political spectrum of human-bovine relations. The book’s central claim is that the cow is simultaneously commodified for dairy production and weaponised in the interests of Hindu nationalism. This work makes original contributions to the fields of South Asian Studies and Animal Studies.”

2022 – Associate Professor Patrick Jory from the University of Queensland for the book A History of Manners and Civility in Thailand, Cambridge University Press, 2021.

ASAA President Professor Katharine McGregor would like to thank the three judges for their generosity in serving on the prize selection committee: Associate Professor David Hundt (Deakin), Professor Kathy Robinson (ANU) and Dr Arjun (Murdoch University).

The judges provided the following citation for the winning book.

A history of manners and civility in Thailand is the product of deep and wide research. Dr Patrick Jory’s extensive training and knowledge as an historian of Southeast Asia are well evidenced in this fascinating retelling of Thailand’s modernisation. His ease and familiarity with Thai-language sources, including the government’s official manuals on ‘manners’, has enabled him to bring to life these sources in a compelling account of how state elites engineered Thailand’s social transformation since the late 19th century. The author makes judicious choices about his analytical approach, deftly drawing on anthropological and sociological insights to explain the role that manners have played in Thailand’s ‘civilising’ process.

Dr Jory sees manners as a crucial element of what Bourdieu refers to as habitus, or the embodiment of social rank and position in everyday life. In this view, habitus is a force that governs social behaviour. If the author uses Bourdieu to gain one form of purchase on the notion of manners, he gives us a second one via Elias’ concept of the ‘civilising process’, or the suggestion that social graces and hierarchies evolve in accordance with certain identifiable patterns over time. With these insights as his guide, Dr Jory contextualises Thailand’s development of a specific culture of manners beginning in the late 19th century. In his retelling, Thai elites’ inculcation of a local form of habitus was a conscious attempt to present Siam as a well-mannered, cultured society that satisfied the ‘standard of civilisation’ that had been unilaterally imposed by the Western powers. Successive regimes, he illustrates, have similarly harnessed the social power of manners to present a positive, refined image of Thailand to the outside world while using the notion of manners to reinforce their domestic political authority.

The book’s bottom-up, inside-out account of Thailand’s modernisation situates the locus of change firmly inside the country itself, while placing due weight on the international context. As such, readers might readily imagine comparable processes playing out in other countries. Indeed, Dr Jory’s fresh approach shows that the social history of the modern subject in the Global South is not a mere story of a ‘provincialised Europe’, but part of a recognisably universal socio-cultural movement of manners and habits. As befits a book written by an experienced scholar, Dr Jory’s A history of manners and civility in Thailand has great inter-disciplinary and cross-national appeal. It deserves to be read widely.

2020 – Susie Protschky, Photographic Subjects: Monarchy and Visual Culture in Colonial Indonesia (Manchester University Press, 2019)