2017 Kenneth W. Payne Student Prize Winners Announced

The Kenneth W. Payne Student Prize is presented each year by the Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA) of the American Anthropological Association to a graduate or undergraduate student in acknowledgment of outstanding anthropological work on 1) a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans* topic, or 2) a critical interrogation of sexualities and genders more broadly defined.

Thirteen students (seven undergraduate and six graduate) submitted papers this year. Submissions were evaluated according to the following criteria: use of relevant L/G/B/T/Q and/or feminist anthropological theory and literature, potential for contribution to and advancement of L/G/B/T/Q studies and our understanding of sexualities worldwide, attention to difference (such as gender, class, race, ethnicity, nation), originality, organization and coherence, and timeliness.

The 2017 recipient of the Payne Prize:

William Hébert (University of Toronto) for the paper “Prisoners of Paradox: Trans Figures in the Canadian Prison.” The abstract reads:

In Canada, recent or upcoming penal reform for trans prisoners signals the emergence of a ‘figure of the trans prisoner’, a discursive production that does the work or resolving or managing tensions and contractions between diverging conceptions of subjectivity and politics. If this figure solves two paradoxes – that trans prisoners are at once known and unknown, and that they demand immediate reform and ultimate abolition – it cannot resolve its constitutional paradox of being at once ‘offender’ and ‘victim’, subject positions that are virtually irreconcilable and consequently untenable in, but also outside of, the prison. In this paper, I show that the figure’s paradoxical essence as an offending victim is managed through occlusion, by diverse actors’ fabrication of the trans prisoner as a victim only. Based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted across Canada and on theoretical insights from recent Foucauldian studies of the prison, I argue that the figure elicits a shift in how sex and gender are conceived of in Canada. It as such embodies a successful upholding of liberal values in Canadian (settler colonial) punitive institutions. Yet, as my interlocutors’ trajectories through the prison show, where the figure succeeds, trans prisoners are bound to fail in their everyday lives.


The committee is also pleased to award two honorable mentions:

Annie Wilkinson (University of California, Irvine) for the paper “Cleanliness is Holiness: The Transnational Ex-Gay Movement and ‘Dehomosexualization’ in Ecuador.”

Danmei (Melanie) Xu (Carleton College) for the paper “Of Exigencies and Erasure: Becoming Lala in Queer Urban China.”


The 2017 Payne Prize recipients will be recognized at the AQA Business meeting during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (Washington, DC) November 29 – December 3, 2017.


The 2017 Payne Prize Committee: Brooke Bocast (University of the Witswatersrand), Michael Connors Jackman (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Tayo Jolaosho (University of South Florida – 2017 Payne Prize Committee chair), Richard J. Martin (Harvard University) and Shaka McGlotten (Purchase College-SUNY).


For additional information, contact the Payne committee chair, Tayo Jolaosho (jolaosho@usf.edu)

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