2014 John Collier Jr. Award
Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Homes
by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony P. Graesch, Enzo Ragazzini, and Elinor Ochs (2012: The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press at UCLA, Los Angeles).
The Collier Award is given for excellence in the use of still photographs for research and communication of anthropological knowledge. The Alfred P. Sloan Center at UCLA conducted a study from 2001-2005 of the material worlds of contemporary middle class Americas through the participation of 32 families, faculty members, and students of archaeology, socio-culture, and linguistics who produced a wealth of visual material data. A multi-disciplinary team created over 20,000 digital photos, mapped floor plans and furniture, filmed video tapes of family interactions, completed questionnaires, and videos of family narrated home tours of their own spaces. Panoramas were constructed with still photos to accurately represent the interior and exterior spaces, which helped to reveal everyday family behavior and interactions. This publication of the study is a straightforward accessible and innovative work that breaks new ground in anthropological communication of American culture by showing us our own habits including possessions as symbols of affiliations displaying our ideas of who we are through sports, art, religion, and travel. Food and how we organize our kitchens; what we do in our leisure, our obsession with electronics, and our “zeal” to personalize our spaces as repositories of memories and identity punctuate the study.
The images not only supplement the text but also are themselves rich ethnographic data revealing archaeology of today including our 21st century consumerism through which we search for individual identity. These are photos taken by social scientists that gained intimate access to the domestic domain of American life in an attempt to bring anthropology to a broader public through ambitious and innovative methods. The study has amassed a wealth of data on material culture that begs for further analysis but this publication has achieved substantial merit by demonstrating many of the principles of visual anthropology championed by John Collier Jr. and Malcolm Collier, thereby granting it the 2014 Collier Award winner.