Margaret Mead, for years among the best-known women in the world, was also the best-known anthropologist, with a particular talent for bringing anthropology fully into the light of public attention. The Margaret Mead Award, initiated by the Society for Applied Anthropology in 1979, and awarded jointly with the American Anthropological Society since 1983, continues to celebrate the tradition of bringing anthropology to bear on wider social and cultural issues.
The Margaret Mead Award is presented to a younger scholar for a particular accomplishment such as a book, film, monograph, or service, which interprets anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public. The awardee's activity exemplifies skills in broadening the impact of anthropological knowledge - skills for which Margaret Mead was admired widely.
Donna Goldstein combines her career in academic anthropology with an interest in politics and the ideals of intellectually engaged scholarship. She challenges much of what we think we know about the "culture of poverty" in her book, Laughter Out of Place. Drawing on more than a decade of experience in Brazil, Goldstein provides an intimate portrait of everyday life among the women of the favelas, or urban shantytowns. According to Goldstein, women are left to cope on a daily basis with unbearable suffering, sickness, chaos, injustice, violence and social abandonmentall of which are characteristic of communities on the edge of the developing world. The women of the shantytowns create stories filled with an aesthetically distinct black humor and share them as a means to ease constant humiliation, anger and despair. It is their stories that carry the reader through the book and engage the public to grasp and critique the complex history and daily practices that perpetuate the current system.
In addition to her work in the shantytowns of Brazil, Professor Goldstein is interested in fostering a politically engaged anthropology that investigates poverty, gender, race, and sexual inequality, as well as urban violence, HIV/AIDS, and human rights. She has also carried out research on ethno-nationalism in the "new" Europe, and has written about ethnic nationalism and Jewish identity in post-War Hungary. Recently, she has initiated a research project in Argentina on the effects of pharmaceutical politics and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on local populations.