Holmes wins award for innovative book in cultural and political ecology

May 5, 2015

Seth Holmes, assistant professor of public health and medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, has been honored with the James M. Blaut Award in recognition of his book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. The award, established by the Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, is issued annually for innovative scholarship in cultural and political ecology.   

Holmes wins James M. Blaut AwardHolmes’s book is based on years of community based ethnographic field research migrating, working, and living with indigenous Mexican migrants and explores how market forces, anti-immigration sentiment, and structural racism undermine health and health care for migrant farmworkers. During his field research, he picked berries and lived in labor camps with Mexican migrant farmworkers in the United States, observed interactions with doctors and nurses in safety net clinics, lived in a village in the mountains of southern Mexico, and spent time in border patrol jail after crossing the Mexico-U.S. border.

“My transnational, multi-sited fieldwork for Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies pushed me to theorize the ways in which people are treated differently and at times violently based on social hierarchies that are often organized spatially,” Holmes said receiving the award at the CAPE Business Meeting on April 23 in Chicago. “I was pushed, also, to theorize ways in which we in society and the health professions come to take these hierarchies for granted.”

The award was established in 2003 to honor the memory of Dr. James M. Blaut, a professor of geography and anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose professional career spanned half a century and was characterized by innovative research on tropical agriculture, development, and colonialism. The award recognizes a single publication that is clearly innovative and has the potential to be seminal in areas of research that are important to the field of cultural and political ecology in the discipline of geography.

“In the strongly positive example of Professor Blaut, geographers have the opportunity to question and respond to social hierarchies…while also questioning our own framings and courses of action,” said Holmes. “It is my hope that we will continue to be inspired toward geography’s potential impact as positive, disruptive, resisting, and even caring—all the while theorizing the contradictions in these concepts.”

Holmes’s book has previously been awarded the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award (2013), the New Millennium Book Award (2013), the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award (2014), and the Out for Sustainability Award (2014).  In addition, Holmes was the recipient of the 2014 Margaret Mead Award for this research and this book.

By Jasmin M. Huynh

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