M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund

Congratulations to our 2022 M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund award recipient!

Adrian Wilson, University of California – Berkeley
Project: The Economic Imaginaries of Evidence-Based Development in East Africa

Abstract: This project is a multi-sited ethnographic research study of the scientific field of “evidence-based development” research in East Africa — of the development economists who design such research, the research staff who carry it out, and the research participants whose behaviors and thought processes are being studied. My aim is not so much to describe the economic, political, and social interventions made by researchers operating in field (others have already done so) as to analyze this field as a site at which different understandings of the economic — held by development economists, researchers, and research participants — intersect and interact.
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Curious about M. Estellie Smith’s scholarship? Click here for a list of some of her publications.

The M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund honors Dr. Smith’s vibrant personality and her dedication to scholarship, mentorship, and the application of social science knowledge to real world issues. During her long career as an anthropologist, Estellie followed her intellectual curiosity through diverse subjects including Pueblo Indians, European societies, societal evolution, maritime anthropology, linguistics, and Portuguese communities. A past president of SEA, Estellie is fondly remembered for her generous attention to students, to whom she provided critical and helpful advice.

To celebrate Estellie’s spirit of mentorship and concern for pressing world issues, the M. Estellie Smith Memorial Fund provides graduate student awardees small grants specifically to supplement dissertation fieldwork expenses (typically, $2000) and subsequent travel money to present their findings at the Society for Economic Anthropology annual conference (typically, $500).

Applicants must demonstrate how their research will address the field of economic anthropology as well as significant and pressing world issues, offering potential theoretical or applied advances that could make the world a better place particularly for vulnerable peoples.


  1. Any student enrolled in an anthropology (or allied field) doctoral program, regardless of citizenship or nation, is eligible for the award.
  2. Funds must be spent on travel, field, or lab expenses directly related to the student’s dissertation, as approved by their academic advisor and committee, and all applicants must be ABD by the time the research would be conducted. Status and eligibility should be reflected in letters of recommendation.
  3. The funds are not intended for predissertation fieldwork or language study.


Applicants who meet the eligibility requirements may apply for the award by providing the following materials prior to the deadline listed below. All materials should be submitted via email to smithaward@econanthro.org by January 20, 2023. Awards are will be announced in early February 2022.

  1. Proposal Cover Sheet
  2. Abstract (100 words)
  3. Project description, 1000 words or less about research goals, itinerary, primary research tasks, potential outcomes. Note that the review panel will rate projects according to their (a) contributions to economic anthropology, (b) feasibility, and (c) creativity and innovation.
  4. 300 word discussion of how the research will address significant and pressing world issues, offering potential theoretical or applied advances in economic anthropology that could make the world a better place particularly for vulnerable peoples.
  5. Curriculum Vitae
  6. Budget description, including detailed description of what this $2000 award will pay for; other sources of funding that the student has applied for, plans to apply for, or has received; and how remaining expenses will be covered.
  7. One letter of recommendation, sent separately, by the letter writer, to smithaward@econanthro.org

Before funds will be disbursed, the applicant must provide official documentation from their department of A.B.D. status (candidacy). All materials excluding the letter of recommendation should be submitted as a single PDF document.


  • Recipients receive $2,000 for PhD research, issued upon acceptance of the award and notification to the Treasurer of the SEA.
  • Recipients receive a one-year membership in the Society for Economic Anthropology (for those already members of the American Anthropological Association).
  • Recipients receive $500 to supplement the costs of traveling to the SEA spring conference during the year following the research award to present a poster or paper on the dissertation research or background work.
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