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Wenner-Gren Announces the Barbara Metzger Prize

50th Anniversary Logo for Current AnthropologyThe Wenner-Gren Foundation is pleased to announce the establishment of the Barbara Metzger Prize, to be given annually to the paper published in Current Anthropology that best represents the journal’s longstanding commitment to good writing. Sol Tax, the founding editor of the journal, emphasized that the papers published in Current Anthropology should reach and interest as wide an audience as possible within anthropology, a field with global reach that includes various sub-disciplines. To achieve this aim, Tax set high standards for prose. He sought clear and concise expression of ideas, of fact and of opinion. He welcomed the appropriate use of technical language and discouraged unnecessary jargon.

For many years, Barbara Metzger, the journal’s distinguished copy editor, worked closely with authors to promote these values. The result of her dedicated efforts has been a journal recognized around the world for the lucid and articulate presentation of a wide variety of forms of anthropological scholarship. Following her retirement, the Foundation has created the Barbara Metzger Prize to carry her work forward. It will be awarded annually to the article, report or forum that most fully embodies these standards of writing.

We are pleased to offer the first Barbara Metzger Prize to Jan Blommaert, professor of language, culture, and globalization at Tilburg University, The Netherlands, and professor in African linguistics and sociolinguistics at Ghent University in Belgium. Blommaert’s article, “Language, Asylum, and the National Order,” was published in August 2009 (volume 50, number 4). In it, the author probes the way in which officials try to ascertain the authenticity of those seeking asylum in Western Europe. His analysis suggests that the final decision – which may be a matter of life or death – may come down to judgments about language. Officials sometimes rely on assumptions about linguistic competence that may be inaccurate when applied to citizens of often multi-lingual communities. He urges instead a sociolinguistics of speech and linguistic repertoire more sensitive to the lived experience of the people who are seeking asylum.

We congratulate Professor Blommaert and wish him well in his future endeavors. His article can be found under open access at the Current Anthropology website (