Utah State University’s Top Research Honor Goes to David Lancy

Utah State University anthropology professor David Lancy is the 2011 recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, USU’s most prestigious faculty research accolade.

Lancy will receive the award March 28 at the faculty research awards luncheon, part of USU’s annual Research Week.

“David has reached out across disciplinary boundaries, expanded interdisciplinary areas of study and has made an enormous global impact on a number of fields,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research at USU. “USU colleagues nominated excellent candidates for this round of the research career recognition. We are pleased to name David as the D. Wynne Thorne awardee for 2011. The award is well deserved.”

Named after USU’s first vice president for research, the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award is given to an individual on the USU campus who has completed outstanding research in his or her career. The award is given annually to one outstanding university researcher who is recommended by a committee of peers, all previous award recipients. National and international experts evaluate nominees for the significance and quality of their research and creative achievement and recognition.

Lancy has authored eight books and more than 60 articles, chapters and reviews in major, peer-reviewed journals such as American Anthropologist. Two of his earlier books have attracted worldwide attention, one being cited more than 400 times and the other having more than 600 citations. His seventh book, The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel Changelings, has helped launch a new sub-discipline in anthropology and has been called an “excellent reference for scholars of childhood, both within and, more importantly, outside of anthropology” by the American Journal of Human Biology.

The Anthropology of Childhood, which took Lancy five years to complete, is a comprehensive volume of nearly 470 pages, including almost 100 pages of references. After its publication, Lancy was invited to present at a series of symposia at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings, which brought together numerous anthropological scholars of childhood. Papers from these meetings evolved into an edited volume, “The Anthropology of Learning in Childhood,” the first volume to survey anthropology’s contributions to the study of children’s learning. Growing attention globally has led to fully funded invitations for Lancy to lecture across the United States and in Germany, Belgium, Holland, the United Kingdom and India.

“In this work of stunning insight and signal importance, David Lancy frees us from constricted, culture-bound conceptions of childhood, illustrating the extraordinarily diverse forms that children’s development has taken,” said Steven Mintz, director of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching Center at Columbia University. “By dismantling narrowly ethnocentric notions of what constitutes a normal childhood, he allows us to envision alternatives to the over-pressured, over-organized, over-commercialized world that today’s middle class children inhabit.”

The Anthropology of Childhood is a candidate for two awards, the Stirling Prize for best new book in psychological anthropology, and the J.I. Staley Prize, described as the “Pulitzer Prize” for books in anthropology.

“The main thrust of my research is to change the way we think about childhood,” said Lancy. “I want to broaden our perspective so that the enormous variation in cultural models of children and their development is acknowledged and becomes incorporated in our policies directed at schooling and child welfare.”

“Beginning with his dissertation research, Dr. Lancy has sought evidence, based on traditional field research as well as field experiments, that thoroughly documents the intertwining of play, work, learning and, ultimately, the human development of children,” said Garry Chick, professor and department head at Penn State University.

Lancy has nurtured the nascent anthropology of childhood field by serving as a board member and webmaster for the relatively new, but 1,000-member strong, American Anthropological Association Childhood Interest Group (AAACIG), and by chairing numerous childhood- and play-related symposia at AAA meetings, the most important and highly attended annual anthropology meetings in the world. In addition, Lancy organized and chaired AAACIG’s inaugural conference, held in Albuquerque, N.M., in February 2009.

In 2001, Lancy received the prestigious Carnegie Professor of the Year Award for the state of Utah. He has also mentored graduate and undergraduate students and served as director of the USU Honors program from 1997-2005. While Lancy will retire from Utah State University in September 2011, his next project, an analysis of the cultural foundations of learning and teaching, is already underway.

“David Lancy is, without doubt, one of the foremost scholars in the field of anthropology and childhood, both nationally and internationally,” said Heather Montgomery, faculty member in the Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning at the Open University in the United Kingdom. “He is one of the pioneers in the field. Not only does David have an outstanding reputation nationally and internationally, but also in achieving this, he has encouraged and brought on many young scholars. He is unfailingly generous in his time and encouragement of other academics, and his legacy is not simply his own work, but that of others that he has directly and indirectly shaped.”

Writer: Jacoba Mendelkow Poppleton, 435-797-9608, jacoba.mendelkow@usu.edu

Contact: Brent Miller, 435-797-1180, brent.miller@usu.edu