Anthony Bebbington

2014 Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award

It is a privilege, and indeed my pleasure, to present on behalf of CLAG the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award for 2014 to Professor Anthony Bebbington. The Sauer Award is given “in recognition for a corpus of important published work or other significant contribution towards Latin American geography. Recipients will be scholars who are leading authorities in specific research topics and geographic areas of Latin America. Recipients could also be scholars who research has made significant advancements towards fostering understanding of Latin America to broader audiences.” Tony Bebbington’s scholarship over nearly 25 years has been distinguished on all three criteria for the Sauer Award – through his contribution of an important corpus of published work, as a leading authority on rural change in Andean Latin America, and as scholar who has fostered a better understanding of social movements, indigenous peoples and resource exploitation in Latin America to audiences beyond our field.

Tony is an exceptionally productive and influential scholar whose work is widely read and discussed, not only in academic circles but in the world of policy and of politics. He is currently is the Higgins Professor of Environment and Society at Clark University where he serves as the Director of the Graduate School of Geography. In addition he holds the appointment of Professorial Research Fellow at Manchester University where he previously was Professor of Nature, Society and Development in the Institute for Development Policy and Management. An alum of Clark University, Tony is a 4th generation Sauerian who began his professional career in the public sector, working for two leading think tanks in the UK – ODI and IIED, and then the World Bank – before taking his first professorship at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Over his academic career, he has published prodigiously - 21 books and edited collections, 72 referred articles and 81 books chapters or related works. In 2009, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Tony Bebbington has contributed a highly original, creative and distinguished corpus of work in Latin American geography. His early work on NGOs in the Andes demonstrated the importance of rural indigenous institutions in mediating relations between rural peoples and their environment, showing how cultural identity, politics and local institutions are deeply intertwined and fundamentally transformative. This work established him as a leading authority on NGOs in Latin America during the 1990s, what for many was the ‘decade of the NGO’. His later research on social capital changed fundamentally how we think about the rural development process, livelihoods, and the potential for poverty reduction in putatively ‘marginal’ environments of the world like the Andes. His papers and books on social capital have been widely read and cited – by leading political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and agricultural economists who work on development issues around the world. And his most recent work on the mining sector of Latin America and its articulation with social movements and rural peoples is timely and attracting growing attention among scholars, the development community and national regulators.

As much as his distinguished published contributions, Tony has shown a remarkable capacity to open up new spaces for discovery and discourse both within and beyond the academy, often between opposing views, traditions or paradigms; from here he builds – critically but constructively – to a higher, more comprehensive, and distinctive synthesis. This ability is widely recognized among his peers – he is one of the most sought after authors, reviewers, discussants and editors in development studies and geography. With over one-half of his books published in Spanish and extended periods of residence spent in Peruvian and Ecuadorian research institutes, Tony has fostered a high level of enriching engagement with Latin American researchers, scholars and policy makers. His insight and advice are sought by many outside Latin America, from the U.S. State Department and Canada’s Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to the U.S. National Research Council and the World Bank. Tony Bebbington’s scholarship represents the very best of what Latin Americanist geographers can offer the broader development community, on both sides of the ‘great divide’ between praxis and theory, and he is most deserving of the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award for 2014.

-- Oliver T. Coomes