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HomeBehrouz Boochani Award
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An occasional award of the Australian Anthropological Society

This award recognizes exceptional work that contributes to public and critical understandings of Australian society in the spirit of the discipline of anthropology. The award has its origin in one such extraordinary endeavour to witness, record and interpret social worlds that are suppressed and misunderstood in Australian public discourse: the award-winning book No Friend But the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, the Kurdish-Iranian writer, poet, intellectual, journalist, Associate Professor at UNSW, and prisoner at Manus Island refugee processing centre.

Boochani’s account of detention on Manus Island is a work of art, an ‘insider ethnography’, a phenomenological analysis and philosophical reflection that reveals the workings of Australian governance and bureaucracy in its most destructive mode. It is testimony to the lives of thousands of refugees who arrived on Australian shores seeking asylum from wars, violence and repression elsewhere and who have been incarcerated by our Australian government. Hundreds, including children, remain indefinitely detained, their lives and deaths managed by private companies charged with their control. Boochani has weaponised words in order to defend the humanity of these detainees. The AAS is proud to honour Behrouz Boochani by way of initiating an award in his name.

Mr Behrouz Boochani, Award Recipient 2019 

On 3 September 2019 the AAS announced the creation of this new award to be named after inaugural recipient, Behrouz Boochani. 

The Award was created in honour of Mr Boochani, as recognition of his remarkable contribution to public understandings of contemporary Australian life.

The AAS seeks to emphasise the ways that Mr Boochani’s book, No Friend But the Mountains, delivers much needed social insight and analysis in the spirit of anthropology.

President of AAS, Associate Professor Jennifer Deger, said “Boochani has been an unwilling participant in a social system that is impossible to know from the outside.

“His insistent emphasis on what it takes to hold onto humanity in the face of systematised abuse, is both extraordinary and exemplary.

“Anthropology brings a sustained attention to questions of what it is to be human. It asks, under what circumstances do we become who we are? There is no sharper edge to who we are as nation than that shown by our treatment of those who come here seeking safety”, concluded Associate Professor Deger.

The Award, and $1000 prize money, was presented to Mr Boochani at the national AAS conference in Canberra in December, 2019. The Award will continue into the future, established in Mr Boochani’s name and in honour of his legacy.