The award was presented to Dr Lora-Wainwright by BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed presenter Laurie Taylor.
Associate Professor in the Human Geography of China at the University of Oxford Dr Anna Lora-Wainwright wins prestigious ethnography award for her book on the 'slow violence' of living with pollution in China and the ensuing struggle for health and justice.
Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China (MIT Press) has won this year's prestigious BBC Thinking Allowed/British Sociological Association Ethnography Prize in recognition of its "significant contribution to ethnography".
The award was presented to Dr Lora-Wainwright by BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed presenter Laurie Taylor at the BSA's annual conference on 12 April 2018. At the ceremony, the judges praised her for "the manner in which she coped with the danger to her own body and health" during the research.
Resigned Activism explores pollution and daily life in three villages in rural China and the varying forms of activism that develop in response. To write the book, Dr Lora-Wainwright drew on extended fieldwork living alongside lead-zinc miners, electronic waste recyclers and workers at a fertiliser plant.
The book finds that people's efforts to seek redress are frustrated by limited access to scientific evidence, growing socio-economic inequalities and complex local realities. It shows that villagers' responses to pollution are uneven and do not follow predictable patterns.
Winning the award, along with the opportunity to talk about her research on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed programme, means a lot to Dr Lora-Wainwright: "When you work on a topic that is pressing, that has quite a lot to do with social justice, it's good to engage with a wider public.
"As academics we can raise people's awareness of what problems exist. We can raise people's awareness as to the complexities; so that there is no misunderstanding that these people in China are polluting themselves into an early grave and that they don't care about it. Instead we can try and understand - from their point of view - what challenges they face and why is it that they are putting up with living in conditions that, to us, may seem unbearable."
Dr Lora-Wainwright suggests that the situations described in her book might appear in rural areas and developing nations around the world and she hopes that, through a new understanding of 'resigned activism', we might view our own experiences, boundaries and activism in a new light.
"Instead of saying 'oh what can I do about this, so why bother?' we could be asking 'what can we do, who should we talk to, how can we raise the alarm?'"
Dr Lora-Wainwright, Associate Professor in the Human Geography of China