Anthropologist honoured for her advocacy

York anthropologist Penny Van Esterik has won a national award from the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) for years of advocating for better nutrition for women and children.

On May 10, CASCA presented the York anthropology professor with the Weaver-Tremblay Award, which celebrates anthropologists who take public positions on matters of social and political concern.

Left: Penny Van Esterik with her award

Van Esterik has focused much of her research on infant feeding and is best known for her academic and advocacy work in this area. She has published books and journal articles dealing with this subject, including Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy (1989). Her attention is now focused on breastfeeding in the context of environmental pollutants and HIV/AIDS.

"Penny Van Esterik has devoted her academic career to being what Margaret Mead called a ‘thoughtful citizen’ and her work has been and continues to be a force of academic rigour and sustained advocacy," says her nominator Naomi Adelson, Chair of York’s Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts.

"I nominated Penny not only for her deserved renown as an advocacy anthropologist and her contribution to the fields of nutritional and feminist anthropology, but also, and most importantly, for the tireless work she has done to advance women’s and children’s causes and rights in the national and international arenas for over three decades," said Adelson. "Penny is, without question, a leader in the field and a model practitioner of our own department’s credo to ‘make knowledge count’ through her applied advocacy work."

Van Esterik has worked as an applied scholar and activist with many international non-governmental organizations as an advocate of breastfeeding. "The real credit goes to breastfeeding advocacy groups such as World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), INFACT Canada, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and La Leche League who do this important work full time in communities around the world," said Van Esterik.

In addition to her work and research in infant feeding, Van Esterik has also established herself as a leading ethnographic researcher on Southeast Asia, primarily Thailand. She has produced seven books, eight co-authored volumes and many book chapters and articles on nutritional anthropology, gender and Southeast Asia.

Submitted to YFile by Jessica Lamoglie, communications coordinator, Faculty of Arts.