PERSPECTIVES ON MY WORK
Anthropology News, February 2001, p. 24.
Wedel Wins Grawemeyer Award
Janine Wedel, an anthropologist affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, has won the 2001 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Impwving World Order. This honor, which brings with it a $200,000 cash prize, was awarded for the ideas set forth in Wedel's book, Collision and Collusion: TIle Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe, 1989-1998 (St Martin's Press, 1998).
Janine Wedel has studied the evolving economic and socal order in Eastern Euwpe for 20 years- She conducted eight years of fieldwork in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Ukraine before writing her book. She demonstrates in it that the raft of fly-in, fly-out consultants and reforms financed by American taxpayers did little to help Russia and other former Soviet bloc nations build themselves into democratic, free-market states. On the contrary, the American government helped wreak economic and social disaster in Russia by providing inappropriate policy advice and aid to corrupt power brokers. To explain just how this happened, Wedel draws upon her detailed ethnographic observations of the personal and political relationships between American and Western European donors, on the one hand, and Eastern European recipients on the other. She shows how the American "experts"-most of whom had established their credentials by working in the Third World and so had little knowledge of Eastern European cultures, norms and political strategies-were easily duped by members of Russia's cliques, who amassed huge personal fortunes from international aid.
Wedel's research is the kind of anthropology that has consequences for public policy. In fact, in September, 2000 the US Department of Justice sued Harvard University and two Harvard scholars who were under federal contract to provide economic and legal advice on Russian privatization during the aid process. The lawsuit accuses the scholars of profiting from that enterprise. Work such as Wedel's provides empirical data that prosecutors can use for pursuing such cases.
Wedel's critique is not merely negative, however. She also offers culturally-grounded advice for aid workers in the region. She describes a few successful aid projects in Eastern Europe, explains why they were successful and suggests guidelines for future projects. "This is a book that is bound to have a long-term impact on the practice and politics of foreign aid from the West to non-western economies," said the Grawemeyer selection committee. Wedel's work was chosen for the award from among 51 nominations submitted this year. It was nominated by Fouad Ajami, professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University.
Janine Wedel is currently Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburg and is Director of research development at Pittsburgh's Ridgway Center. She also is serving as a fellow at the National Institute of Justice in Washington, DC. A three-time Fulbright fellow, she has received awards from the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the US Institute of Peace and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. As a policy-analyst anthropologist, Wedel has testified before congressional committees and frequently participates in National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences workshops. She is a member of the US-Ukrainian Working Group on Organized Crime. She has served as associate producer of three PBS documentaries on Eastern Europe and has contributed articles and opinion pieces to more than a dozen major news outlets, such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Christian Science Manitor. News coverage of her work has appeared on CNN and National Public Radio and in a host of publications, induding the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Investor's Business Daily, Vanity Fair, Moscow Times and Pravda. What is more, she has published two other books: The Unplanned Society: Poland During and After Communism (Columbia U Press, 1992) and The Private Poland: An Anthropologist Looks at Everyday Life (Facts on File, 1986).
Wedel earned a PhD in anthropology from University of California-Berkeley, where she studied under Laura Nader, in 1985. She received her Master's degree in anthropology from Indiana University in 1981 and earned a Bachelor's degree in history and the social sciences and German from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, in 1978.