There is no Nobel prize in anthropology and certainly not in the field of cultural/social anthropology which is not known for exciting “discoveries.”
Cultural anthropologists cannot match findings such as: Neanderthals are smarter than we thought, chimpanzees are smarter than we thought, construction of temples is older than we thought, when did people first make hot chocolate, etc.
In relation to current events, cultural/social anthropologists rarely get called on by the mainstream media to comment. Sociologists do better. For example, Andrew Foster of the University of Pennsylvania regularly comments on changing U.S. demographics, especially family patterns. Cultural anthropology is not very event-driven. Cultural anthropology is more about looking at things slowly and carefully and slowly and carefully and…which is not a bad thing.
Having scanned the mainstream media for mention of anthropologists over the past few years for the weekly “anthropology in the news” post, I can say for sure that the most popular anthropology topics are Neanderthals and chimpanzees. Within cultural anthropology, Paul Farmer has taken the lead in terms of coverage (until 2011), though he is almost never identified as an anthropologist.
But 2011 was different, very different.
Because of sustained visibility in the media in 2011, for inspiring the OWS movement, and for the publication of a masterwork called Debt, the anthropologyworks “cultural anthropologist award of 2011” goes to David Graeber.
Graeber published the largest stocking stuffer of a book with the unlikely title of Debt. It made it to many 2011 favorite book lists.
He was a leading non-leader of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
He was quoted often in the mainstream media and on many blogs.
If you haven’t already, please read Graeber’s 2004 pamphlet, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. It will be your appetizer (105 pages, small pages) for Debt (391 pages not counting notes and references for a total of 534).
Or, just search him out on the Internet. He’s there. And he has important things to say about “advanced”/”extreme” (blogger’s terms) capitalism and where it’s headed.