The Joan Gero Book Award Committee is delighted to announce that the award process has restarted. Books that have already been nominated will now move forward into consideration, but a window for new nominations will be open until the 15th of March 2022. The same rules of eligibility apply (see below); self-nominations as well as nominations of the work of others will be accepted. The award continues to include travel support to attend WAC in order to deliver an acceptance speech. However, COVID-19 may impose travel restrictions, so the awardee will have the option to deliver their address virtually and designate an alternate to receive the travel support or use the travel support to attend WAC 10. 

Over the past 30 years the World Archaeological Congress has grown and changed. Many of our values and commitments have seen some success in the world; gender equality, human rights, community collaboration, and ethical research design are all now fairly routine topics for the SAA, the EAA, the SAB and most all of our regionally based sister organizations. Many archaeologists who once looked over their shoulder at the unwanted challenge of WAC values, have turned around and extended a hand.

But our job is not over. The controversies and injustices that gave us the congress are still with us and still fomenting evil in the world – sexism, racism, poverty, inequality and war all have deep roots nourished by ideas about heritage. Now is not the time to lose our critical edge or back away from our political clout.

As happens every four years, we celebrate the influx of new members into WAC through the staging of the congress; they are the vitality and the future of our organization and our mission. But the future of WAC depends on making each new wave of members aware of our unique and uniquely political heritage. WAC has a very particular code of ethics that gives us coherence and gives our accords and awards and acclimations teeth – people have begun to listen when the World Archaeological Congress says what needs to be said.

But it is difficult to know how to convey our ethics and values to the next generation. Our commitment to democratic organization, bottom-up management, and cultural diversity makes it difficult to establish institutional memory, much less make sure that our membership shares it. While we must include members who believe archaeology can be apolitical, they should be aware that most of our membership have joined because they find that stance untenable and even offensive. But people simply do not read codes of ethics and are apt to be so excited about being heard they forget what the impact of their voice can be.
Joan Gero bequeathed WAC a way to solve this problem with the example of her book Yutopian: Archaeology, Ambiguity and the Production of Knowledge in Northwest Argentina. This book embodies WAC values of the democratization of knowledge, engagement with the gendered and political present, respect and collaboration with Indigenous communities, concern for human rights, peer collaboration with local scholars, and educational opportunities for students, done in the context of meticulously recorded data collection and replicable science. It will be a very hard act to follow. Nevertheless this book sets a sort of standard of excellence to which we all might aspire; as a realization of WAC values it can serve the purpose of bequeathing WAC heritage to the next generation of members.

To allow it to serve this purpose and to ensure this pivotal work receives the status it deserves, Yutopian: Archaeology, Ambiguity and the Production of Knowledge in Northwest Argentina was given a presidential award and WAC has instituted the Joan Gero book award to go the next book which best embodies WAC values. The award be granted every 4 years, or perhaps less, since we do not anticipate that a suitable successor will appear very often. The award has been endowed with travel money so the recipient will be able to receive the award in person, beginning at the congress of 2020 – WAC-9. 

Joan at Queyash in 1988


1.    Book must be directly relevant to archaeology

2.    Books may be nominated by the author, but both the author and the nominator must be WAC members.

3.    Book must have been published within 4 years of nomination; unpublished manuscripts or shorter pieces are not eligible

4.    Books may be published in any language, but must be submitted as an on-line only publication

Submission requirements

1.    Electronic copy of the book

2.    Letter of nomination that explains how the book embodies WAC values (as described above). Letters of nomination should not exceed 3 pages.

3.    Book and nomination must be submitted at least 4 months before the start of the next congress.

Review process

The book will be reviewed by the Joan Gero Book Award Committee. The first committee will be chaired by Stephen Loring and includes Peter Stone, Alejandra Korstanje, Dorothy Lippert, Margaret Conkey, Akira Matsuda, and Anne Pyburn. Additional reviewers may be added to extent the committees’ expertise. A new committee will be appointed for each award cycle. Please send nominations and electronic versions of published manuscripts to:

We urge all archaeologists to have the temerity to reach for this award and look forward to reading what Utopias Joan’s work will inspire.

Citation: Joan M. Gero 2015 Yutopian: Archaeology, Ambiguity, and the Production of Knowledge in Northwest ArgentinaSeries: William and Bettye Nowlin Endowment, Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere, Austin: University of Texas Press