Prof. Ralph Bolton M.A. ’68 Ph.D. ’72, anthropology, Pomona College won the 2010 Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology. The award, the highest honor given by the American Anthropological Association, boasts such previous recipients as the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Upon receiving a call from a colleague notifying him that he had won the award, Bolton said he was shocked.
“I suspected that some of my weird friends were playing a perverse joke on me. I was not fully convinced until I received a digital copy of the letter President [of the AAA Virginia] Dominguez had sent to my office address and the AAA office had confirmed it,” Bolton said.
Though Bolton will not know which of his achievements earned him the recognition until he officially accepts the award next week at the annual meeting of the AAA in New Orleans, he said that he hopes his contributions and applied anthropology work in Peru as well as his formation of the Chijnaya Foundation were among the deciding factors.
The Chijnaya Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to working in some of the most impoverished areas of South America. The foundation focuses its efforts in Peru, where it establishes self-sustaining health and education programs.
“In his work trying to help to improve condititions of life in Chijnaya in Peru, [Bolton] combines frames of reference of a scientist with those of a concerned, and at times passionate, partisan,” Prof. Lynn Thomas, anthropology, Pomona College, said.
Widely known in the anthropological field for his research on Andean cultures, Bolton concentrated on aspects of the Peruvian Altiplano such as kinship, marriage, family and social structure, according to Pomona College’s website.
Bolton’s contributions to Anthropology, however, go beyond just Peruvian research. When questioned about what he considered to be his top three contributions to the field, Bolton cited his study of the AIDS epidemic.
“When the AIDS epidemic hit, anthropologists were slow to respond,” Bolton said. ”I was one of the first anthropologists to sound the alarm about the epidemic and to encourage colleagues to get involved in research on the rapidly growing threat.”
Bolton dedicated more than 20 years to researching HIV/AIDS, writing specifically about transmission prevention and culturally-contextualized treatments, said Prof. Dru Gladney, anthropology, Pomona College. In honor of Bolton’s efforts in the fight against AIDS, the AIDS and Anthropology Group presented him with a Distinguished Service Award.
However, the AAA and the AIDS and Anthropology Group are not the only institutions to recognize Bolton’s commitment to anthropology. He has received numerous other awards, including three Fulbright awards and the Human Relations Area Files’ Clellan S. Ford Award for Cross-Cultural Research, as well as grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Science Research Council, according to Pomona College’s website.
“Prof. Bolton brings a wealth of applied anthropology experience to the classroom, from his work on Andean culture to his work urging anthropologists to get involved researching the HIV/AIDS epidemic in its early years,” Dean of Pomona College Cecilia Conrad said.
Currently, Bolton teaches a course on human sexuality at Pomona College, a course that he said he enjoys teaching because it is not a required course, and his students are there solely to “broaden their horizons”.
“It has really been a tremendous privilege to have the opportunity to live my life as an anthropologist — that is reward enough. Recognition by my peers is an added bonus,” Bolton said.
Bolton added that he does not see his career ending in the near future and plans to author another book in the next few years discussing the Chijnaya project in detail.
“[Bolton] has been a model of engaged anthropology for over 50 years,” Gladney said. “His department colleagues, devoted students, and the entire faculty and staff at Pomona College wish to congratulate Ralph on this tremendous honor.”