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Published 10 October 2017

2017 Mason Durie Medal: Viewing institutions and policy through a social lens

Professor Cris Shore FRSNZ has been awarded the Mason Durie Medal for his contributions to political anthropology and the study of organisations, governance and power.

He has applied social anthropology methodologies to study organisations and policy as a way of understanding modern society and culture.

Professor Shore pioneered the research approach of using concepts and perspectives from social anthropology and ethnographic approaches to study contemporary institutions and transnational organisations in complex Western socieites.

Professor Shore first developed his historical-anthropological methods in an ethnographic study the Italian Communist party and Eurocommunism. 

He then used them to gain an understanding of the formation of the European Union by studying the European Commission’s civil servants in Brussels. His book ‘Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European Integration’ was prescient of the Eurozone crisis and Brexit and the EU has appointed him as an expert advisor five times. 

He co-authored a book in 1997 called Anthropology of Policy, which paved the way for a new sub-field of anthropology. The Anthropology of Policy is now a section of the American Anthropological Association and the title of a Stanford University Press book series, which he co-edits. 

Professor Shore says that studying policy through an anthropological lens connects macro-level, global processes to micro-level everyday practices that people engage in, overcoming one of the key challenges of modern social theory. 

In recent years, Professor Shore has theorised about ‘audit culture’, studying the growing trend of using accountancy techniques as instruments of management and relying on metrics to evaluate performance in numerous institutions, including universities, health services and funding institutions. 

He is also leading a multidisciplinary Marsden funded project called ‘Crown and Constitutional Reform in New Zealand’.

The medal selection committee noted that Professor Shore has made an exceptional contribution to the social sciences that is internationally recognised. 

image Cris Shore 01 Maori queen Custom

Professor Shore said he was “honoured and thrilled” to receive this award.

“I am a passionate believer in the value of anthropology and the social sciences for understanding the major social problems and political challenges that our world is facing today. I'd like to thank my colleagues in anthropology – and the Royal Society Te Apārangi in particular for its work in enhancing the visibility of New Zealand social science research.”

Professor Shore is Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland. In 2016 he was elected Co-President of the Association for the Anthropology of Policy, a section of the American Anthropological Association. In 2016 he was Visiting Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at Sussex University and holds many editorial roles.  He was elected a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2016 and has been appointed to a Guest Professorship in Public Management at Stockholm University for 2018.

Mason Durie Medal:

For advances in the frontiers of social science.


To Crispin Nicholas Shore for his influential research relating to anthropology, policy and European politics.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi