Dr. Greta Gibson receives George and Louise Spindler Award

April 11, 2013

Margaret A. "Greta" Gibson, professor emerita of education and anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, has won the 2012 George and Louise Spindler Award in Educational Anthropology.

The award, presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting November 16 in San Francisco, is the most prestigious in the field of educational anthropology. Gibson was honored for her significant and ongoing research on immigrant youth and their experiences in U.S. public schools.

Gibson joined the UCSC faculty in 1990. Her research focuses on factors that influence the school engagement (and disengagement) of immigrant youth of color from low-income backgrounds, both first and second generation. She also played a key role in creating UCSC's Ph.D. program in education. She retired in 2010 but continues her research in education.

In nominating her for the award, colleagues wrote that her "ethnographic study with Punjabi Sikh youth (1980-1988) was groundbreaking, demonstrating that students with immigrant backgrounds perform better academically if they maintain a strong and positive cultural identity."

Gibson coined the terms “accommodation without assimilation” and “accommodation and acculturation without assimilation,” to describe how the Sikh students were able to embrace a California high school’s academic agenda while resisting its assimilationist agenda. Her book that resulted from the study is titled Accommodation Without Assimilation: Sikh Immigrants in an American High School.

Gibson also coined the terms “additive” and “subtractive acculturation” to help characterize differing modes of acculturation. Used initially to help explain the variability of school response patterns among different minority groups and subgroups, she extended the terms to encompass not only students’ modes of acculturation but the patterns of acculturation embedded within school policies and structures and embraced by many teachers.

Ongoing projects focus on children of migrant farm workers in California and the role of the federally funded Migrant Education Program in improving their educational opportunities, and the social and academic incorporation of immigrant youth in schools in Catalonia and California.
The Spindler Award has been given since 1989 by the Council on Anthropology and Education, a section of the American Anthropological Association. It honors George D. Spindler, a leading figure in 20th-century anthropology and regarded as the founder of the anthropology of education, and his wife and collaborator, Louise.

As Gibson’s peers noted, “one simply cannot examine immigrant education without close scrutiny of her scholarship… From her earliest work in St. Croix to the present, Dr. Gibson has sought to understand the interactive influence of race, ethnicity, social class, and gender, something that today is de riguer in the field of educational anthropology, but that was rare during the 1970s when she began her work."