Congratulations to Matthew Hull, associate professor of anthropology, on receiving the J. I. Staley Prize for his book, Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan!


From the 2019 J.I. Staley Prize Committee

“Cities are shaped as much by paper and rubber stamps as they are by bricks and mortar, argues Matthew Hull in Government of Paper. By tracing the unexpected ways in which documents travel, he exposes the secret life of paper that profoundly shapes the built landscape of the planned city of Islamabad, and more broadly, gives us new ways of understanding bureaucracy on a global scale.

Taking us behind the bureaucrat’s desk, and examining the slippage between traditional and modern systems of measurement, the book shows how officials delegate agency and shape petitioners’ lived environments through circulating or sometimes misplaced documents. These are the material traces of bureaucratic processes which diffuse responsibility and yet influence the ownership of property, housing, religious worship, and commerce. Developing the notion of “graphic artifacts,” Hull challenges our conventional notions of administrative process: more than inert forms, papers tell stories, make new meanings, and produce relationships under the guise of imposing rationality on the disorder of a complex city.”