Berks Article Prize Winners 2011
The Berkshire Conference Article Prize for the best article published in any field of history in 2011 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Agnes Kefeli for “The Tale of Joseph and Zulaykha on the Volga Frontier: The Struggle for Gender, Religious, and National Identity in Imperial and Postrevolutionary Russia,” Slavic Review 70, no. 2 (Summer 2011).
Kefeli has conducted research in an impressively wide-ranging array of Russian, Tatar, and central Asian sources to describe how a popular thirteenth-century religious text was reread and reinterpreted in later periods to challenge or reinforce religious and national categories in a borderland region. Employing diverse methodologies ranging from textual analysis to ethnographic field work and oral history, Kefeli deftly untangles the complex history of how traditional Muslims, reform Muslims, and Orthodox Christians read the same text differently. She tells a dynamic story of religious conversion and ethnic identity formation, highlighting the contested role of women in religious texts and the active participation of women in the spread of Islam.
The Berkshire Conference Article Prize for the best article in the fields of the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality in 2011 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Betty Luther Hillman for “’The most profoundly revolutionary act a homosexual can engage in’: Drag and the Politics of Gender Presentation in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement, 1964-1972,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20, no. 1 (January 2011).
Hillman’s tight focus on a particular place and time uses unusual, fragmentary, and ephemeral source material to build an in-depth understanding of the multiple meanings of drag as cultural practice. She goes inside the nascent sexual liberation movement to define the conflicting understandings and demands of different gay groups as they debated whether this form of gender transgression subverted or confirmed ideas about homosexuality and conventional gender roles. The author offers persistent insight on matters of gender and performance in language characterized by clarity, grace, and an absence of jargon.
The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians would also like to acknowledge and warmly thank the members of the article prize committee for giving so generously of their time and talents: Faye Dudden (Chair), Joan Brumberg, Mita Choudhury, Donna Andrew, Cheryl Hicks, Shirley Lim, Peggy Darrow, Sandra Greene, Tanalis Padilla, Lisa Norlin and Katrina Gulliver.
Berks Book Prize Winners 2011
The Berkshire Conference Book Prize for the best first book published in any field of history in 2011 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Kate Ramsey for The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power In Haiti (University of Chicago Press, 2011).
In The Spirits and the Law, Kate Ramsey examines the immensely important historical significance of Vodou and its relationship to a series of evolving laws meant to control its influence—both internally and as a discourse within a transnational context. Throughout her study, Ramsey deftly analyzes the complex relationship between Afro-Haitian spiritual practices and the law from 1835 to 1987, and argues that even as Haitian and U.S. elites blamed Vodou for Haiti’s underdevelopment, the Haitian people employed strategies of resistance that allowed them to maintain their religious beliefs, and at times to turn the law against itself. It is a model of both transnational and legal history. Through archival research and an ambitiously wide-ranging chronology, Ramsey has written a powerful first book that not only will impact the ways scholars position Haiti historically, but also the ways in which Haiti is viewed today. It deserves a very wide readership.
The Berkshire Conference Book Prize for the best first book published in the fields of the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality in 2011 by a woman who is normally resident in North America goes to Kate Haulman for The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America is an extremely well-written, witty, creative and incisive book that combines material culture and discourse analysis to examine the gendered world of fashion and its implications for shifting ideas about power and politics in the Anglo-Atlantic world. In Kate Haulman’s hands, fashion is neither empty nor self-explanatory, but a means of promoting or resisting political categories that it eventually will come to define after the American Revolution. Categories often dismissed as frivolous – dress styles, hairdos, and undergarments – are revealed as both political and significant. This is extraordinary cultural history, full of great research and smart interpretations. Haulman’s ability to integrate economics with representations, slavery with shopping, is both impressive and innovative.
The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians would also like to acknowledge and warmly thank the members of the book prize committee for giving so generously of their time and talents: Serena Zabin (Chair), Anna Clark, Sharla Fett, Jennifer Guglielmo, Micki McElya, Stephanie Smith, Merry Wiesner-Hanks.