February 2022
Presented at the 2021 Virtual Conference or by the Individual Committee

For additional information about the ASA Awards Program, click here

The American Studies Association is proud to recognize the continuing high level of scholarship examining our American cultures. We invite all members of the Association to join in congratulating their fellow members.

Chair: Alex Lubin, Pennsylvania State University

Juliet Nebolon, Trinity College
Sandhya Shukla, University of Virginia

The Constance Rourke Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 for the best article published in American Quarterly. The winner of this year’s prize is Sonnet Retman for "Memphis Minnie's "Scientific Sound": Afro-Sonic Modernity and the Jukebox Era of the Blues." American Quarterly, vol. 72 no. 1, 2020, on the basis of its originality and methodological breadth.

The Committee also recognized as finalists, Alysa A. Hunziker for the article, “Playing Indian, Playing Filipino: Native American and Filipino Interactions at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School” and Isabel Lockhart for the article, “Intimacies of the Atom: On Rocks and Decolonization in the Work of Leslie Marmon Silko.”

Chair: Ashon Crawley, University of Virginia

Jodi Byrd, Cornell University
Eng-Beng Lim, Dartmouth College

The Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize, established in 1974, has been awarded annually since 1987 by the Association for the best dissertation in American Studies.  The committee is pleased to choose Melissa (Molly) Benitez, University of Maryland, College Park, "Becoming Your Labor: Identity, Production and the Affects of Labor."

The Committee’s deeply appreciated its important contributions to multiple fields, as Benitez brought her sharp analysis of labor into conversation with gender and sexuality studies, as well as affect theory. Impressive in her project were its deep commitment to interdisciplinarity; the conversations it staged and held with informants that took seriously their experiences of labor, trauma, harm but also possibility; and the ways it compels readers to think about how work works on laborers, how it forms and transforms us at the affective and, too then, social levels. Labor allows us to become. But Benitez also demonstrates, with the critical focus on and care for queer folks, how this becoming is never neutral, and that the context of such affective power must be negotiated and, too, interrogated. We note that it is an example for what a collaborative vision of ethnography, it serves as a model from which others will draw. Well written, thoroughly researched and pushing against boundaries in various conversations, we were glad to have engaged this work.

“Born in Flames: Arson, Racial Capitalism, and the Reinsuring of the Bronx in the Late Twentieth Century,” by Bench Ansfield, Yale University, was selected as the finalist of the 2021 ASA-Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize.

The Committee deeply appreciated its urgency and methodologies, which include Anfield’s deep engagement with questions of race and the space it occupies in the city; the practice of risk assessment and this practice being racialized and classed; as well as ways insurance created conditions for the exploitation of risk and the evacuation of the city. “Born in Flames” was an exciting project to read and engage for us all. It challenges deeply misunderstood histories of arson, race, and class, making risk assessment and insurance central to that historical and contemporary misunderstanding and misapprehension. Well written, thoroughly researched and pushing against boundaries in various conversations, we were glad to have engaged Bench's work.

Chair: Yu-Fang Cho, Miami University of Ohio
Chien-ting Lin, National Central University, Taiwan
Miglena Todorova, University of Toronto

The Yasuo Sakakibara Prize is awarded for the best paper to be presented by an international scholar at the annual meeting.  The winning paper may deal with any aspect of American history, culture, or society. 

The 2021 winner is Kobe Abe for his paper, "Two Ground Zeros: The Transpacific Victimology of Hiroshima and 9/11”.  The Committee was deeply impressed by Abe’s nuanced analysis of the ways in which nationalist narratives of victimhood persistently obscure state violence and war crimes.  The insights that Abe drew from critical juxtapositions of U.S. and Japanese memory-making practices and their effects, animated by two moments of “Ground Zero,” effectively illuminate the complex cultural politics of memory work across geopolitical and temporal borders.

Lucy El-Sherif is the finalist of this year's prize for her paper "Shaalat wi Hattat: Palestinian Dabke Imaginaries on Turtle Island.”  The Committee appreciated  her thoughtful analysis of the complex ways that Palestinian dance performances in Canada negotiate the uneven effects of settler colonial violence as the very conditions of staging (un)belonging.  Her ethnographic accounts provide a rich archive to grapple with how Canadian setter colonial erasure manifests itself in state-sponsored multiculturalism as the mandatory framework of minority incorporation.

Chair: Cindy I-Fen Cheng, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Habiba Ibrahim, University of Washington, Seattle
Dean Saranillio, New York University

The Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize is awarded each year for the best paper to be presented by a graduate student at the annual meeting.  The winning paper may deal with any aspect of American history, literature, or culture, but should reflect the breadth, the critical imagination, the intellectual boldness, and the cross-disciplinary perspective so strongly a part of the scholarship of both Gene Wise and Warren Susman. 

Elspeth Iralu is the recipient of the 2021 Wise-Susman Prize for her paper, "If It Flies, It Spies: Aerial Aesthetic Threats to Colonial Territoriality."

In this thoughtful and engaging analysis of how pigeons served as a both agents of colonial surveillance and counter-surveillance, Elspeth Iralu effectively showed how contemporary anxieties surrounding surveillance culture manifest in an unease over birds, aerial technology, and the weaponizing of nature. With the opening vignette on the "Birds Aren't Real" campaign and the closing vignette on the video game Thunderbird Strike, Iralu's masterfully tied together the political with the social such that government and political anxieties over aerial surveillance infiltrated everyday life through popular culture. The Committee was especially impressed with Iralu's creative use of a diverse and original set of texts and how she examined colonial surveillance and counter-surveillance as an always already site of entanglement such that drone surveillance technology is also the thunderbird that can strike and destroy pipelines and oil production.

Chair: Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego

Sharon Luk, University of Oregon
Susana Morris, Georgia Institute of Technology

The Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize was established in 2002 and is awarded annually for the best-published first book in American Studies that highlights the intersections of race with gender, class, sexuality and/or nation. 

The American Studies Association has awarded the 2021 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize to JESSICA MARIE JOHNSONWicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).

The story of freedom and all its ambiguities begins with intimate acts steeped in power. It is shaped by the peculiar oppressions faced by African women and women of African descent. And it pivots on the self-conscious choices black women made to retain control over their bodies and selves, their loved ones, and their futures. Slavery’s rise in the Americas was institutional, carnal, and reproductive. The intimacy of bondage whet the appetites of slaveowners, traders, and colonial officials with fantasies of domination that trickled into every social relationship—husband and wife, sovereign and subject, master, and laborer. Intimacy—corporeal, carnal, quotidian—tied slaves to slaveowners, women of African descent and their children to European and African men. In Wicked Flesh, Jessica Marie Johnson explores the nature of these complicated intimate and kinship ties and how they were used by black women to construct freedom in the Atlantic world.

Johnson draws on archival documents scattered in institutions across three continents, written in multiple languages and largely from the perspective of colonial officials and slave-owning men, to recreate black women’s experiences from coastal Senegal to French Saint-Domingue to Spanish Cuba to the swampy outposts of the Gulf Coast. Centering New Orleans as the quintessential site for investigating black women’s practices of freedom in the Atlantic world, Wicked Flesh argues that African women and women of African descent endowed free status with meaning through active, aggressive, and sometimes unsuccessful intimate and kinship practices. Their stories, in both their successes and their failures, outline a practice of freedom that laid the groundwork for the emancipation struggles of the nineteenth century and reshaped the New World.

The committee also named two finalists (honorable mentions).

LIAT BEN-MOSHE, Decarcerating Disabilities: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition (University of Minnesota Press, 2020).

This vital addition to carceral, prison, and disability studies draws important new links between deinstitutionalization and decarceration.

Liat Ben-Moshe provides case studies that show how prison abolition is not an unattainable goal but rather a reality, and how it plays out in different arenas of incarceration—antipsychiatry, the field of intellectual disabilities, and the fight against the prison-industrial complex. Her analysis of lived experience, history, and culture charts a way out of a failing system of incarceration.

CHRISTINE HONG, A Violent Peace: Race, US Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War America (Stanford University Press, 2020).

A Violent Peace offers a radical account of the United States' transformation into a total-war state. As the Cold War turned hot in the Pacific, antifascist critique disclosed a continuity between U.S. police actions in Asia and a rising police state at home. Writers including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and W.E.B. Du Bois discerned in domestic strategies to quell racial protests the same counterintelligence logic structuring America's devastating wars in Asia.

Examining U.S. militarism's centrality to the Cold War cultural imagination, Christine Hong assembles a transpacific archive—placing war writings, visual renderings of the American concentration camp, Japanese accounts of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, black radical human rights petitions, Korean War–era G.I. photographs, Filipino novels on guerrilla resistance, and Marshallese critiques of U.S. human radiation experiments alongside government documents. By making visible the way the U.S. war machine waged informal wars abroad and at home, this archive reveals how the so-called Pax Americana laid the grounds for solidarity—imagining collective futures beyond the stranglehold of U.S. militarism.


Chair: Micol Seigel, Indiana University
Erica Ball, Occidental College

Sandra Ruiz, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The John Hope Franklin Publication Prize was established in 1986 and has been awarded annually for the best book published in American Studies.

The American Studies Association has awarded the 2021 John Hope Franklin Prize for the best published book in American Studies to NICOLE R. FLEETWOOD, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Harvard University Press, 2020).

A powerful document of the inner lives and creative visions of men and women rendered invisible by America’s prison system.

More than two million people are currently behind bars in the United States. Incarceration not only separates the imprisoned from their families and communities; it also exposes them to shocking levels of deprivation and abuse and subjects them to the arbitrary cruelties of the criminal justice system. Yet, as Nicole Fleetwood reveals, America’s prisons are filled with art. Despite the isolation and degradation they experience, the incarcerated are driven to assert their humanity in the face of a system that dehumanizes them.

Based on interviews with currently and formerly incarcerated artists, prison visits, and the author’s own family experiences with the penal system, Marking Time shows how the imprisoned turn ordinary objects into elaborate works of art. Working with meager supplies and in the harshest conditions—including solitary confinement—these artists find ways to resist the brutality and depravity that prisons engender. The impact of their art, Fleetwood observes, can be felt far beyond prison walls. Their bold works, many of which are being published for the first time in this volume, have opened new possibilities in American art.

As the movement to transform the country’s criminal justice system grows, art provides the imprisoned with a political voice. Their works testify to the economic and racial injustices that underpin American punishment and offer a new vision of freedom for the twenty-first century.

The Committee has also named three finalists (honorable mentions)

JILLIAN HERNANDEZ,  Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment (Duke University Press, 2020).

In Aesthetics of Excess Jillian Hernandez examines how middle-class discourses of aesthetic value racialize the bodies of women and girls of color. At the same time, their style can be a source of cultural capital when appropriated by the contemporary art scene. Drawing on her community arts work with Black and Latina girls in Miami, Hernandez analyzes the art and self-image of these girls alongside works produced by contemporary artists and pop musicians such as Wangechi Mutu, Kara Walker, and Nicki Minaj. Through these relational readings, Hernandez shows how notions of high and low culture are complicated when women and girls of color engage in cultural production and how they challenge the policing of their bodies and sexualities through artistic authorship.

L.H. STALLINGS, A Dirty South Manifesto: Sexual Resistance and Imagination in the New South (University of California Press, 2020).

From the shutdown of Planned Parenthood clinics and rising rates of HIV to opposition to marriage equality and bathroom bills, the New South is the epicenter of the new sex wars. Antagonism toward reproductive freedom, partner rights, and transgender rights has revealed a new and unacknowledged era of southern reconstruction centered on gender and sexuality.

In A Dirty South Manifesto, L. H. Stallings celebrates the roots of radical sexual resistance in the New South—a movement that is antiracist, decolonial, and transnational. For people within economically disenfranchised segments of society, those in sexually marginalized communities, and the racially oppressed, the South has been a sexual dystopia. Throughout this book, Stallings delivers hard-hitting manifestos for the new sex wars. With her focus on contemporary Black southern life, Stallings offers an invitation to anyone who has ever imagined a way of living beyond white supremacist heteropatriarchy.

CHRISTOPHER PATTERSON, Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games (New York University Press).

Seeking ways to understand video games beyond their imperial logics, Patterson turns to erotics to re-invigorate the potential passions and pleasures of play.

Video games vastly outpace all other mediums of entertainment in revenue and in global reach. On the surface, games do not appear ideological, nor are they categorized as national products. Instead, they seem to reflect the open and uncontaminated reputation of information technology.

Video games are undeniably imperial products. Their very existence has been conditioned upon the spread of militarized technology, the exploitation of already-existing labor and racial hierarchies in their manufacture, and the utopian promises of digital technology. Like literature and film before it, video games have become the main artistic expression of empire today: the open world empire, formed through the routes of information technology and the violences of drone combat, unending war, and overseas massacres that occur with little scandal or protest.

Though often presented as purely technological feats, video games are also artistic projects, and as such, they allow us an understanding of how war and imperial violence proceed under signs of openness, transparency, and digital utopia. But the video game, as Christopher B. Patterson argues, is also an inherently Asian commodity: its hardware is assembled in Asia; its most talented e-sports players are of Asian origin; Nintendo, Sony, and Sega have defined and dominated the genre. Games draw on established discourses of Asia to provide an “Asiatic” space, a playful sphere of racial otherness that straddles notions of the queer, the exotic, the bizarre, and the erotic. Thinking through games like Overwatch, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Shenmue II, and Alien: Isolation, Patterson reads against empire by playing games erotically, as players do—seeing games as Asiatic playthings that afford new passions, pleasures, desires, and attachments.


Chair:  Kara Keeling, University of Chicago

Jodi Melamed, Marquette University
A. Naomi Paik, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the “public good.” This includes work that explicitly aims to educate the lay public, influence policies, or in other ways seeks to address inequalities in imaginative, practical, and applicable forms.

NOLIWE ROOKS, the 2021 winner, is a longtime member of the association, and a recent director of American Studies at Cornell University. Professor Rooks has not only published several influential books on race and social justice (most recently, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education), she has been extremely active as an advocate for social justice matters in the public sphere, especially in the matter of racial inequalities in education. She has repeatedly appeared in news and media outlets and been an active advocate for racial and social justice.

As one of her letter writers notes, “She’s shown me that it's possible to be an academic who is committed to community-based action and to public activism. I know few others in academia who are quite the publicly engaged scholar that Noliwe is. Frankly, she has aided in restoring my faith in what is possible in the university.” Another colleague called her “a guiding light for so many scholars working on justice and equity related topics across disciplinary boundaries.”

Her current research sets out to explore relationships among capitalism and land in the United States. Throughout this work, her visibility as a public advocate has gone along with her alert sense of humor and ability to articulate complex social problems in a compelling way.




The Critical Ethnic Studies Committee sponsors the Critical Ethnic Studies Prize for the best paper at the annual meeting contrasting or connecting the process of race-making or the experiences of racialized communities with similar processes or experiences inside or outside the United States. All essays must focus on the power of race/ethnicity to shape the lives of diverse groups of people.

The 2021 winner is Dr. Rachel Jane Carroll for her paper, “Found Materials.” Through a careful analysis of the artist Senga Nengudi’s R.S.V.P. series of nylon pantyhose “performance objects,” Carrol shows how their material components register and offer commentary about distinct, layered regimes of racial capitalism and imperialism. Situating Nengudi’s work within a genealogy of Black feminist cultural critique, Carroll shows how this creative/intellectual trajectory offers important commentary on US militarism during the Cold War period. The Committee selected this essay not only for the brilliance of its content, but also for its remarkable quality of prose. Carroll effectively theorizes the complex place of the art works with an uncommon clarity while offering vivid descriptions that bring them to life for the reader. We are so pleased to have the honor of recognizing such a distinct and important contribution to the field of critical ethnic studies and American studies more broadly.

The Committee would also like to recognize the work of two additional scholars, who receive honorable mention for their brilliant essays:

“(Dis)Proving Pain & Performing A Commons of Pain,” by Lau Malaver, PhD Candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Reconstructing Memory Landscapes: The Politics of Witnessing in the Aftermath of the Vietnam War,” by Jacinda Tran, PhD Student in the Department of American Studies at Yale University.


The International Committee sponsors the Shelley Fisher Fishkin Prize for International Scholarship in Transnational American Studies for original research in transnational American Studies (including original interdisciplinary research in Transnational American Studies).

The 2021 prize is awarded to PADRAIG KIRWAN, Senior Lecturer in the Literature of the Americas, Goldsmiths, University of London for “Recognition, Resilience & Relief: The Meaning of Gift.” In: LeAnne Howe and Padraig Kirwan, eds. Famine Pots: The Choctaw Irish Gift Exchange, 1847-Present. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press (2020).

Reviewers were unanimous in their overwhelmingly positive evaluation of the article's archivally-rich investigation of the Choctaw-Irish encounter, as well as its approach to gift-giving through an innovative comparative, intercultural, and transatlantic framework.



The Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Prize which recognizes the outstanding achievement of an individual who has dedicated a lifetime of work to the mission and values of American studies will not be awarded this year.


The Mary C. Turpie Prize for outstanding abilities and achievement in American studies teaching, advising, and program development at the local or regional level will not be awarded this year.


The ASA’s Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies’ Gloria E. Anzaldúa Prize to honor an independent scholar and/or contingent or community college faculty member who demonstrates an affinity with Anzaldúa’s oeuvre, vision, or political commitments and who addresses connections among some or all of the following categories:  race, ethnicity, citizenship, class, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability will not be awarded this year.


The ASA Minority Scholars Committee’s Richard A. Yarborough Mentoring Award to honor a scholar who demonstrates dedication to and excellence in mentoring underrepresented faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and/or college, university or high school students will not be awarded this year.

Posted for ASA Office in Press Releases
Post date: February 28, 2022

Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.