Indiana University Press is proud that our books have received over 60 awards (and counting!) during the 2020-2021 calendar year. Many congratulations to our well-deserving authors!
Winner: Chief Isaac Oluwole Delano Book Prize
Kinship, Gender, and Ethnicity in a Yoruba Town
In West Africa, especially among Yoruba people, masquerades have the power to kill enemies, appoint kings, and grant fertility. John Thabiti Willis takes a close look at masquerade traditions in the Yoruba town of Otta, exploring transformations in performers, performances, and the institutional structures in which masquerade was used to reveal ongoing changes in notions of gender, kinship, and ethnic identity. As Willis focuses on performers and spectators, he reveals a history of masquerade that is rich and complex. His research offers a more nuanced understanding of performance practices in Africa and their role in forging alliances, consolidating state power, incorporating immigrants, executing criminals, and projecting individual and group power on both sides of the Afro-Atlantic world.
Winner: The Ernst Fraenkel Prize
Italian Ecocinema Beyond the Human
Entangled in the hybrid fields of ecomedia studies and material ecocriticism, Elena Past examines five Italian films shot on location and ponders the complex relationships that the production crews developed with the filming locations and the nonhuman cast members. She uses these films—Red Desert (1964), The Winds Blows Round (2005), Gomorrah (2008), Le quattro volte (2010), and Return to the Aeolian Islands (2010)—as case studies to explore pressing environmental questions such as cinema's dependence on hydrocarbons, the toxic waste crisis in the region of Campania, and our reliance on the nonhuman world. Dynamic and unexpected actors emerge as the subjects of each chapter: playful goats, erupting volcanoes, airborne dust particles, fluid petroleum, and even the sound of silence. Based on interviews with crew members and close readings of the films themselves, Italian Ecocinema Beyond the Human theorizes how filmmaking practice—from sound recording to location scouting to managing a production—helps uncover cinema's ecological footprint and its potential to open new perspectives on the nonhuman world.
Winner: SEA Book Prize
An Ethnography of Hunger
Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun
In An Ethnography of Hunger Kristin D. Phillips examines how rural farmers in central Tanzania negotiate the interconnected projects of subsistence, politics, and rural development. Writing against stereotypical Western media images of spectacular famine in Africa, she examines how people live with—rather than die from—hunger. Through tracing the seasonal cycles of drought, plenty, and suffering and the political cycles of elections, development, and state extraction, Phillips studies hunger as a pattern of relationships and practices that organizes access to food and profoundly shapes agrarian lives and livelihoods. Amid extreme inequality and unpredictability, rural people pursue subsistence by alternating between—and sometimes combining—rights and reciprocity, a political form that she calls "subsistence citizenship." Phillips argues that studying subsistence is essential to understanding the persistence of global poverty, how people vote, and why development projects succeed or fail.
Winner: Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award
African Photographer J. A. Green
Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial
J. A. Green (1873–1905) was one of the most prolific and accomplished indigenous photographers to be active in West Africa. This beautiful book celebrates Green's photographs and opens a new chapter in the early photographic history of Africa. Soon after photography reached the west coast of Africa in the 1840s, the technology and the resultant images were disseminated widely, appealing to African elites, European residents, and travelers to the region. Responding to the need for more photographs, expatriate and indigenous photographers began working along the coasts, particularly in major harbor towns. Green, whose identity remained hidden behind his English surname, maintained a photography business in Bonny along the Niger Delta. His work covered a wide range of themes including portraiture, scenes of daily and ritual life, commerce, and building. Martha G. Anderson, Lisa Aronson, and the contributors have uncovered 350 of Green's images in archives, publications, and even albums that celebrated colonial achievements. This landmark book unifies these dispersed images and presents a history of the photographer and the area in which he worked.
Runner-up: Jewish Book Award - Writing Based on Archival Material
The Rise of the Modern Yiddish Theater
Alyssa Quint focuses on the early years of the modern Yiddish theater, from roughly 1876 to 1883, through the works of one of its best-known and most colorful figures, Avrom Goldfaden. Goldfaden (né Goldenfaden, 1840-1908) was one of the first playwrights to stage a commercially viable Yiddish-language theater, first in Romania and then in Russia. Goldfaden's work was rapidly disseminated in print and his plays were performed frequently for Jewish audiences. Sholem Aleichem considered him as a forger of a new language that "breathed the European spirit into our old jargon." Quint uses Goldfaden's theatrical works as a way to understand the social life of Jewish theater in Imperial Russia. Through a study of his libretti, she looks at the experiences of Russian Jewish actors, male and female, to explore connections between culture as artistic production and culture in the sense of broader social structures. Quint explores how Jewish actors who played Goldfaden's work on stage absorbed the theater into their everyday lives. Goldfaden's theater gives a rich view into the conduct, ideology, religion, and politics of Jews during an important moment in the history of late Imperial Russia.