Awards The Association for Women in Slavic Studies is very pleased to announce the winners of its 2012 Prize Competitions.
Outstanding Achievement Award
The Association for Women in Slavic Studies is pleased to announce the winner of its Outstanding Achievement Award for 2012, June Pachuta Farris.
Serving for more than twenty-five years as the Bibliographer for Slavic and East European Studies at the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago, June has developed a superb collection of Slavic, East European and Eurasian resources there, many of them found nowhere else in the world. As one of her colleagues at the University of Chicago has noted, in addition to developing a "world-class collection at a world-class research library," June also "understands the importance of the kinds of ephemera not found in most library collections." Scholars and students at the University of Chicago are far from the only beneficiaries of her expertise, however. The entire profession has been enriched by June's unassuming yet dedicated commitment to helping scholars wherever they work -- whether formally, through her many published bibliographies on subjects as diverse as Dostoevsky and Czech and Slovak émigrés, or informally through her willingness to respond to countless queries from individuals.
June's services to the field of women's and gender studies make her an especially deserving recipient of this award. Members of AWSS have grown to depend on her quarterly and annual Current Bibliography on Women and Gender in Russia and Eastern Europe, which has appeared in the AWSS Newsletter since 1999. Collaborating with Irina Liveazanu, Christine Worobec, and Mary Zirin, June also produced an invaluable two-volume publication, Women and Gender in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia: A Comprehensive Bibliography (2007). Last but far from least, June is known by her fellow Slavic librarians as a generous mentor. As one of them has written, "over the years she has taught me most of what I know about the field." For her selfless, consistent, and dedicated service to scholars, students, and fellow bibliographers, AWSS is proud to honor June Pachuta Farris.
Mary Zirin Prize for Independent Scholars
The Association for Women in Slavic Studies is pleased to announce Susan N. Smith as its 2012 Mary Zirin Prize winner.
Dr. Smith earned her Ph.D. at the University of Washington in 2005 and, without benefit of a permanent academic position, has continued to pursue an active research agenda. Her first book manuscript, currently under revision, analyzes museum practices in the provincial Russian city of Vladimir across the 1917 divide. Dr. Smith has nurtured this project along in the transition from dissertation to book manuscript while carrying the unpredictable and often heavy teaching load typical of adjunct work. Her persistence is admirable. Smith has published on this topic in one of the leading journals in our field, The Russian Review, and has to her credit several Russian-language publications related to her work on museum history in Vladimir that speak to her active links with her Russian colleagues. As she moves toward completing her first book manuscript, she is launching a promising new study on post-Stalinist tourism—both domestic and international—to the so-called Golden Ring cities that encircle Moscow. The committee was favorably impressed by the project's scope and ambition, which will be all the more challenging to pursue without the financial and intellectual resources afforded to academics with a permanent institutional home. Though still early in her career, Dr. Smith has already demonstrated her commitment to producing serious work as an independent scholar and the committee very much hopes that this award and the recognition it brings serves to encourage and support her in this endeavor.
Zirin Prize Committee:
- Stepanka Korytova
- Paula Michaels (chair)
- Jennifer Patico
Best Book by a Woman in any area of Slavic/East European/Eurasian Studies: Gail Kligman and Katherine Verdery, Peasants under Siege. The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962 (Princeton University Press, 2011)
Peasants under Siege is a magisterial account of the collectivization of agriculture in Romania. Kligman and Verdery move deftly between the highest offices of the land and the humblest county seat in their comprehensive depiction of the changes in property, personhood, and state power collectivization initiated. The study is firmly grounded in an exhaustive archive they and their research colleagues compiled, a project of inestimable value, in particular as the materials include first-hand accounts. In the introduction, Kligman and Verdery discuss intelligently and thoroughly the methodological problems posed by relying on oral history and party-state documents for their analysis. With those caveats in mind, the authors strive, and handily succeed, in providing an "'experience-near' account" by quoting extensively from the interviews and documents. The voices of beleaguered peasants can be heard as clearly as the commands of the party-state and the complaints of local party operatives. It is a testament to Kligman and Verdery's theoretical prowess that they are able to sustain an intimate historical account in the course of a sophisticated analysis of the complex social dynamics of party-state formation and agricultural modernization. A crucial claim in the book is that the arduous process of collectivization consolidated the fledgling Romanian Communist Party while the nation's infra-structure and the personnel of the emerging party-state had to be built from the ground up. Kligman and Verdery argue that the character of the fabled Securitate was forged in the struggle over collectivization. "The significance of the Securitate . . . both for transforming Romania's political institutions and for implementing collectivization cannot be overstated. Its repressive apparatus was the principal weapon of political change during the early period, when the Party-state had not yet been fully institutionalized and did not control economic life"(57). In this and other ways, the book clarifies the degree to which socialist collectivization, long seen as a unilateral event, was a process bound to be shaped by the contingencies of local politics and economy. Peasants under Siege is a model of scholarship, and demonstrates that not all collectives are doomed to failure.
Honorable Mention: Katerina Clark, Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-1941 (Harvard University Press, 2011)
In her impressive new study, Moscow, the Fourth Rome, Katerina Clark aims to "integrate a rather neglected international dimension into the overall interpretation of Stalinism." Her book more than lives up to this promise: this is a uniquely nuanced and rich account of a decade—the 1930s—which has long inspired starkly black and white histories. Never denying the growing nationalism of the 1930s, Clark discerns instead the simultaneity of competing trends, and then zooms in on the evolving fates of internationalism and cosmopolitanism at this time. Clark anchors her account around four fascinating "intermediaries" between Soviet culture and its Western counterparts: Sergei Eisenstein, Ilya Ehrenburg, Mikhail Koltsov, and Sergei Tretiakov. "Agents of Soviet power intent on converting their Western counterparts," these figures emerge from Clark's account as neither martyrs nor grey Stalinist bureaucrats, but instead as some of the "most colorful figures of their era." Tracing their peregrinations through the West, Clark's highly readable account never skims the surface: from the very first chapter, we delve deeply into seminal intellectual exchanges around the author as producer between Tretiakov, Brecht, and Benjamin in pre-Nazi Berlin. Organized around similarly fascinating questions, such as "Moscow, the Lettered City," "The Return of the Aesthetic," or "The Imperial Sublime," the next seven chapters treat us to a both encyclopedic and highly original portrayal of the 1930s. Analyzing official and popular culture, the mainstream Pravda along with more marginal internationalist journals, Clark once more produces fresh and immediately authoritative accounts of the architecture, literature, film, and ideology of the 1930s. A special highlight is Clark's development of her previous benchmark study on Socialist realism in a thesis about the centrality of writing, and particularly of biography, as the iconic artifact of the Soviet Kunststadt. Moscow, the Fourth Rome will undoubtedly become a reference book for anyone interested in Stalinism. A model archeology of a neglected period of world literature/culture, the book also sets a standard for contemporary research in this currently expanding field.
Best book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's Studies: Beth Holmgren, Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour in Poland and America (Indiana University Press, 2012)
In this beautifully written and thoroughly engaging biography of the leading Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska, who emigrated to the United States in 1876 and became the American star "Countess" Helena Modjeska, Beth Holmgren demonstrates a striking mastery of the Polish and American theaters, and the ways that Modjeska navigated between them. In an impressively researched work that follows Modrzejewska/Modjeska from birth to death, and then explores her memory and legacy, Holmgren uncovers the life history of an extraordinary and powerful 19th century woman. With deep knowledge of late 19th century Polish culture and a noteworthy expertise in American theater history, Holmgren creates a complex and multi-layered narrative of Modjeska's Polish theatrical career and self-fashioning, her reinvention as an American celebrity and Shakespearian actress, and her identity as a cultural intermediary -- a Polish patriot and philanthropist and a "living symbol of Poland on American soil" who also sought to elevate the American theater and aid the Polish immigrant community in the United States. Holmgren's work shows Modrejewska/Modjeska as a dynamic actor deftly negotiating a multitude of women's roles on and off stage, from the real bastard child and "fallen woman" who herself gave birth to illegitimate children, to the complex women portrayed in the new drama of the era, to the director of her own career and repertoire, shaping her own self-images in binational stardom. This rich portrait of a remarkable 19th century woman in both Poland and America is a model of a new scholarship that explores women's lives across national boundaries. For this reason we are proud to award Starring Madame Modjeska the Heldt Prize.
Best Article in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's Studies Agnès Kefeli, "The Tale of Joseph and Zulaykha on the Volga Frontier: The Struggle for Gender, Religious, and National Identity in Imperial and Post-Soviet Russia," Slavic Review 70, No. 2 (Summer 2011)
Concentrating mainly on the tale of Joseph and Zulaykha, Agnès Kefeli offers a sophisticated analysis of the role this and other stories of the prophets played in defining and defending religious and ethnic identities and boundaries in the multiconfessional and multiethnic middle Volga region of the Russian Empire during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing on Russian, Tatar, and Central Asian sources, she demonstrates in particular how the variants of the tale of Joseph and Zulaykha told by non-Russian Muslim traditionalists and modernists, Christianized non-Russians, and Orthodox Russians represented the images and actions of the protagonists in ways that reflected the specific circumstances, reinforced the identity, and promoted the conversion efforts or political agenda of each group. Kefeli also shows that the differing versions of the tale depicted women and their agency differently, with the traditionalist Muslim variants legitimizing and supporting the important role played by Muslim women in religious education and the conversion of non-Russian Christians and pagan animists to Islam prior to 1917. She concludes by noting how in the post-Soviet period modernist Muslim versions of the tale of Joseph and Zulaykha have been resurrected in support of the claim that adherence to Islam is an essential element of Tatar nationality. This is an original, impressively researched, and persuasively argued study that merits recognition as the Heldt Prize article for 2012.
Graduate Essay Prize: Chiara Bonfiglioli (University of Utrecht), for "From Comrades to Traitors: The Cominform Resolution of 1948," which is chapter 5 of her recently defended dissertation, "Revolutionary Networks. Women's Political and Social Activism in Cold War Italy and Yugoslavia (1945-1957)."
The selection committee praised her work as original and well developed in terms of research and engagement with scholarship. The essay brings new insights to questions having to do with women's political involvement in the establishment of the communist regimes in post-war Europe, as well as their role in international networks for women and for communist regimes and parties across the world. The dissertation is explicitly comparative and transnational and brings new light to understanding how post-war communist movements developed in Europe and in particular what roles women played in that process. Conversely, the work offers a more nuanced understanding of women's activism in the twentieth century, with sisterhood understood more explicitly as a complex set of issues, and the development of the women's international activism as both empowering and limiting. By choosing to focus on the time of the Tito-Stalin split, Bonfiglioli gives greater clarity to the implications of that event for women¹s organizations, as well as revealing the great strain this polarization brought to women's efforts to find their own voice in the postwar communist organizations.
The award winners will be celebrated at the AWSS annual meeting and reception at the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies convention in Washington, DC, on Friday, November 16, 2012.