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Rutgers Faculty Book Awards 2017

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Faculty members across Arts and Sciences won widespread recognition for their books in 2017. These remarkable works explored many stories and realms of knowledge, from the fugitive life of one of George Washington’s slaves, to the theoretical mathematics of sieves, to a grisly 19th-century murder mystery, to the connection between free trade and trafficking. All told, they illustrate the amazing range of scholarship at Rutgers’ largest and most comprehensive school.


Erica Dunbar (History) is a Finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Nonfiction.

 Erica dunbar Erica Armstrong Dunbar 


Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household, he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about whom little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. However, freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property. With impeccable research, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.


Marisa Fuentes (Women's & Gender Studies and History) won the 2017 Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians for the best book in African American women's history. The book is also the winner of the 2016 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize and the 2016 Caribbean Studies Association Barbara Christian Prize.

 Marissa fuentes Marisa Fuentes 


Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive

In the eighteenth century, Bridgetown, Barbados, was heavily populated by both enslaved and free women. Marisa J. Fuentes creates a portrait of urban Caribbean slavery in this colonial town from the perspective of these women whose stories appear only briefly in historical records. Fuentes takes us through the streets of Bridgetown with an enslaved runaway; inside a brothel run by a freed woman of color; in the midst of a white urban household in sexual chaos; to the gallows where enslaved people were executed; and within violent scenes of enslaved women's punishments. In the process, Fuentes interrogates the archive and its historical production to expose the ongoing effects of white colonial power that constrain what can be known about these women. Combining fragmentary sources with interdisciplinary methodologies that include black feminist theory and critical studies of history and slavery, Dispossessed Lives demonstrates how the construction of the archive marked enslaved women's bodies, in life and in death. By vividly recounting enslaved life through the experiences of individual women and illuminating their conditions of confinement through the legal, sexual, and representational power wielded by slave owners, colonial authorities, and the archive, Fuentes challenges the way we write histories of vulnerable and often invisible subjects.


David Greenberg (History) won the Goldsmith Prize from Harvard’s Kennedy School for the best trade book and the Ray and Pat Browne Award from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.

 David Greenberg  David Greenberg


Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency                     

Historian David Greenberg traces the rise of the institutions and practices of image-making and message-craft in American politics, from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama, while revealing the role of the behind-the-scenes image-makers and spin doctors who played a central role in this history. It combines this political history with an intellectual history of how writers and thinkers addressed these transformations in American politics and the ongoing debates over the implications for democracy in a mass-media age. “A brilliant, fast-moving narrative history of the leaders who have defined the modern American presidency.”―Bob Woodward


Kali Nicole Gross (History) won the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction.

 Kali nicole gross Kali Nicole Gross  


Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America

Shortly after a dismembered torso was discovered by a pond outside Philadelphia in 1887, investigators homed in on two suspects: Hannah Mary Tabbs, a married, working-class, black woman, and George Wilson, a former neighbor whom Tabbs implicated after her arrest. As details surrounding the shocking case emerged, both the crime and ensuing trial which spanned several months were featured in the national press. The trial brought otherwise taboo subjects such as illicit sex, adultery, and domestic violence in the black community to public attention. At the same time, the mixed race of the victim and one of his assailants exacerbated anxieties over the purity of whiteness in the post-Reconstruction era. Historian Kali Nicole Gross uses detectives' notes, trial and prison records, local newspapers, and other archival documents to reconstruct this ghastly whodunit crime in all its scandalous detail. In doing so, she gives the crime context by analyzing it against broader evidence of police treatment of black suspects and violence within the black community.


Henryk Iwaniec (Mathematics) and his co-author John Friedlander were awarded the 2017 AMS Doob Prize.

  Henrique Iwaniec Henryk Iwaniec  


Opera de Cribro

This is a truly comprehensive account of sieves and their applications, by two of the world's greatest authorities. Beginners will find a thorough introduction to the subject, with plenty of helpful motivation. The more practiced reader will appreciate the authors' insights into some of the more mysterious parts of the theory, as well as the wealth of new examples. This is a comprehensive and up-to-date treatment of sieve methods. The theory of the sieve is developed thoroughly with complete and accessible proofs of the basic theorems. Included is a wide range of applications, both to traditional questions such as those concerning primes, and to areas previously unexplored by sieve methods, such as elliptic curves, points on cubic surfaces, and quantum ergodicity. New proofs are also given of some of the central theorems of analytic number theory; these proofs emphasize and take advantage of the applicability of sieve ideas. The book contains numerous comments which provide the reader with insight into the workings of the subject, both as to what the sieve can do and what it cannot do. The authors reveal recent developments by which the parity barrier can be breached, exposing golden nuggets of the subject, previously inaccessible. The variety of the topics covered and in the levels of difficulty encountered makes this a work of value to novices and experts alike, both as an educational tool and a basic reference.


Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel (Latino Studies and Comparative Literature) and Sarah Tobias (Institute for Research on Women) won the 2017 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies from the Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS)

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Trans Studies: The Challenge to Hetero/Homo Normativities

From Caitlyn Jenner to Laverne Cox, transgender people have rapidly gained public visibility, contesting many basic assumptions about what gender and embodiment mean. The vibrant discipline of Trans Studies explores such challenges in depth, building on the insights of queer and feminist theory to raise provocative questions about the relationships among gender, sexuality, and accepted social norms.   

Trans Studies is an interdisciplinary essay collection, bringing together leading experts in this burgeoning field and offering insights about how transgender activism and scholarship might transform scholarship and public policy. Taking an intersectional approach, this theoretically sophisticated book deeply grounded in real-world concerns bridges the gaps between activism and academia by offering examples of cutting-edge activism, research, and pedagogy.


Johan Mathew (History) won the Ralph Gomory Prize from the Business History Conference. The Gomory Prize, made possible by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, recognizes historical work on the effects of business enterprises on the economic conditions of the countries in which they operate.

 Johan Mathew Johan Mathew  


Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea

What is the relationship between trafficking and free trade? Is trafficking the perfection or the perversion of free trade? Trafficking occurs thousands of times each day at borders throughout the world, yet we have come to perceive it as something quite extraordinary. How did this happen, and what role does trafficking play in capitalism? To answer these questions, Johan Mathew traces the hidden networks that operated across the Arabian Sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following the entangled history of trafficking and capitalism, he explores how the Arabian Sea reveals the gaps that haunt political borders and undermine economic models. Ultimately, he shows how capitalism was forged at the margins of the free market, where governments intervened, and traffickers turned a profit.


Stéphane Robolin (English) received the 2017 African Literature Association First Book Award for Grounds of Engagement: Apartheid-Era African American and South African Writing (Illinois University Press).

 robolin pic Stephane Robolin  


Grounds of Engagement: Apartheid-Era African American and South African Writing

Part literary history, part cultural study, Grounds of Engagement examines the relationships and exchanges between black South African and African American writers who sought to create common ground throughout the anti-apartheid era. Subject to the tyranny of segregation, authors such as Richard Wright, Bessie Head, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Michelle Cliff, and Richard Rive charted their racialized landscapes and invented freer alternative geographies. They crafted rich representations of place to challenge the stark social and spatial arrangements that framed their lives. Those representations, Robolin contends, also articulated their desires for black transnational belonging and political solidarity. The first book to examine U.S. and South African literary exchanges in spatial terms, Grounds of Engagement identifies key moments in the understudied history of black cross-cultural exchange and exposes how geography serves as an indispensable means of shaping and reshaping modern racial meaning.


Camilla Townsend (History) was awarded the Howard Francis Cline Memorial Prize for her book Annals of Native America (Oxford, 2017) at the 2018 Conference on Latin American History/American Historical Association meetings. This prize is awarded biennially to the book or article judged to be the most significant contribution to the history of indigenous people in Latin America.

 Camilla Townsend Camilla Townsend  


Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive

After the Spanish conquest, the Nahuas of colonial Mexico learned the Roman alphabet and used it to transcribe oral performances of traditional histories of their peoples. These texts were called xiuhpohaulli in Nahuatl and are usually referred to as “annals” now. They were produced by indigenous people and for indigenous people, without regard to European interests, and they therefore provide the closest view of pre-Columbian historiography we are ever likely to find. Over the course of the colonial era, the annals changed with the times, but for over one hundred years their flexibility allowed for incorporating the new without obliterating the old. These texts have been assumed to be anonymous, but Camilla Townsend has deduced authorship in the case of most of the key texts, and in so doing, has been able to place them securely in their proper contexts, thus rendering them more legible to modern readers. Each chapter begins with a selection from a key text, then considers who wrote it and why, before finally embarking on an exploration of its meanings.


Henry Turner (English) has been awarded the Elizabeth Dietz Memorial Award for the Best Book of the Year in Renaissance Studies and Honorable Mention, Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History by the American Society for Theater Research. 

 Henry Turner

Corporate commonwealth 


The Corporate Commonwealth: Pluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651 (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

The Corporate Commonwealth traces the evolution of corporations during the English Renaissance and explores the many types of corporations that once flourished. Along the way, the book offers important insights into our own definitions of fiction, politics, and value.  Henry S. Turner uses the resources of economic and political history, literary analysis, and political philosophy to demonstrate how a number of English institutions with corporate associations—including universities, guilds, towns and cities, and religious groups—were gradually narrowed to the commercial, for-profit corporation we know today, and how the joint-stock corporation, in turn, became both a template for the modern state and a political force that the state could no longer contain. Through innovative readings of works by Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes, among others, Turner tracks the corporation from the courts to the stage, from commonwealth to colony, and from the object of utopian fiction to the subject of tragic violence. A provocative look at the corporation’s peculiar character as both an institution and a person, The Corporate Commonwealth uses the past to suggest ways in which today’s corporations might be refashioned into a source of progressive and collective public action.


Emily Van Buskirk (Department of Germanic, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures) has been awarded the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) Prize for the Best Book in Literary Studies and the Modern Language Association of America twelfth Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures for her Lydia Ginzburg's Prose: Reality in Search of Literature (Princeton University Press, 2016).

 Emily Van Buskirk Emily Van Buskirk  


Lydia Ginzburg’s Prose: Reality in Search of Literature

The Russian writer Lydia Ginzburg (1902–90) is best known for her Notes from the Leningrad Blockade and influential critical studies, such as On Psychological Prose, investigating the problem of literary character in French and Russian novels and memoirs. Yet she viewed her most vital work to be the extensive prose fragments, composed for the desk drawer, in which she analyzed herself and other members of the Russian intelligentsia through seven traumatic decades of Soviet history. In this book, the first full-length English-language study of the writer, Emily Van Buskirk presents Ginzburg as a figure of previously unrecognized innovation and importance in the literary landscape of the twentieth century.


Mark Wasserman (History) was awarded the Clark C. Spence Award of the Mining History Association for 2017 for the best book in mining history. 

 Mark wasserman 1 MARK WASSERMAN 


Pesos and Politics: Business, Elites, Foreigners, and Government in Mexico, 1854-1940

Historian Mark Wasserman argues that throughout this era, over the course of successive regimes, there was an evolving enterprise system that had to balance the interests of the Mexican national elite, state and local governments, large foreign corporations, and individual foreign entrepreneurs. Contrary to past assessments, Wasserman argues that no one of these groups was ever powerful enough to dominate another. Concentrating on the three most important sectors of the Mexican economy: mining, agriculture, and railroads, and employing a series of case studies of the careers of prominent Mexican business people and the operations of large U.S.-owned ranching and mining companies, Wasserman effectively demonstrates that Mexicans, in fact, controlled their economy from the 1880s through 1940; foreigners did not exploit the country; and, Mexicans established, sometimes shakily, sometimes unplanned, a system of relations between foreigners, elite and government (and later unions and peasant organizations) that maintained checks and balances on all parties.




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