AQA Announces the 2016 Ruth Benedict Book Prize Winners!

The Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA) is very pleased to announce the 2016 winners of the Ruth Benedict Book Prize for outstanding scholarship on a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender topic. The prize is presented each year at the American Anthropological Association’s national meeting to acknowledge excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective that engages theoretical perspectives relevant to LGBTQ studies.

The Ruth Benedict Book Prize Committee considered a record number of nominations this year, representing the range and depth of exceptional new work in queer anthropology. We are delighted to announce this year’s winners:

In the category of Outstanding Single-Authored Monograph, the 2016 Ruth Benedict Prize winner is David A.B. Murray for Real Queer? Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Refugees in the Canadian Refugee Apparatus (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). Real Queer? analyzes the Canadian “refugee apparatus” as it concerns asylum seekers fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI). The book’s title highlights the main task facing claimants, their lawyers, and state agents, namely: to determine who is an “authentic” LGBT refugee and whose claim is “bogus.” To answer this question, the refugee apparatus requires mountains of evidence in the form of documents, which generates an onerous burden for claimants and their lawyers. Real Queer? is thus a critical ethnography of bureaucracy and the nation-state as much as an ethnographic account of queer lives. The book’s methodological rigor and theoretical dexterity make Real Queer? a powerful example of queer anthropology at its best.

In the category of Outstanding Edited Volume, the 2016 Ruth Benedict Prize is awarded to editors Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz for for their volume Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism (University of Texas, 2016). Queer Brown Voices offers a powerful corrective to whitewashed histories of LGBT activism. The collection counterbalances narratives that diminish the role of Latin@s or reduce discussions of anti-racist efforts among queer organizers to a black-white binary. The editors present oral histories and unmediated testimonios of queer Latin@ activists. Taken together, these stories provide a collective auto-ethnographic account of queer Latin@ activist engagements from the 1970s through the 1990s. Queer Brown Voices offers a treasure trove of inspiration and genealogy for young, queer Latin@ activists and will serve as an important work for a range of scholars.

The Committee would also like to recognize Gregory Mitchell’’s single-authored monograph Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil’s Sexual Economy (University of Chicago Press, 2015) with an Honorable Mention. Tourist Attractions is a political-economic analysis of sex work in Brazil that examines racialized relations of sexuality, money, and travel. Mitchell’s compelling ethnography describes the landscape of gay sexual tourism in Brazil, from the saunas of Rio to heritage tourism in Bahia to reveal the fraught interconnections between political economy and the lived, performative experience of identity and desire.

The Ruth Benedict Book Prize will be presented to the winning authors during the AQA Business meeting on Friday, November 18 at the American Anthropological Association 2016 annual meeting. AQA would like to thank the Ruth Benedict Book Prize Committee for their work, including former Benedict Prize winners Naisargi Dave, Rudolf Gaudio, and Noelle Stout, and Graduate Student Representative, Jara Carrington. For additional information, please contact the Committee Chair, Naisargi Dave, at naisargi.dave@utoronto.ca.

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