2020 SHAFR Awards Luncheon at the American Historical Association

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 9:00pm

2020 SHAFR Awards Luncheon at the American Historical Association

Jay Sexton & Julia Irwin                

The Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize was established through the generosity of Dr. Gerald J. and Myrna F. Bernath, in memory of their late son.  The Bernath Lecture Prize is intended to recognize excellence in teaching and research in the field of foreign relations by scholars under 41 years of age or within ten years of receipt of the Ph.D.  After careful deliberation, this year’s Bernath Lecture committee (Hugh Wilford, Jay Sexton, and Brooke Blower) have selected Professor Julia F. Irwin of the University of South Florida to receive the 2020 Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize.  Professor Irwin earned her Ph.D. at Yale University where she was advised by John Harley Warner and Glenda Gilmore.  The winner of numerous previous awards, including SHAFR’s Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize, she is the author of Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (Oxford University Press, 2013) and fifteen articles and book chapters.  The Bernath Lecture Prize committee received a number of excellent nominations but was particularly impressed by the way Professor Irwin’s work transformed our understanding of U.S. humanitarianism in relation to state and non-state structures and opened up future lines of research.  Many of her nominators were also eloquent on the subject of her brilliance as an educator.                      

The William Appleman Williams Junior Faculty Grants were established by SHAFR’s Council to promote scholarly research by untenured college and university faculty and others who are within six years of the Ph.D., who are working as professional historians, and who are working on the first research monograph.  This year’s committee (Scott Laderman, Heather Stur, and Joseph Eaton) recognizes two outstanding projects for 2020:

Jessica Levys's book manuscript, “Black Power, Inc.: Corporate America, Race, and Empowerment Politics in the U.S. and Africa,” draws on archival materials from government, corporate, and movement archives on two continents to examine the transnational rise of “black empowerment” politics in the United States and South Africa.  In doing so, it pulls together two narratives central to twentieth-century U.S. history that until now have remained largely separate: the history of the black freedom struggle and the rise of corporate power.  Black empowerment--which Dr. Levy defines as private and public programs promoting job training, community development, and black entrepreneurship--essentially appropriated black power, she argues, supplanting more radical demands from the movement for reparations and economic justice.  Dr. Levy’s original and fascinating project, which was also recognized with SHAFR’s 2019 Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize, makes an important contribution by showing the ways that corporate America profited from black militancy, racial liberalism, and the seeds of political conservatism that blossomed within the global black freedom struggle, altering the political and material landscapes of black communities from North Philadelphia to Soweto.  The book is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press.  Dr. Levy received her Ph.D. in History in 2018 from Johns Hopkins University under the supervision of N. D. B. Connolly, and she currently serves as Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of History at the University of Virginia.

Clayton Vaughn-Roberson's book manuscript, “Fascism with a Jim Crow Face: The National Negro Congress and the Global Popular Front,” addresses African Americans’ central contributions to the interwar anti-fascist movement, exploring in particular the transnational anti-fascism of the National Negro Congress (NNC).  The NNC, through its occupation of key positions in the Popular Front, insisted that overcoming Jim Crow, labor exploitation, and extralegal violence was critical to preempting fascism in the United States.  Dr. Vaughn-Roberson’s innovative, worthy manuscript, which examines the convergence of the NNC’s global and local activism, draws on extensive work in the NNC papers as well as those of a number of key participants.  The book, which will make an important contribution, is under consideration with the University of North Carolina Press.  Dr. Vaughn-Roberson received his Ph.D. in History from Carnegie Mellon University in 2019 under the supervision of Nico Slate.  He currently serves as Research Fellow and Special Faculty in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University.

SHAFR's Michael J. Hogan Foreign Language Fellowship honors the long-time editor of Diplomatic History and is intended to promote research in foreign-language sources by graduate students. The committee is pleased to award the 2020 Hogan Fellowship to Andisheh Ghaderi, a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas.  She currently holds an M.A. in French Literature from Michigan State University.  Her dissertation project, “American Dream: Critical Perspectives by Francophone Immigrant Writers,” analyzes how representations of the United States and the American Dream have evolved in Francophone Haitian Literature.  Ghaderi’s project offers a fascinating examination of how the United States is imagined from outside its national boundaries.  In doing so, it merges the study of literature with American foreign relations in important and imaginative ways.  The fellowship will allow Ghaderi to pursue language courses in Haitian Creole at Florida International University this summer.

The Graduate Student Grants & Fellowships Committee—chaired by Sarah Miller-Davenport and including Gregg Brazinsky, Sam Lebovic, and Kate Burlingham—also made a number of awards at the SHAFR luncheon:

Ji Soo Hong & Sarah Miller-Davenport

Ji Soo Hong received the W. Stull Holt Dissertation Fellowship, which was established to honor World War I veteran and long-time University of Washington History Professor W. Stull Holt.  Her dissertation, “Business of Détente: The Transpacific Development of Siberia in the Age of Energy Crisis.”  Her research examines the seemingly unlikely cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union in the oil and gas fields of Cold War Siberia. As both superpowers faced energy shortages in the 1970s, they worked together to develop the Siberian gas and petrochemical industries. The dissertation demonstrates that détente was fueled not only by political concerns but also by economic pressure from below.  Hong is a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University working under the direction of Ethan Pollack.

Aries Li won the Stuart L. Bernath Dissertation Research Grant, which was endowed by the Bernath Family.  Her dissertation, “Shared Past, Discordant Memories: American and Chinese Remembrance of the U.S. World War II Military Presence in China,” combines social and cultural history to explore the role of public memory in the shaping of perceptions between the United States and China, with a focus on the memorialization of those U.S. servicemen and women who served to support the Chinese fight against the Japanese invasion in the 1940s.  The project opens up valuable new avenues for re-interpreting the U.S.-China relationship and how wartime memories can have lasting legacies for influencing the diplomatic environment.  Li is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University supervised by David Fogelsong.  Sarah Miller-Davenport, chair of the committee, makes the award to Aries in the image to the left.

Sarah Sklaw has been awarded the Lawrence Gelfand-Armin Rappaport-Walter LaFeber Fellowship, established to honor Gelfand, founding member and former SHAFR president; Rappaport, founding editor of Diplomatic History; and LaFeber, former president of SHAFR.  Sklaw will use these funds to conduct research in Nicaragua for her dissertation, “Tell Your Mama to Surrender: Gender, Revolution, and Development in Nicaragua, 1972-1995,” which examines the relationship between gender and development in U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.  She counters existing historiography by focusing on how local actors, such as homemakers and community organizers, engaged with international development, challenging and retooling programs to meet their own needs.  Sklaw is a doctoral candidate at New York University under the supervision of Monica Kim.

Eleven doctoral students received Samuel Flagg Bemis Dissertation Research Grants to further their doctoral research projects:

Arash Azizi, won for his dissertation, “Arabs and Iranians in the Making of the Global Sixties: Transnational Revolutionary Alliances and Cold War Connections,” which focuses on the relationship between the Arab and Iranian left from the Iraqi revolution of 1958 to the Iranian revolution of 1978-79.  While most historians study Arab and Iranian activists separately, Azizi shows that radical and revolutionary Arab and Iranian parties, movements, and activists interacted in complex ways, yielding various kinds of political visions, alliances and tensions.  Moreover, they were united not just by the support they received from Moscow but by a revolutionary Middle Eastern internationalism.  Azizi is a Ph.D. candidate at New York University under the supervision of Zachary Lockman.  Azizi is pictured above receiving his award from Sarah Miller-Davenport.


Aniket De’s dissertation, “United States of India: American and the Making of Federalism in South Asia, 1900-1947,” analyzes the role of American connections in shaping federalist thought and politics in South Asia in the half-century leading up to Indian independence.  Drawing on a variety of English, Bengali, and Hindi sources, the study will provide new insight into the social, political, and intellectual histories of Indo-U.S. relations and new perspectives on the history of Indian anticolonialism.  De is a Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University, working under the supervision of Sugata Bose.


Arang Ha’s dissertation “Free Labor, Free Trade, and Free Immigration: The Vision of the Pacific Community after the Civil War” also received a Bemis grant.  Ha’s project traces the trajectory of Republican free labor ideology as it intersected with the politics of the China trade and Chinese immigration in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Working at the intersection of diplomatic, economic, and social history, the study will provide a new account of the politics of trans-Pacific relations.  Ha is a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, working under the supervision of Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu.


Aden Knaap also won a Bemis Grant to further research his dissertation, “Judging the World: International Courts and the Origins of World Organization, 1899–1945.”  Knaap argues that the origins of U.S. support for world organization can be traced back to 1899, when the United States provided crucial support for a set of international courts located in Europe and the Americas.  Unlike older tribunals, these courts were permanent and multilateral, possessed broad jurisdiction, and applied and made international law.  Knaap’s dissertation reveals a deep and persistent U.S. interest in world organization, which many Americans believed would further the U.S. “legalist empire” that began well before the formation of the League of Nations and the United Nations.  He is a PhD candidate at Harvard University under the supervision of David Armitage.


Mira Kohl was recognized for her dissertation, “A Railway for South American Unity: Migration and Regionalism on the Bolivian Frontier, 1935-1964,” which examines relations between the United States and Bolivia. Specifically, she explores the early 20th-century attempt by Bolivia and Brazil to build an interoceanic railway that would fuse relations between the two Latin American countries and undercut U.S. imperialist designs on the region.  She will use SHAFR funds to travel to Bolivia in order to finish her research there.  Kohl is a doctoral candidate at Tulane University working under the supervision of Justin Wolfe.

Kevan Malone received a Bemis Travel Grant for his dissertation, “The Magnetic Frontier: Urbanization and Environmental Diplomacy at the Tijuana-San Diego Border, 1920-1999.”  Malone’s research explores the paradox at the center of the border zone’s development: the cities on either side grew in tandem, becoming increasingly interrelated, even as the United States and Mexico erected barriers between them.  This “magnetic frontier” drew U.S. capital south and Mexican labor north and fueled rapid urbanization in both San Diego and Tijuana, even as two distinct landscapes and economies emerged.  Malone is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, San Diego, under the supervision of Nancy Kwak.  He is pictured above receiving his award from committee chair Dr. Sarah Miller-Davenport.


Ashley Serpa-Flack’s dissertation, “Shadow Diplomacy: The United States, the Portuguese Empire and the Cold War, 1961-1974” was also recognized.  She presents an innovative take on a well-covered story, namely the U.S. interest in and efforts to hold on to the Lajes Field air base on the Azores.  Serpa-Flack shifts attention to the role of transnational non-state activities in advocating for the continuation of Portugal’s colonial power and the domestic political battles that were fought in Washington regarding both the role of outside influence and the centrality of anti-Communism in the U.S. system.  By doing so, the dissertation makes a strong case that even the well-known episodes in American foreign relations can be analyzed anew if new perspectives are taken on how to approach them.  Serpa-Flack is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis, supervised by Kathryn Olmstead.


Varsha Venkatasubramanian won a Bemis Grant for her dissertation, “Damned if You Dam: US-Indo Relations and the Rise of Environmental Opposition to Dam-Building,” which examines the emergence of India’s hydroelectric dam projects as a focus of popular protest movements in the 1980s and 1990s. As dams have been central to India’s post-1947 vision of development, Venkatasubramanian’s dissertation argues that anti-dam protests offered a broader critique of Indian democracy, environmental politics, and Indian foreign relations.  Venkatasubramanian is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, working under the supervision of Daniel Sargent.


Lael Weinberger’s dissertation “The Politics of International Law in the United States, 1912-1954,” also received a Bemis Grant.  It explores the internationalist commitments of U.S. lawyers through the interwar period.  Based on research in the papers and publications of a wide variety of attorneys, the dissertation will provide a new account of both the rise of the international rights regime and the controversies it has produced in domestic American politics and law.  Weinberger is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, working under the supervision of Mark Bradley.


Sally Chengji Xing was also recognized for her dissertation, “‘Pacific Crossings’: Sino-American Intellectual Exchange and the Architecture of Educational Reform in China, 1919-1949.”  This is a transnational intellectual history that analyzes how U.S. intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century influenced Chinese educational reform and, in turn, were influenced by their experiences in China.  By focusing on the Pacific, her dissertation intervenes in the existing historiography on transnational intellectual history, which emphasizes trans-Atlantic exchange.  Xing is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University working under the direction of Mae Ngai.


Kelsey Zavelo also received a Bemis grant for her dissertation, “Apartheid Diplomacy: South Africa and the Rise of the American Right.”  It explores the efforts of the South African government to generate a transnational constituency of support for its apartheid policies and how this coincided with and collaborated with the rise of the American New Right in the 1970s and 1980s.  The dissertation reconfigures not only the South African role in international affairs but also the transnational interconnectedness involved in shifts in the U.S. political environment.  Zavelo is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University working under the supervision of Dirk Bonker.