SHAFR Announces 2017 Prize Winners

Sunday, January 22, 2017 - 1:30pm

SHAFR Announces 2017 Prize Winners

The Bernath Lecture Prize Committee -- Matthew Jones, London School of Economics and Political Science; Brian DeLay, University of California, Berkeley; and Carol Chin, University of Toronto -- was faced with a particularly difficult decision this year as it had several excellent candidates who were nominated, but after careful deliberation, the final and unanimous choice for the winner of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 2017 Bernath Lecture Prize is Daniel Sargent.  An Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, Sargent has won numerous plaudits for his strikingly ambitious first book, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s. The book has already led many to reconsider the way they view this period and helped to bring the “lost” subject of political economy back into the field; it touches on many different areas, such as human rights, international economics, geopolitics, the rise of non-state actors, ideological shifts, and the agency of key individuals.  One nominator describes it as a “remarkable achievement” that advances “a powerful argument for understanding the fragmentation and transformations of the 1970s, and their connection to the events of the subsequent decade.”  Another hails it as a “landmark contribution,” while as a third put it, “All U.S. international historians of this era must now begin with this book.” 

Sargent’s several book chapters are also praised for the luminous clarity of their prose and their immense value for teaching purposes, and he is now embarked on another large-scale project dealing the rise and fall of the Pax Americana, which promises to connect to a wider reading public.  Sargent has been highly productive in his research but also keen to engage in outreach activities, being called by his nominators, “a superb interlocutor in public settings” and “the best possible public speaker.”  The Bernath Lecture Prize recognizes excellence in teaching, and here Sargent has also shown exemplary engagement and service, with his active involvement with the “Teaching American History” series at Berkeley, pedagogical grants from the Teagle Foundation, and panel presentations on teaching at the AHA.  In view of his outstanding early career achievements and the resounding recommendations he has received from his nominators, we believe Sargent is a worthy winner of the prize and will deliver a memorable Bernath Lecture at the SHAFR luncheon at the American Historical Association Luncheon in January 2018.


Two outstanding research projects were recognized with William Appleman Williams Junior Faculty Grants by this year’s committee of Dustin Walcher (chair, Southern Oregon University), Sarah Snyder (American University), and Keisha Blain (University of Iowa).   Both will benefit substantially from the funding SHAFR provides.  They will also expand our intellectual horizons in important ways.  In “The Geopolitics of Compassion: The International History of the Indochinese Refugee Crisis, 1955-1994,” Sam Vong – Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin – highlights how a range of individuals and state agencies employed the discourse of compassion to respond to several world crises in the twentieth century.  The second awardee, Simon Toner – the Dorothy Borg Postdoctoral Scholar in Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University – reinterprets the last years of the Vietnam War by highlighting the importance of economic development initiatives in “After Tet: The United States, South Vietnam, and Global Development at War, 1968-1975.”  Both projects are likely to make a substantial impact on the field when they are published in book form. 

Sam Vong (left) receives his Williams Fellowship award from committee member Sarah Snyder at the SHAFR Awards Ceremony at the AHA


The 2016 Myrna Bernath Committee -- Ann Heiss, Andy DeRoche, and Meredith Oyen – selected Amanda Demmer, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire, as this year’s winner of the Myrna F. Bernath Fellowship.  Amanda is completing a dissertation titled “The Last Chapter of the Vietnam War: Normalization, Nongovernmental Actors, and the Politics of Human Rights, 1975-1995” under the direction of Kurk Dorsey. 

Amanda Demmer (left) receives the Myrna F. Bernath Fellowship from committee chair Ann Heiss at the SHAFR luncheon at the AHA


The Michael Hogan Foreign Language Fellowship Committee chaired by W. Michael Schmidli (Bucknell University) and including Joy Schulz (Metropolitan Community College) and Arissa Oh (Boston College) recognizes Michael A. Hill with its 2017 award.  A decorated Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hill is currently earning a PhD in the Department of History at the University of Kansas with Sheyda Jahanbani as his doctoral adviser.  His dissertation, “Rehearsal for Empire: the Role of Alaska in the Reimagining of American Empire in the Late Nineteenth Century,” is an international history of Alaska’s place in the expanding American empire.  Hill’s dissertation seeks to illuminate Alaska’s role in the development of an “imperial imaginary” among American policymakers and the public.  Drawing on archival research in Canada, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States, Hill’s dissertation identifies Alaska as a site of contested imperial space between three of the nineteenth-century’s largest empires—a worthy topic that has been largely overlooked by U.S. foreign relations historians.  In particular, this research project promises new insight into U.S.-Russian relations, and Hill will use the Michael Hogan Foreign Language Fellowship to deepen his proficiency in the Russian language.

Joy Schulz (left) recognizes Michael A. Hill with the 2017 Michael J. Hogan Foreign Language Fellowship


The members of SHAFR’s 2016-17 Graduate Student Grants and Fellowship Committee – Todd Bennett (chair), Gregg Brazinksy, Jessica Chapman, Sarah Miller-Davenport, and Geoffrey Stewart – reviewed dozens of outstanding applications for the suite of dissertation research grants and fellowships it administers.

The committee is pleased to announce the award of the Stuart L. Bernath Dissertation Research Grant to Alvita Akiboh, for her project, “Imperial Material: Objects and Identity in the U.S. Colonial Empire,” which shows how the material culture of America's formal empire established the hegemony of U.S. rule in the absence of a significant colonial bureaucracy. Akiboh is a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. Daniel Immerwahr is her advisor.

The committee awards the W. Stull Holt Dissertation Fellowship to Nguyet Nguyen, for her project, “‘The World Is on Our Side’: People’s Diplomacy in the Second Indochina War,” a study of Vietnamese “People’s Diplomats,” who fanned out across the West and worked through transnational networks of sympathizers and the Vietnamese diaspora to stoke opposition to the U.S. war.  Nguyen, a doctoral candidate at American University, won the Bernath Dissertation Research Grant in 2013-14.  Max Paul Friedman is her advisor.

The committee awards the Lawrence Gelfand-Armin Rappaport-Walter LaFeber Dissertation Fellowship to Rachel Steely, for her project, “From Bioprospecting to Biodiesel: Soy Commodity Frontiers in the Twentieth Century,” which promises to draw new connections between international history, agricultural history, and the history of capitalism. Steely is a student at Harvard University. Sven Beckert is her advisor.

The committee also awards Samuel Flagg Bemis Dissertation Research Grants to the following eleven students:

Turgay Akbaba, for his project, “From the ‘Terrible Turk’ to the ‘Incredible Turk’: Reimagining Turkey as an American Ally, 1919-1960,” which examines how modernization and Cold War geopolitics broke down civilizational boundaries in transforming the Turks from an “Oriental” to a “Western” civilization in the minds of American policymakers. Akbaba is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supervised by Cemil Aydin.

Ashley Black, for her research project, “The Politics of Asylum: Cold War Revolutionaries, Human Rights, and Mexican Foreign Policy, 1944-1961,” which conceptualizes asylum and “reception” as political processes in contrast to exile and “expulsion” to explain Mexico's acceptance of leftist political exiles during a period marked by improved relations with the United States and increasing social and political conservatism. Black is a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University supervised by Eric Zolov.

Rachel Bunker, for her project, “Invisible Empire: The Consumer Credit Score and the Making of Global Corporate Power, 1890-1980,” which reveals the little-known story of the credit score and how this empire of information shaped global markets since the late-19th century. Bunker is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University. Jennifer Mittelstadt is her advisor.

Henry Gorman, for his project, “In the Beauty of the Lilies: American Missionaries, Capital, and Empire in Ottoman Syria, 1860-1925,” which explores the social, cultural, and political contexts in which American missionaries operated in the Middle East and offers a pre-history of American empire in the region. Gorman is a student at Vanderbilt University. Paul Kramer is his advisor.

Fumi Inoue, for her project, “American Military Justice in Postwar Japan, 1952-1972,” which offers an innovative new way of looking at the U.S.-Japan relationship during the years after the occupation. Inoue is a student at Boston College. Franziska Seraphim is her advisor.

Robert “Zeb” Larson, for his project, “The Transnational Dimensions of the U.S. Anti-Apartheid Movement,” which promises to shed new light on the influence of non-state actors on the anti-apartheid movement and U.S.-South African relations. Larson is a student at Ohio State University. Peter Hahn is his advisor.

Erik Moore, for his dissertation, "Defining Rights: Contesting Reagan and the Contra War through Human Rights Advocacy," which questions whether NGOs operating in the United States were able to successfully use human rights advocacy to influence American foreign policy and limit the Reagan administration's support for counterrevolutionary forces in Nicaragua. Moore is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oklahoma. Alan McPherson is his supervisor.

Heidi Morefield, for her project, “Making Technology Appropriate: Modernization, Health, and Development in the Global Cold War,” which promises to break new ground in the important new field of critical global health studies.  Morefield is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University.  Jeremy Greene is her adviser.

Kaete M. O'Connell, for her project, “Feeding the Enemy: Humanitarian Aid and the Power of Hunger in Occupied Germany,” exploring food relief in U.S-occupied Germany after World War II and how such relief helped transform the U.S.-German relationship heading into the Cold War.  O’Connell is a student at Temple University.  Petra Goedde is her adviser.

Aileen Teague, for her project, “Americanizing Mexican Drug Enforcement: The War on Drugs in Mexican Politics and Society, 1964-1982,” an examination of U.S. power as it manifested in Mexican politics and society via drug policing.  Teague is a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt University.  Thomas Schwartz is her advisor.

Yuan Yi, for her project, “Malfunctioning Machinery: The Global Making of Textile Factories in Early Twentieth-Century China,” an examination of the industrialization of Chinese textile production in the early twentieth century with emphasis on the machinery business between American manufacturers and Chinese cotton mills.  Yi is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.  Eugenia Lean is her advisor.

SHAFR extends its congratulations to all of the winners and thanks all of the committee members for their hard work at the end of the fall semester.