2011-2012 Winners

This annual award, which carries a $500 prize, has been established with the generous support of Guido Ruggiero, Professor of History, in memory of his brother, David John Ruggiero.


Jacqueline Grant (History)

Jacqueline Grant Jacqueline Grant’s dissertation, Public Performance: Free People of Color Fashioning Identities in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cuba, explores in depth and with great subtlety how free people of color created identities and sustained community in an environment of repression. Both Spanish and Cuban regimes imposed significant restrictions that largely prevented libres de color from obtaining educational and employment opportunities, but which also ridiculed their cultural heritage in writing and often forbade them to perform in public. Grant shows how free blacks fought to create their own public space as they developed an oppositional identity to the ones creole and peninsular Cubans dictated. By forming their own associations and by asserting their own traditions of dance and music, free blacks presented themselves on their own terms and thus found ways to participate in a Cuban public sphere that had sought to exclude them. Deeply researched in public and private archives and libraries, Grant’s dissertation impressively deploys several methodologies drawn from the different disciplines of history, performance, dance, and anthropology. The interdisciplinary appeal of the dissertation is wide and it will attract the attention of scholars in political science, sociology, anthropology, and literary and cultural studies. It is a strikingly original, even pioneering, work that demonstrates considerable accomplishment and sophistication in thinking and analyzing across disciplines. Elegantly written, Public Performance should appeal to a wide range of readers, both in the academic and the non-academic environment. It makes a significant contribution to the history of the Caribbean and of the public sphere throughout the Atlantic world.


Nick Wiltsher (Philosophy)

Nick Wiltsher Nick Wiltsher’s dissertation, The Structure of Sensory Imagination is a nuanced and impressive discussion of a human capacity that underlies so much of what is studied in the Humanities, the capacity to imagine. Wiltsher is concerned specifically with sensory imagination, experiences like picturing to yourself a parrot or hearing its squawk in your head. Drawing on gestalt psychology and theories of perception and using examples from music and the visual arts, Wiltsher skillfully examines existing theories of sensory imagining and proposes a novel one of his own. The dissertation is elegantly written, extremely clear, and will be of particular interest not only to philosophers but to psychologists and students of art, literature, and music.