Volume 17 (2019)
Quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall)
Early American Studies:
An Interdisciplinary Journal
Sponsored by The McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Early American Studies is now a quarterly journal. The main reason we decided to move from three to four issues a year is to accommodate the increasing number of submissions and McNeil Center-sponsored conferences. The latter, along with initiatives of past fellows and others, warrant the publication of two special/theme/guest-edited issues a year, along with the two regular issues. The journal is dedicated to publishing original research on the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. Contributors and subscribers span the variety of disciplines concerned with early America, including history, art history, literary studies, religious studies, music, philosophy, and material culture studies, among others.
Congratulations to Eran Zelnik, winner of the Dorothy Ross Prize given by the Society for US Intellectual History.
The Dorothy Ross Prize is awarded annually for the best academic article in U.S. intellectual history published in the previous calendar year by an emerging scholar. The recipient is Eran Zelnik (California State University, Chico) for "Yankees, Doodles, Fops, and Cuckolds: Compromised Manhood and Provincialism in the Revolutionary Period, 1740-1781,” Early American Studies 16:3 (Summer 2018): 514-544.
Written in an energetic and engaging tone, Zelnik examines 18th century culture wars between town and country, elites and commoners, empire and colony all fighting to define manhood on the eve of the American Revolution. Zelnik connects personal identity with nascent national identity, while linking the fields of intellectual, gender, class, and political history.
The John M. Murrin Prize
The winner of the 2018 Murrin Prize for the best article published in that year's issues of Early American Studies is Sara E. Johnson for “‘Your Mother Gave Birth to a Pig’: Power, Abuse, and Planter Linguistics in Baudry des Lozière’s Vocabulaire Congo,” which appeared in 16.1 (Winter 2018): 7-40.
The Prize is named for John Murrin, Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University, who has long been one of the most active members of the McNeil Center community, as former chair of its Executive Board, as a fixture of its Advisory Board, and as a witty and insightful participant in its seminars. Few historians can match him as a master of the historical essay form, and so this prize is a particularly fitting tribute to his long career and his many contributions to early American studies.
Recipients of the prize, which includes a certificate and a cash award, are chosen by a sub-committee of the EAS editorial board, whose members this year were Denver Brunsman (chair), Rose Beiler, Caitlin Fitz, Carla Pestana, Martha Schoolman and Megan Walsh. The committee provided the following statement about Sara Johnson’s article:
Sara E. Johnson’s essay uses Baudry des Lozière’s Vocabulaire Congo (1803), a phrasebook designed to help francophone slaveholders control their enslaved Kikongo-speaking Africans, to provide an astonishingly textured and harrowing account of enslaver-enslaved relations in revolutionary-era Saint-Domingue. Through exhaustive research, informed speculation, and empathetic imagination, Johnson derives a stunning amount of information from the seemingly simple lists of translated phrases that Baudry, himself a slaveowner, deemed most essential to human control. Careful, nuanced, and thoroughly interdisciplinary, Johnson’s article reminds us that “African languages were American too.”
Johnson’s article further stands out as an extraordinary study of how linguistics participated in the intersection of systems of power and globalism by the early nineteenth century. She asserts a crucial, but often forgotten fact about the polyvocality of Saint Domingue: Kikongo joined French and Haitian Kreyòl as a lingua franca. The west Central African language provided the Kongolese population in Saint Domingue with a source of self-identity and tool to resist the violence of colonialism. Yet, in Baudry’s Vocabulaire, Johnson finds a chilling attempt to deploy Kikongo as an instrument of labor extraction and psychological abuse. In her words, language was “a weapon of war.”
With its highly original, boundary-crossing argumentation, Johnson’s essay contributes to almost too many subfields to count. They include native studies, black Atlantic studies, Haitian revolutionary studies, French colonial history, and African linguistics (both as a historical and present-day pursuit). Perhaps most important, the article further establishes the “Kongolese Atlantic,” which spanned areas including Saint Domingue, Brazil, Cuba, and the South Carolina/Georgia low country, as a geographical and cultural construct essential to early American studies. With erudition and political urgency, Johnson expands the very definition of what constitutes the American past.
Initial funds for the prize were generously contributed by Professor Murrin's former students. Additional contributions are welcome to endow the award in perpetuity. Checks should be made out to "The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania," with "McNeil Center, Murrin Prize" entered in the memo line, and mailed to McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4531 Contributions are tax-deductible. Questions may be directed to email@example.com
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