Beyond Respectability awarded OAH Merle Curti Intellectual History Award

We are pleased to announce that Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney C. Cooper has won the Organization of American Historians Merle Curti Intellectual History Award. The award was announced at the OAH’s annual meeting in Sacramento, April 12-14. The award committee said:

“Brittney C. Cooper’s, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (University of Illinois, 2017) is a theoretically-sophisticated intervention in United States intellectual history in the post-emancipation era. Through close readings of the work of Anna Julia Cooper, Fannie Barrier Williams, Mary Church Terrell, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara, Beyond Respectability challenges readers to examine their assumptions about who counts as a “thinker” or a “public intellectual.” Though Cooper’s subjects are well known as activists and doers, Cooper’s careful probing constructs an “intellectual genealogy” that uses their thought to challenge the Great Race Man paradigm, as well as the rubrics of “respectability” and “dissemblance” so prevalent in African-American and African-American women’s history. Cooper argues instead that black women intellectuals have deployed an “embodied discourse” to argue for their inclusion. Cooper’s work thus not only disrupts theoretical models in African-American women’s histories, but also a masculinist model of intellectual history that privileges disembodied discourse. The committee was particularly impressed by her insistence on using the ideas of black women themselves as tools of analysis – using an Anna Julia Cooperian mode of analysis; outlining the National Association of Colored Women as a “school of thought”; articulating “listing” as a mode of intellectual genealogy. Rather than importing theory in order to interpret ideas, Cooper constructs her theories of black women’s intellectual production using modes of analysis informed by the work of her subjects themselves. The result is a bold work that is sure to change the conversation across many fields within our discipline.”

Congratulations Brittney!

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