2017 Prize Winners Announced

The German Studies Association is pleased to announce the following prizes, which were awarded at the Forty-First Anniversary Conference in Atlanta on 6 October 2017:

DAAD Book Prize for best book in History and Social Sciences published in 2015 or 2016:

The winner is Professor Greg Eghigian (Pennsylvania State University), The Corrigible and the Incorrigible: Science, Medicine and the Convict in Twentieth Century Germany (Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press, 2015).

Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:

Greg Eghigian’s book, The Corrigible and the Incorrigible: Science, Medicine and the Convict in Twentieth Century Germany, traces scientific, medical, and administrative approaches to criminality, policing, incarceration, efforts at rehabilitation, and therapeutic practices across 20th century Germany. Impeccably researched, fluidly written, beautifully crafted, and measured in tone, this study is driven by a desire to probe the “correctional imagination”—namely, an aspirational project, both punitive and rehabilitative, that mobilized notions of “good and bad, normal and pathological, corrigible and incorrigible” to shape the management of criminal behavior and the fate of offenders. Revising Foucault, Eghigian astutely emphasizes the chronic disparity between ambitions and reality: the plans of those with power always fell short. Nonetheless, the sum of such efforts had a lasting impact and produced “influential visions of crime, the criminal and human nature.” Eghigian's work shows, among other things, how rehabilitation efforts could emerge as much out of anxiety about the threat of recidivism as out of optimism or progressive social science.

Based upon archival research that spans three regimes (National Socialist, East German, West German), sophisticated in its use of theory, and masterful in its deployment of an impressive range of multi-disciplinary scholarship, the book is written in engaging prose and clearly articulates its substantial intellectual and historiographical contributions. Prof. Eghigian’s nuanced analysis is sometimes surprising and always thought-provoking, undermining conventional views and narratives regarding the Third Reich and its relation to developments in the Weimar, Cold War, and post-Cold War eras. His insights, moreover, transcend the German context, shedding light on conceptions of “criminality” as well as penal and therapeutic practices in liberal democratic states. Erudite and ambitious, this book demonstrates what a specialized historical study of Germany has to offer other fields. It is an exemplary piece of scholarship that makes an original contribution to German historiography and speaks beyond the German context to interrogate the ways that criminality and the human capacity for improvement have been – and continue to be – understood and addressed in the broader North Atlantic world of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Prize Committee:  Professors Heide Fehrenbach (History, Northern Illinois University, chair), David Ciarlo (University of Colorado—Boulder), and Daniel Riches (University of Alabama).

DAAD Article Prize for best article in Literature and Cultural Studies published in the German Studies Review in 2015 or 2016:

The winner is Professor Maria Makela (California College of the Arts), "Rejuvenation and Regen(d)eration: Der Steinachfilm, Sex Glands, and Weimar-Era Visual and Literary Culture," German Studies Review 38, no. 1 (February 2015) 35-62.

Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:

Maria Makela's well-argued and well-formulated essay, "Rejuvenation and Regen(d)eration:  Der Steinachfilm, Sex Glands, and Weimar-Era Visual and Literary Culture," has an impressive range for its interdisciplinary breadth and depth, engaging at once visual, literary and film studies, medical discourses, as well as gender and sexuality studies. While it makes a unique contribution to its discreet area of inquiry, it also puts a vast array of fields into conversation with ease.  Makela uses an interdisciplinary approach to consider Der Steinachfilm (1923), about which little has hitherto been published. Makela presents the era's lively discourse about sex, gender formation and appearance, and also on aging and rejuvenation. Eugen Steinach, a professor of physiology at the University of Vienna and the most of famous endocrinologist of the era, experimented with the transplantation of ovaries and testicles and argued that hormones helped to define the physiology of sex and gender identity. This turn of the century discourse, which intensified at the end of World War I and throughout the 1920s, provides the context out of which Der Steinachfilm arose. The film had two iterations: a scientific version released in 1922, entitled Steinachsforschungen (Steinach's Research) and the popular version released in 1923.  This film and the related scientific and popular discourse inflected much Weimar-era cultural production and provide new perspectives on the era's canonical visual and literary texts, including Anton Räderscheidt's painting “Selbstbildnis” (Self-Portrait, 1928), Vicki Baum's novel Helene Willfüer (1929), Hannah Höch's photomontages and Til Brugmann's literary grotesques.

Makela's article deftly reads together Weimar-era medical and scientific discourses; visual, literary and filmic texts; and sex and gender studies, making a substantive contribution to these fields. Additionally, it is so accessibly written that one could assign it to undergraduates or give it to people outside academia. An impressive range of illustrations undescores the power of the argument. A very well-written, engaging, and edifying read!

Prize Committee:  Professors Christina Gerhardt (University of Hawai’i, chair), Tobias Boes (University of Notre Dame), and Sonja Klocke (University of Wisconsin—Madison).

Sybil Halpern Milton Prize for best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2015 or 2016:

This year the committee awarded the prize equally to two books. The winners are Professor Wolf Gruner (University of Soithern California), Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jüdische Antworten 1939-1945 (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2016), and Professor Gavriel D. RosenfeldHi Hitler! How the Nazi Past Is Normalized in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:

The Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize for 2017 is awarded equally to two books: Wolf Gruner, Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jūdische Antworten 1939-1945 (Wallstein Verlag, 2016) and Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Normalized in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

In Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jüdische Antworten 1939-1945 (Wallstein Verlag, 2016), Wolf Gruner argues that the Czech Protectorate became a testing ground for Nazi policies implemented elsewhere. Gruner’s research convincingly revises the dominant view in the historical literature that the implementation of the Holocaust was organized centrally in Berlin. Gruner shows that occupied Czechoslovakia was a site of innovation and local initiative in the persecution of Czech Jews and that non-German antisemitism played a greater role than has been previously acknowledged. This groundbreaking and well researched book displays Gruner’s masterful command of the historiography on the Holocaust. Additionally, he challenges assumptions that Jews passively accepted their fate, by documenting their creative and tenacious struggle. Gruner’s book makes a major contribution to Holocaust research.

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld’s Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Normalized in Contemporary Culture is an outstanding contribution to the study of the historiography, memory, and fictional representation of the Holocaust and Nazism in both high and low realms of our contemporary culture. Rosenfeld criticizes the term “normalization” as an impulse to domesticate history that forecloses a moral engagement with the history of National Socialism and the Holocaust. The focus of the book is on normalizing Nazi history and culture in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Eastern Europe, and Israel in the 21st century. Rosenfeld’s extensive research covers the evolution of cultural memory across genres and moves deftly from trivial Internet memes to counterfactual historical narratives that bridge the historical and the literary. With its lively style, useful theoretical framework for analysis, and its illuminating presentation of novels, movies, and memes, the book should have a major impact on future scholarly studies and impact popular views of normalization, as well.

Prize Committee:  Professors Donna Harsch (Carnegie Mellon University, chair), Jonathan Skolnik (University of Massachusetts--Amherst), and Reinhard Zachau (University of the South).

Graduate Student Essay Prize for 2017

The winner is Claudia Kreklau (Emory University), for her essay on “Travel, Technology, and Theory: The Aesthetics of Ichthyology during the Second Scientific Revolution.” It will be published in a forthcoming issue of the German Studies Review.

Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:

On behalf of the GSA Committee charged with deciding the 2017 Graduate Student Essay Prize, we are delighted to present the Committee’s choice of the essay, “Travel, Technology, and Theory: The Aesthetics of Ichthyology during the Second Scientific Revolution,” by Claudia Keklau, Emory University. The decision was very easy, with all judges independently coming to the same verdict.

Most immediately, the essay stood out for its clear organization, its accessible, lucid writing, and its deep level of research. Each of the reviewers independently noted that they could understand this essay even though the topic was beyond their own area of expertise. I would like to highlight that this—understandability—was a key reason for the unanimous nomination, because presenting research such that a wide audience can follow and find it interesting is a skill that is sometimes underappreciated in the academic world. Yet Claudia Keklau achieved just that, and I hope she will continue to nurture that skill as she advances in her career.

The essay posits that knowledge of the world was tied to three things—world travel, technology, and aesthetics—specifically using the example of fish/fishes, and how knowledge and appreciation of fish/fishes increased during the second scientific revolution around 1800. For the overwhelming majority of human existence, the sea was perceived as threatening, and creatures inhabiting that world below water were seen as ugly and horrid.  Early naturalists encountered fish only in their dead form—slimy, pale, and smelly—and so it is not surprising that early representations of fish, in books, for instance, reflect that unpleasant perception. However, as this essay shows, between 1780 and 1840, perceptions of fish changed. Technological advances in printing with color plates contributed to that, as it became possible to depict fish in life-like colors. Advances in sea faring technology and underwater exploration, making travel safer and allowing more easily to observe fish alive in their natural surroundings surely were just as important for this shift in attitudes.

The essay is based on a wealth of records and sources from all across Europe, including publications, scientific cabinet collections, and travel accounts. Whether one comes from the angle of the historian, or literary scholar, or naturalist, this essay offers innovative and persuasive perspectives on the intersection of the natural world with technology and human intervention. As Keklau shows, the emerging perception of the natural world shows many parallels in different cultural settings. Characteristic for central Europe is that here, attitudes toward the natural world were shaped by aesthetics and romanticism more than elsewhere in Europe.  

Prize Committee:  Professors  Almut Spalding (Illinois College, chair), Margaret Lewis (University of Tennessee, Martin), and Jeffrey Luppes (Indiana University, South Bend).

Heartiest congratulations to our 2017 prize winners!