The SAGE Memory Studies Journal and MSA Outstanding First Book Annual Award

Many thanks to all participants for submitting your excellent books for consideration for the SAGE Memory Studies and the MSA outstanding first book award. The nomination committee has worked its way through quite an abundance of innovative, impressive and thought-provoking new monographs. The choice really was a difficult one.

The committee unanimously chose Catherine Gilbert’s From Surviving to Living: Voice, Trauma and Witness in Rwandan Women’s Writing (Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2018) as the winner of this year’s award. In this compelling work, Catherine combines the study of literature as testimony with skilful and sensitive  use of existing theory, moving the dialogue between trauma and memory studies forward in new and compelling ways. The book is beautifully written and well structured. One of the book’s most innovative contributions lies in its use of Rwandan women’s testimony to challenge established Western uses of trauma theory to deal with the memory of atrocity. It engages long-standing and difficult questions about who has the right to speak, write, and be heard regarding traumatic historical events, while rethinking the jagged borders of witnessing between writer, reader, and addressee. The book is especially noteworthy for its attention to the possibilities and limits of collaboration between Rwandan women seeking to have their voices heard and their “enabling” collaborators in the West. Ultimately it presents the reader with new ways of thinking about the structures of national mourning and reconciliation, silence and voice, and the agency of testimony. This book also provides an important set of voices that are sometimes at risk for being silenced.

Honourable mentions

Two other books stood out in particular, and the award committee would further like to recognize Amy Sodaro’s Exhibiting Atrocity. Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence (Rutgers University Press, 2018) and Yifat Gutman’s Memory Activism: Reimagining the Past for the Future in Israel-Palestine (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017) with an honourable mention for their outstanding scholarship and excellent presentation.

The nomination committee

Jonathan Bach, Steven Brown, Siobhan Kattago, Ihab Saloul and Tea Sindbæk Andersen