Stimpson Prize for Feminist Scholarship awarded to Ellen Samuels

Historians in the News

The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce the award of the 2011 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship to Ellen Samuels, Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Named in honor of the Founding Editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the Catharine Stimpson Prize is designed to recognize excellence and innovation in the work of emerging feminist scholars.

Professor Samuels’s award-winning essay, “Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet,” is impressively interdisciplinary, combining historical analysis, visual culture studies, feminist theory, and critical race theory to explore representations of Millie and Christine McKoy, African American conjoined twins born into slavery in North Carolina in 1851. Physically joined at the pelvis, the twins were objects of curiosity, inspection, and invasion from the moment of their birth. The article situates medical and lay interest in their unique pelvic anatomy within the larger contexts of the nineteenth-century freak show, the pathologization of black female sexuality, and the complex dynamics of American enslavement and emancipation. Advancing a re-visionary understanding of the McKoys, the author illuminates dimensions of agency and subjectivity largely overlooked or misunderstood by historians to date. By examining two key representations of the McKoy sisters in light of newly discovered historical evidence, Samuels’s study enriches our understanding of the sisters’ remarkable lives while also expanding current conversations within disability, feminist, and African American studies regarding individuals who possess what Rosemarie Garland Thomson has termed "extraordinary bodies." Developing a “critical feminist disability praxis,” Samuels advocates a more rigorous ethics of representation with regard to narratives and images of the McKoys, particularly in relation to certain distorted or exploitive images that continue to circulate up to the present day.
Read entire article at Chicago Journals

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