2023 Elsa Goveia Book Prize Winners:
Adriana Chira and Tessa Murphy
The Association of Caribbean Historians is pleased to announce that the winners of the 2023 Elsa Goveia Book Prize in recognition of excellence in the field of Caribbean history are: Adriana Chira (Emory University), for Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race Beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge University Press, 2022), AND Tessa Murphy (Syracuse University), for The Creole Archipelago: Race and Borders in the Colonial Caribbean (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).
The prize committee, chaired by Natalie Zacek (University of Manchester) and made up of Linda Rupert (University of North Carolina-Greensboro) and Vikram Tamboli (University of California-Los Angeles) was in unanimous agreement about this award, which was announced at the ACH Annual Conference in Puerto Rico this June. The prize is named for renowned Caribbean historian Elsa Goveia (1925-80).
The following citations were read during our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on June 15:
In Patchwork Freedoms: Law, Slavery, and Race beyond Cuba’s Plantations (Cambridge University Press, 2022), Adriana Chira probes an extensive but little-known archive of legal documents to analyze how Afro-descendent rural cultivators negotiated liberty and landholding rights in nineteenth-century Santiago de Cuba. Her meticulous research demonstrates how protracted struggles against local legal institutions blurred the lines between enslavement and freedom. Chira argues that it was these gradual, lengthy, community-based processes, coupled with the flexibility of customary law, rather than innovations from above, that allowed these landholders to carve out spaces of greater autonomy. Patchwork Freedoms is an important counterpoint to scholarship that emphasize freedoms gained through Atlantic and circum-Caribbean mobility or formal processes of abolition and emancipation. It is essential reading for scholars of Atlantic world slavery, legal regimes, and agrarian societies.
Tessa Murphy’s The Creole Archipelago: Race and Borders in the Colonial Caribbean (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021) reconceptualizes the history of the Eastern Caribbean by centering the role of the region’s indigenous peoples, the Kalinago, in developing inter-island and trans-imperial connections. It offers a history of colonialism that places the Caribbean seascape at the center of the analysis; traces conflict and cooperation across racial, ethnic and geographic divides; and demonstrates the Kalinago’s vital, ongoing role well past initial contact with European settlers. Drawing upon an impressive number and variety of archival resources, Murphy’s work is a major intervention in the history of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Caribbean that moves beyond the focus on individual islands, imperial spheres, and the plantation complex that has dominated much of the historiography of the Lesser Antilles. It will be of great interest to scholars of indigenous, maritime, and trans-imperial history.
Previously awarded every three years, the ACH book prize has been awarded every two years since 1995 and recognizes excellence in the field of Caribbean history If you would like more information on the award, please contact the ACH Secretary-Treasurer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next award will be made at the 56th Annual Conference in 2025. The call for submissions will be issued after the 55th Annual Conference in 2024 and will be open to books published in 2023 and 2024.