History Department
History Department

"Forging Diaspora" picks up two major book prizes

Tue, February 21, 2012
Photo courtesy of King Davis

Dr. Frank Guridy's first book, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010), has been honored with two major book awards.

The American Historical Association and The Association for the Study of African American Life & History’s Wesley-Logan Prize for 2011 was presented to Dr. Guridy at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in January. The Wesley-Logan Prize is awarded to an outstanding work involving the history of the dispersion, settlement, adjustment, and/or the return of peoples originally from Africa. Since 1992, when it was first established in memory of two early pioneers in the field, Charles H. Wesley and Rayford W. Logan, this prize has been given annually to one or more exemplary contributions to the field, and Dr. Guridy's book is the twentieth recipient of this very prestigious prize.

Forging Diaspora has also been awarded the Elsa Goveia book prize for 2009-2010 by the Association for Caribbean Historians. This year, the Association sought to honor a book that makes an original contribution to Caribbean history by displaying scholarly vision, excellent research, and outstanding writing. Twenty-five books were nominated, and Dr. Guridy's was chosen as the most noteworthy from a pool of excellent specialist work.

Being honored by both an organization focusing specifically on Caribbean history and by the broader and more general AHA prize demonstrates that Dr. Guridy's Forging Diaspora extends cutting-edge research in a precise area into an expansive and inclusive story relevant to some of the big questions in modern historiography. This book innovatively brings Cuban history to bear on the wider African diaspora, and diaspora into conversation with transnational history, by drawing from a wide range of archival materials to show how African diaspora identities were reconstituted during the first half of the twentieth century.

Guridy's book also focuses on the cultural interactions between Afro-Cubans and African Americans through four case studies of networks and exchanges, including Cuban students at the Tuskegee Institute, the importance of Garveyism in both countries, the connections between the Harlem Renaissance and the Afrocubanist movement during the 1920s and 1930s, and tourism networks during the 1930s and 1940s Good Neighbor and early Cold War years.  Through these varied theaters of interchange and affiliation, Guridy demonstrates how descendants of African people negotiated a common identity across national and cultural differences, an identity that did not, the book argues, discount the importance of national allegiances.

When asked why he decided to write a transnational history of diaspora formation, he replied "The more I looked at race within a national context in Cuba, the more I realized this was an international story." As a result, he expanded both his archival research and his theoretical vision to encompass a more inter-relational narrative of how the members of diasporas constitute and reinvent their connections and affiliations as their cultural surroundings evolve. Dr. Guridy presents diaspora as a type of transnational 'imagined community.' He historicizes both the commonalities and the contrasts between Afro-Cuban and African American identities as they formed in practice, not just theory. Forging Diaspora "highlights the importance of 'routes' instead of 'roots,'" as Dr. Guridy eloquently states it in his book.

Dr. Guridy writes cultural and social history that challenges long-held assumptions about identity formation, cultural affiliation, and the power of nationalist and imperialist practices, and his passion for his project and mastery of his subjects has been fittingly rewarded by these two eminent scholarly organizations.

Dr. Guridy is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Warfield Center for African and African-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned his Ph.D. in 2002 from the University of Michigan. Since joining the faculty of the University of Texas in 2004, he received the distinguished Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award for 2009-2010, and has also been selected an Institute for Historical Studies Fellow. Along with Forging Diaspora and the edited volume Beyond el Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America (NYU Press, 2010) with Gina M. Pérez and Adrian Burgos, Jr.

Dr. Guridy has published essays in the Radical History Review, Caribbean Studies, Social Text, and Cuban Studies. Currently Dr. Guridy is working on the history of the Houston Astrodome, combining his devotion to sports with his dedication to cutting-edge and innovative history.

Professor Guridy on "The Transnational Black Diaspora with Poems, Letters, and Song" on Not Even Past:

See the AHA Awards article here:

Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow UNC Press site:

Listen an audio podcast of Dr. Guridy speaking about his book in the LLILAS Faculty Book Talks series.

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