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Congratulations to AAR's 2019 Book Award Winners

September 12, 2019
Contact: Sarah Levine / (404) 727-3059

The AAR book award juries have selected the 2019 recipients of the Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion and the Best First Book in the History of Religions. This annual competition recognizes new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion. The awards honor books of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity, and importance—books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted.

Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Analytical-Descriptive Studies

J. Lorand Matory, Duke University
The Fetish Revisited: Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make
Duke University Press

Matory illuminates how the social theories developed by Freud and Marx were based on false assumptions about race and religion which served to reinforce the idea of Africa and Africanness as being a foil to Europe and whiteness.

Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Constructive-Reflective Studies

Mara Benjamin, Mount Holyoke College
The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Jewish Thought
Indiana University Press

In this strikingly original book, Mara Benjamin opens readers' eyes to new theological perspectives by making a compelling argument that maternal experience affords a distinctive lens on how to imagine the divine and how to reimagine self, other, neighbor, and outsider.

Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Historical Studies

Geraldine Heng, University of Texas at Austin
The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages
Cambridge University Press

Heng’s book offers a magisterial treatment—both in its scope and depth of analysis and sources utilized—of the genesis of race as a differentiating, discursive and discriminatory analytic category for the European cultural imaginary in areas of law, religion, literature, and the arts. This is equally appealing to medievalists as well as critical race theorists.

Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Textual Studies

Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, Pennsylvania State University
Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in Nepal
Oxford University Press

cover image of Vatine Birkenholtz's "Reciting the Goddess"

The book's impressive historical sweep, from the medieval period to the present day, allows Birkenholtz to persuasively make broader claims about the relationship between the text and the creation of modern Hinduism in Nepal, as well as about the significance of Hindu religious practice for lay women.

Best First Book in the History of Religions

Karin Vélez, Macalester College
The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World
Princeton University Press

cover image of Velez's "The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto"

A work of engaging and deeply imaginative scholarship, Karin Vélez's monograph analyzes not simply the most improbable devotion in early modern Europe—the cult of the “flying” house of Loreto—but offers a compelling new account of the popular globalization of post-Tridentine Catholicism. Rich with imagery and insight and studded with fascinating ethnographic nuggets, it is a book that rewards multiple readings.

Learn more about the AAR Book Awards.