Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize
The 2021 Book Prize committee selected two winners for the Aidoo-Snyder Prize for best scholarly work: Oluwakemi Balogun’s Beauty Diplomacy: Embodying an Emerging Nation and Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué’s Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon.
Beauty Diplomacy (Stanford University Press) is a study of beauty pageants in Nigeria, showing how contestants embody and experience contradictory ideas of gender, class, and citizenship. Through her extensive research, including interviews, participant observation, and archival research, Dr. Oluwakemi Balogun demonstrates how contestants are expected to be ‘authentically’ African and global, from a particular region of the country and represent all of Nigeria, upwardly mobile but not elitist. Her study of beauty pageants also brings to light the way in which they and the winners of them have been and continue to be used to project Nigeria to the world in a positive light. Balogun pushes us to rethink the gendered dynamics of global politics alongside those of beauty pageants.
In Nigeria where people first identify with an ethnic or regional identity, Balogun, on the one hand, shows how beauty pageants are choreographed to become the embodiment of Nigerian nationalism and how, through pageantry, Nigeria tries to shed its negative image and become globally relevant. On the other hand, she shows the evolving nature of pageantry in Nigeria and the unreasonable and burdensome expectations of beauty queens from family, the nation, and the state. In a very apt analysis of the reaction of the state to protests against the Miss World 2002 and the FIFA under-17 World Cup, Balogun shows how diplomacy is linked to masculinity. In essence, beauty diplomacy though important and craved by the state can be discarded in times of conflict. Balogun’s emersion in the process of research as a participant-observer brings a lot of richness to this very relevant book on “gendered” diplomacy and the re-making of Nigeria as a global player through beauty pageants.
Based on extensive and original research, Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon (University of Michigan Press) forces us to pay attention to the roles women played in the separatist movement of Anglophone Cameroon in the years immediately after independence. Dr. Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué’s research demonstrates the important roles played by women, whether as politicians or leaders of organizations. But she also shows how ideas of gender norms, and of ideal womanhood, in particular, were key to the construction and reproduction of an Anglophone Cameroonian identity. Mougoué beautifully navigates the contradictions and tensions experienced by this generation of women alongside their central contribution to the separatist movement.
Through the everyday lives of elite women in Anglophone Cameroon, this book presents a highly charged political experience and situation in which women were not only able to form bonds but also resist and protest against French domination. Mougoué skillfully shows the varied ways in which women contributed to and maintained ethnic and separatist politics in Anglophone Cameroon through food, choice of dress, language, activism in women’s organizations, etc. The vast array of sources used by Mougoué in her research – oral interviews and archival records such as women’s newspaper advice columns, etc. – are quite outstanding and impressive. Her innovative approach can be seen, for example, in her close reading of a cookery book. Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon is an important book that centers on agency, creativity and involvement of women in Anglophone separatism in Cameroon.
The Aidoo-Snyder book prize is awarded by the Women's Caucus of the African Studies Association for an outstanding book that prioritizes African women's experiences. Named in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo, the celebrated Ghanaian novelist and short-story writer, and Margaret Snyder the founding Director of UNIFEM, this $500 prize seeks to acknowledge the excellence of contemporary scholarship being produced by women about African women. In alternate years, the prize is awarded for the best scholarly book, or for the best creative work.
The 2022 Aidoo-Snyder scholarly book prize will be given for the best original creative work written by a woman (or women) that prioritizes African women’s experiences. To this end, the committee invites nominations from publishers or authors. Self-published books are not eligible, and entries may only be submitted for consideration once. The prize is open to authors who have published books in English and English translation in the two years preceding the award year. The books must significantly deal with Africa (including Cape Verde, and the Islands off the West Coast of Africa; Madagascar; and the Indian Ocean Islands of the East African Coast). The 2022 call for applications will be posted in February 2022.