Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize

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 2020 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 experience. 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).​

We are happy to announce that the 2019 Book Prize committee has selected Suad Musa's Hawks and Doves in Sudan’s Armed Conflict: Al-Hakkamat Baggara Women of Darfur, as the winner of the Aidoo-Snyder Prize for best original scholarly work. Suad Musa’s Hawks and Doves is an impressive work. Meticulous and imaginative, incorporating methodological approaches that will resonate in both humanistic as well as data-driven fields, the book is ambitious in its scope and grounded in its clarity about the stakes of maintaining a complex understanding of the various and sometimes counterintuitive ways in which the categories of “women” and “war” may come together in contemporary South Sudan (and beyond). Musa presents a clear picture of the history and trajectories of the Darfur wars and the fluidity of race, gender, ethnicity, and nationalism in those wars. A bold book, Hawks and Doves problematizes the role of women in conflict, shifting the narrative away from that of women as peacemakers or victims of war.

Musa’s work provides unique access and insights into a part of the world that generates strong and vocal opinions from many quarters but that actually permits access to very few. Through her nuanced ethnographic reading of identities, affiliations, nationalisms, and the interplay of micro and macro politics in the region, Musa illuminates a very unexpected figure as a player in the mobilization of ethnonationalist fervor and conflicts within the nascent nation-state. This book focuses on a class of Arab descendant women in Dar Fur society, the Al-Hakkamat, who are reared to be singers and who are highly respected and influential, being allowed to speak publicly on political issues. They can be praise singers but they can also destroy reputations. For Musa, the power of the al-Hakkamat harkens back to pre-condominium times when many women held high political office, most notably in the Fur sultanate. Musa’s finely detailed work on the content and context of al-Hakkamat writings, collected and distilled between 2006 and 2016, raises important questions about the position from which the al-Hakkamat speak.

Hawks and Doves is about the power that Al-Hakkamat women wielded in championing a particular militarist form of masculinity as being at the heart of (ethno)national identity, and the role that their discourse has played in the armed conflicts in the region. While Al-Hakkamat women could have been doves of peace, their commitment to a defensive politics of nationalism (with intent to preserve their own safety) made them into hawks of war.

Ultimately, Al-Hakkamat women struggle within a faltering national economy that places special pressures on their most local contexts, where they are most highly esteemed, compelling them to effectively peddle their voices in a larger militarized market, one partly of their own making. The book asks what role each individual can play in beating the drums of war or fanning the winds of peace. A great addition to the scholarship on militarism, among other fields, Hawks and Doves stand as an intellectually rigorous, politically challenging and ethically undertaken work of first-rate feminist Africanist scholarship.


The Committee also recognizes the submissions Angela Impey and Heather Switzer.

2019 First Runner Up

Angela Impey, Song Walking: Women, Music and Environmental Justice in an African Borderland (University of Chicago Press, 2018)

2019 Second Runner Up

Heather Switzer, When the Light is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya (University of Illinois Press, 2018)





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