Judith Hamera awarded 2020 Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research

Written by
Sarah Malone, Program in American Studies
Nov. 25, 2020
Cover of 'Unfinished Business' by Judith Hamera

The Dance Studies Association (DSA) awarded the 2020 Oscar G. Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research to Unfinished Business: Michael Jackson, Detroit, and the Figural Economy of American Deindustrialization (Oxford University Press, 2017) by Judith Hamera, professor of dance in the Lewis Center for the Arts and American studies, and an AMS core faculty and executive committee member.

The prize is awarded yearly to the best book in dance published during the previous three calendar years. DSA adjudicates the award and the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism at the University of Texas at Austin provides a monetary prize of $1,000. The center initiated the prize to recognize the finest scholarship in theatre, dance, and performance history.

Unfinished Business was named winner along with Clare Croft’s edited volume Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings.

The DSA prize committee calls Unfinished Business “a shining example of dance studies in interdisciplinary perspective,” that “explores the figural economies that circulate, prop, or resist the structural economy, particularly deindustrialization in the neoliberal, racialized capitalism of the United States.”

Hamera “pushes beyond general critiques of neoliberalism,” the judges write, “to theorize ‘the deindustrial’ as a specific historical and political moment in the broader context of global capitalism.”

Judith Hamera

Noting “[d]eeply complex thinking about the interface between work, labor and performance in post-industrial USA,” the judges write that “Hamera’s development of concepts such as ‘gestic space’ provides new critical and analytic tools,” and that she “illuminates finance as itself as a performance genre, that offers ‘a mode of self-expression.’”

“It is exciting to see dance studies applying its insights not only to theatre, interactive art, and media spectacle,” the DSA concludes, “but [also to] the broader financial systems in which dance, and other performance mediums, circulate as ‘the figural economy.’”

Unfinished Business previously received the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s 2018 Outstanding Book Award, and the American Society for Theatre Research’s 2017-18 Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize.