ASSAf Humanities Book Prize Awards for 2023 celebrated

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is happy to announce its winners for the Humanities Book Prize Awards for 2023. These awards are made every year to honour the importance and contribution of scholarly texts to humanist knowledge production and intellectual endeavour in South Africa.

Lesley Green wins ASSAf Humanities Book Award (Established Researcher Category) 

Professor Lesley Green is awarded the 2023 ASSAf Humanities Book Award (category ‘Established Researcher’) for her book Rock|Water|Life: Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonial South Africa. 

In Rock | Water | Life Lesley Green examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa.  She asserts the need for environmental research and governance to transition to help address South Africa’s history of racial oppression and environmental exploitation. Offering in-depth studies of environmental conflict in contemporary South Africa, Green addresses the history of contested water access in Cape Town; struggles over fracking in the Karoo; the call for the decolonization of science; land restitution versus the politics of soil; contests over baboon management; and the politics of sewage.  

Lesley Green is a Professor of Anthropology and the Director of Environmental Humanities South at the University of Cape Town.  She has recently been awarded a US$4.4m grant by Science For Africa Foundation to develop a social science of the African anthropocene in partnership with universities in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and the HSRC and Leeds University.

The Review Panel found the book to be a ground-breaking contribution to the environmental humanities in South Africa. 

Dr B Camminga and Dr Dariusz Dziewanski are joint winners of the ASSAf Humanities Book Award in the Emerging Researcher Category

Joint winners of the ASSAf Humanities Book Award in the category of ‘Emerging Researcher’ in 2023 are Dr B Camminga and Dr Dariusz Dziewanski for their books  Transgender refugees and the imagined South Africa: Bodies over borders and borders over bodies, and Gang Entry and Exit in Cape Town: Getting Beyond the Streets in Africa’s Deadliest City.

In Transgender Refugees and the Imagined South Africa: bodies over borders and borders over bodies, B Camminga examines both the conceptual journey of the term ‘transgender’ from the Global North to the Global South, and the physical and legal journeys of transgender asylum seekers in South Africa.  It explores the tensions between the possibilities offered by constitutional law and the harsh realities of the pervasive politics of binary ‘sex/gender’ within South African society. In so doing, this book enriches the emergent field of Transgender Studies through its detailed attention to complex life narratives from the African continent.

Dr B Camminga is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand.  

This is a brilliant book about the perils, hopes and aspirations of transgender refugees in South Africa.

With his Gang Entry and Exit in Cape Town: Getting beyond the streets in Africa’s deadliest city, Dariusz Dziewanski provides a detailed qualitative account of what it is like to join and later disengage from gangs in Cape Town. Through the life histories of twenty-four former  gang members, Dziewanski seeks to understand both the structural force and appeal of gangsterism in street culture, but also the real but challenging possibilities of escaping from it.  

Dziewanski holds a doctorate from SOAS in London, and is currently an Honorary Research Affiliate at the Centre of Criminology in the law faculty at the University of Cape Town. 

This study combines rigorous academic analysis with acute empathetic understanding and offers an unusual take on the sociological and psychological dynamics of gangsterism in Cape Town. 

ASSAf awards these prizes bi-annually for scholarly publications that make outstanding and exemplary contributions to scholarship in the Humanities, Social Sciences or the Performing Arts. ASSAf received 49 nominations (31 for the Established Researcher category and 18 for the Emerging Researcher category), with the publication dates limited to 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Two studies also received Honourable Mentions in the Established Researcher category: Louise Green Fragments from the History of Loss: The nature industry and the postcolony and Tina Steiner Convivial Worlds: Writing relation from Africa; and one in the Emerging Researcher category: Rick De Villiers Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism: Humility and Humiliation. Louise Green and Tina Steiner are both professors in the English Department at the University of Stellenbosch, and Rick De Villiers is a senior lecturer in the English Department at the University of the Free State.