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Claire Schmidt Awarded 2019 AFS Américo Paredes Prize

Tuesday, November 5, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman

Claire Schmidt was named the winner of the 2019 AFS Américo Paredes Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society on October 17. The award was presented by Gloria Colom on behalf of the Paredes Prize committee, constituted by Gloria and Brenda M. Romero.

Américo Paredes is best known for having researched Latinx folk genres along the US/Mexican border while tirelessly working and promoting Latinx communities. In honor of his work, the prize recognizes excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies, or in teaching or encouraging scholars and practitioners to work in their own cultures or communities.

Gloria Colom, Dorothy Noyes, and Claire Schmidt. Photo by Meredith McGriff

Claire Schmidt was honored for her nuanced research on occupational folklore and humor among white prison workers, represented in her book If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry”: The Occupational Humor of White Wisconsin Prison Workers (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017). Schmidt worked closely within the community she grew up in. Relying on access to family members and friends in the prison system, she conducted a series of extended interviews with male and female guards and social workers that revealed a rich tradition of occupational speech, stories, pranks, and customary practices that, as her deft analysis established, were bound up with complicated rural-urban, class, racial, gender, and economic issues that became the basis for her book. The committee noted that Schmidt handled her research with nuance and compassion, recognizing systemic racist oppression and the plight of African Americans within a racialized carceral system, though emphasizing the white community she works within.

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