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Prof. Christina Schwenkel has been selected to receive the 2022 E. Ohnuki-Tierney Book Award for Historical Anthropology. This award recognizes publications that are outstanding examples of scholarship that focus on “culture as a historical process.”
Prof. Schwenkel is recognized for her book, Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam, where she details the life cycle of urban housing in the provincial Vietnamese city of Vinh. Based on nearly two decades of ethnographic and archival research, the book convincingly demonstrates how competing visions, material constraints, and unanticipated patterns of inhabited use led to the rapid obsolescence of the project almost immediately after its completion. Investigating transnational urbanism outside the workings of neoliberal capitalism, Schwenkel’s book tells an innovative, sophisticated, and important theoretical story of the making of urban history that ties East Germany to Vietnam, and effectively connects culture to materiality in outlining these historical processes.
Schwenkel is currently a professor of anthropology and Director of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California at Riverside. Her research examines the material and cultural legacies of American imperialism in Vietnam through an attention to the built environment and its transformation across time. Her first book, The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational Remembrance and Representation , explored irreconciliation and how contestations over the past played out through objects and sites of memory associated with the violence of warfare in Vietnam. Her recent work on socialist mobilities, urban affects, and the breakdown/collective maintenance of infrastructure has been published in Cultural Anthropology, American Ethnologist, Critical Asian Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, among other journals. She is also the editor of “Senses,” a special issue on the sensory dimensions of infrastructure, published in Roadsides in 2021. Her research has been supported by ACLS, NEH, Fulbright-Hays, Wenner-Gren, and the Graham Foundation. She was also the recipient of a Berlin Prize in 2015.