Murrin Prize Awarded to Erin Kramer

Erin Kramer (left) of Trinity University. Lee Bernstein (middle) and Casey Schmitt (right)

Erin Kramer of Trinity University (pictured, left) has been awarded the Murrin Prize for the best article published in Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal during 2022. Her article, That she shall forever be banished from this country’: Alcohol, Sovereignty, and Social Segregation in New Netherland appeared in the Winter 2022 issue.

Published by the McNeil Center, EAS provides a forum for original research into the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. Recipients of the Murrin Prize, which is named for John M. Murrin (1935-2020), are chosen by a sub-committee of the editorial board. This year, Kramer’s article was the committee’s clear choice for the award. As they explained:

Combining the history of gender, law, and Indigenous nations and using multilingual sources, Kramer reveals how Indigenous nations, Dutch authorities, and ordinary people on both sides expressed shared and opposed notions of segregation as they, via diplomacy, conflict, and everyday interaction, sought to control or constrain the sale and consumption of alcohol. Kramer foregrounds Indigenous efforts for separation by rooting them in Native demands for sovereignty. Conversely, she shows how Dutch authorities defined segregation as a racial and gendered justification for colonial expansion. Dutch authorities cast Indigenous claims to sovereignty as threats, and where Dutch women and men flouted the same alcohol ordinances, women received excessive punishments. Despite these repressions, Kramer reminds us that colonialism was not monolithic or hegemonic. Settler colonialism expanded from competing visions of social and moral behavior expressed by authorities and everyday people within and between cultures.

In addition to Kramer’s award, the prize committee awarded two honorable mentions. One honorable mention went to Lee Bernstein of SUNY New Paltz (pictured, middle) for his article, “Sintsincks to Sing Sing: Empire the War of 1812, and the Transformation of U.S. Prisons”, which appeared in the Spring 2022 issue. The committee wrote:

This provocative article examines the development of U.S. prisons in relation to war, empire, colonization, and land displacement. The essay offers a new interpretation of Sing Sing’s roots, drawing on the Native American origins of place, the legacy Sintsinck displacement and African enslavement on the land, the use of incarcerated workers in construction of the site, and disciplinary methods drawn from the war of 1812. Bernstein uses court martial records from the war in particularly innovative ways and shows how this second generation of prison expansion rejected the moral agenda of an earlier generation while embracing violence as a necessary part of punishment. 

Casey Schmitt of Cornell University (pictured, right) also received an honorable mention for her article, “‘Brought from the Palenques’: Race, Subjecthood, and Warfare in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean,” which appeared in the Fall 2022 Special Issue “Sugar and Slaves at Fifty.” The committee noted:

In an impressive work of multi-archival recovery, Schmitt traces the English capture and sale of Jamaican men and women, vassals of the Spanish crown, into Spanish American slavery. Schmitt shows us that we need to think of Jamaica not just in the context of the English Atlantic, but within an international mix of interactions happening on the island and beyond. She illustrates that the fluidity of race and the fluidity of subjecthood intertwined, but also that the profits of slave trading in a context of international conflict imposed serious limits on those fluidities, creating a precarious situation for people of African descent in the Caribbean well before the expansion of sugar economies. 

The McNeil Center and the committee congratulate the winners and express gratitude to all those who have submitted articles for publication in EAS.