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2023 David and Elaine Spitz Prize Winner

CSPT is pleased to announce the winner for the 2023 Prize:

Erin R. Pineda, Phyllis Cohen Rappaport '68 New Century Term Professor of Government at Smith College, for her book Seeing Like an Activist: Civil Disobedience and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2021)

The following is the Prize Committee’s commendation for the book:

Erin R. Pineda’s Seeing Like an Activist: Civil Disobedience and the Civil Rights Movement is a thoroughgoing reappraisal of the Civil Rights Movement and the ideas that animated it.  Engaging a wide range of sources—from archival materials to well-known texts in political theory—the book challenges settled interpretations of the movement.  It demonstrates how mainstream political theorists and philosophers attempted to domesticate and tame the movement’s radicalism by interpreting its claims as more limited than they were and by presuming that mid-century U.S. was an almost-just society whose basic legitimacy was not in question.  Pineda retrieves the radicalism of the Civil Rights Movement by placing it in a global, decolonial context.  She shows how civil rights activists used a wide range of means that go beyond classic accounts of civil disobedience, and how these means achieved a diversity of ends as well, including not only persuading white audiences but also building solidarity among the activists themselves.  The account offered here calls into question dichotomous distinctions often used to understand the Civil Right Movement, such as those between ethics and tactics and between nonviolence and coercion.  The book is a remarkable achievement that enriches our understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and provides valuable resources for theorizing protest and democracy in our own time.

2023 Prize Committee: 

Andrew Valls (Chair)

Murad Idris

Jennifer Pitts

See past Spitz Prize winners here

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