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Loyola University New Orleans Professor Wins 2016 Ruth Benedict Prize

Loyola press release - September 26, 2016

Loyola University New Orleans celebrates Uriel Quesada, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who together with two colleagues, won the 2016 Ruth Benedict Book Prize for a new book published in 2016 by the University of Texas Press, Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism. Quesada and co-authors Letitia Gomez and Salvador VidalOrtiz will receive the Association for Queer Anthropology’s Ruth Benedict Prize in the category “Outstanding Edited Volume” on Nov. 18 at the AQA’s national meeting.

“This award recognizes years of hard work and commitment to a social justice project,” Quesada said. “I personally feel very happy, especially because the book is an effort to preserve the contributions of individuals and organizations that otherwise are not considered part of the LGBT liberation movement in America.”

In their book, the author-editors present oral histories or unmedia ted testimonios of queer Latin@activists. Taken together, these stories provide a collective autoethnographic account of queer Latin@ activist engagements from the 1970s through the 1990s. The activists featured hail from all parts of the United States, with roots throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Queer Brown Voices canonizes the names of often unknown Latin@ activists, rendering a familiar narrative of queer liberation, dominated by Stonewall, in a new, transnational light, the AQA said in a release.

The Ruth Benedict Prize, presented annually, honors excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective that engages theoretical perspectives relevant to LGBTQ studies. Queer Brown Voices “offers a powerful corrective to whitewashed histories of LGBT activism,” the AQA said in a release. The association added that by allowing activists to tell their own stories and resisting the temptation to reduce these accounts to evidence, Queer Brown Voices lives in the tradition of This Bridge Called My Back and Making Face, Making Soul, iconic texts that show the undeniable link between individual experience and social history.

“Honoring the many layers of autobiography, the editors give the accounts room to breathe … We read of heartbreak, friendships, family betrayals, antiwar activism, career missteps, and childhood fascinations. These rich details, threaded throughout accounts of activist organizations and local movements, become central to the social history in a way that revives the familiar premise that the personal is political.”

“In recent LGBT history, Latina/o organizing is often reduced to footnotes; sometimes, such history is relegated to minor comments ending in misinformation about the role of Latinas/os,” Quesada said. “Queer Brown Voices documents multiple histories of organizing which influenced local, regional, and national levels. Fourteen remarkable Latina/o activists recount the moments when faced with racism, sexism, homophobia, or classism within Latino and LGBT communities, giving the reader a strong sense of the embodied practice of activism they encountered in an era before technology was the way to connect.”

A scholar and writer of fiction, Quesada focuses much of his research on Queer Studies and Latin America and Latino Studies. Writing this book gave him the opportunity to use his skills to serve those in need of telling their own personal experiences, he said. It also helped him further contribute to diversity and inclusion efforts at Loyola, consistently celebrated by The Princeton Review for diversity and inclusivity.

“Books like Queer Brown Voices give institutions the opportunity to start a frank conversation on diversity and inclusion,” Quesada said. “The personal narratives included in the book are about family, community, commitment to social justice and change. They are also about how the United States has changed in the past 30 years. They are important for new generations of LGBT activists and students of color.

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