Recent alumna awarded Bernheimer Prize

Alumna Hannah Cole, who received her Ph.D. in the field of comparative literature in 2020, has been awarded this year’s Charles Bernheimer Prize for her dissertation, “A Thorny Way of Thinking: Botanical Afterlives of Caribbean Plantation Slavery.” The prize, given annually by the American Comparative Literature Association for the best dissertation in comparative literature, includes a $1,000 award.

The award committee writes that Cole “brilliantly develops her own critical lexicon about “botanical imaginaries” to designate the poetics of plants held in common among given local [Caribbean] populations, and uses the thorny marabú shrub as a figure for a reading practice that counters the extractive thinking of the Caribbean plantation. Tracing the shifting cultural significance of Caribbean flora on the margins of the main cash crops sponsored by European empires, she compellingly argues that global capital’s recent commodification of them instantiates a latter-day incarnation of the Caribbean plantation system.”

Cole’s interdisciplinary study looks at a diversity of authors; the award committee writes that “Cole’s project persuasively demonstrates how innovative comparatist models continue to yield timely insights, in this case into the environmental crises of our moment.”

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		Colorful tropical garden in the Caribbean