The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce the award of the 2013 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship to Anna Hájková, a PhD candidate in History at the University of Toronto. Named in honor of the Founding Editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the Catharine Stimpson Prize is designed to recognize excellence and innovation in the work of emerging feminist scholars.
Hájková’s award-winning essay, “Sexual Barter in Times of Genocide: Negotiating the Sexual Economy of the Theresienstadt Ghetto,” draws on archival material, memoirs, and interview data to relate a remarkable story about gender power in a Czech transit camp operated by the Nazi SS. The author examines how conditions in the ghetto of Theresienstadt generated a system in which female sexual and social favors were deliberately traded for food, protection, and symbolic capital among inmates. In doing so, Hájková illuminates dimensions of consensual sexual barter that do not fit within established scholarly conceptions of love and sexuality as either a refuge mechanism or a form of oppression.
Whereas previous scholars have analyzed the sexuality of Holocaust victims by focusing on sexual violence (including forced prostitution) or romantic relationships, Hájková conceptualizes “sexual barter” in relation to a host of changing practices and power dynamics that contribute to the commodification of sexuality and the sexualization of the ghetto economy. Analyzing bartered sexuality as a means of producing and sustaining gendered social hierarchies in the ghetto society, the author explores forms of communication that create differential status among prisoners while also stratifying national groups of Jews from Central and Western Europe. In addition, the article considers the erasure of sexual barter in postwar narratives sexuality in the time of genocide. Hájková’s nuanced, original, and theoretically sophisticated approach thus sheds new light on underexplored aspects of sexuality in the context of the Holocaust and raises vexing questions relevant to any feminist scholar grappling with issues of sexual consent and barter in contexts of violence.
Anna Hájková is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Toronto, finishing her dissertation “The Inmate Society of Theresienstadt: A Laboratory of the Middle-Class Social History of the Theresienstadt Transit Ghetto, 1941-1945.” She received her MA in history from Humboldt University in Berlin. From 2006 to 2009, she was coeditor of Theresienstädter Studien und Dokumente. She has published on various aspects of Theresienstadt, the Holocaust in the Netherlands, and the Czechoslovak association of concentration camp survivors.
Hájková’s essay was chosen from a field of 78 submissions by an international jury including Rosemarie Buikema, Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Utrecht; Marina Gržinić, University Professor for Conceptual Art at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, and Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana; and Amina Mama, Professor and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of California, Davis.
The article is scheduled for publication in the Spring 2013 issue of Signs (vol. 38, no. 3).
The Catharine Stimpson Prize will be awarded again in 2015. For information about eligibility and deadlines for submission, please visit the Calls for Papers page.