New American studies prize named for Stanford’s Shelley Fisher Fishkin

Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Steve Castillo)

The American Studies Association created a new prize and named it for Stanford English Professor SHELLEY FISHER FISHKIN.

Fishkin, the Joseph S. Atha Professor in the Humanities and director of Stanford’s American Studies program, has been involved with the association as a president and in other leadership roles for about two decades. She is an expert on Mark Twain, as well as 19th- and 20th-century American history and culture.

Fishkin has long argued for the importance of paying attention to the work of American studies scholars outside of the United States and has been an advocate for transnational collaboration.

The award, called the Shelley Fisher Fishkin Prize for International Scholarship in Transnational American Studies, was created to honor publications written by scholars outside the United States that present original research in transnational American Studies, according to the announcement from the association.

“Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s leadership in creating crossroads for international scholarly collaboration and exchange has transformed the field of American Studies in both theory and practice,” according to the association’s announcement. “This award honors Professor Fishkin’s outstanding dedication to the field by promoting exceptional scholarship that seeks multiple perspectives that enable comprehensive and complex approaches to American studies, and which produce culturally, socially and politically significant insights and interpretations relevant to Americanists around the world.”

Fishkin said she was pleasantly surprised when she found out that the prize was named after her.

“It’s lovely to have this happen while I’m alive to enjoy it,” Fishkin said. “This is really a special treat. It’s wonderful to have the institutional validation of the importance of transnational work in the field.”

Fishkin has been working on promoting collaboration among American studies scholars across the world since the early 2000s.

Since her presidential address to the American Studies Association in 2004, “Crossroads of Cultures: The Transnational Turn in American Studies,” transnational issues have been at the center of Fishkin’s research. She co-founded the Journal of Transnational American Studies, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal, in 2009 to help promote research in the field.

She is also a co-founder and co-director of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford, a distinctive transnational venture that had played a key role in this year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike. It has ensured that the Chinese workers without whose labor Stanford wouldn’t exist receive the recognition they were long denied.

Fishkin said she learned from her work in global responses to Mark Twain how instructive transnational perspectives can be.

“Very often scholars from other countries have insights into Twain that Americans didn’t have,” Fishkin said. “For example, scholars in Russia and China appreciated Twain’s social criticism from at least 1960, whereas Americans viewed Twain as mostly a humorist until the 1990s.”