This year’s winner of the SHF x Cultural Studies Award is Aria S. Halliday for ‘Twerk Sumn!: Theorizing Black Girl Epistemology in the Body’, published in Cultural Studies 34.6, January 2020.

The awarding committee, consisting of editorial board member Angharad Valdivia (University of Illinois), Editors-in-Chief Nabil Echchaibi and Ted Striphas, and trustees from the Stuart Hall Foundation’s Academic Committee, is pleased to have selected Halliday’s work from among 11 eligible essays. They said:

“Aria Halliday has become an important and brilliant voice in an overlapping set of fields: Girl Studies, Black Studies, Black Feminist Studies, Digital Media Studies, and, of course, Cultural Studies. This particular article foregrounds pleasure—a topic too often written out of any narrative or analysis focusing on Black girls. It also delivers one of the most insightful critiques of cultural appropriation in recent memory.

Halliday deftly examines a discursive formation that systematically devalues the agency of Black girls, emptying their action—in this case, dancing—of virtually all social, historical, and cultural meaning. She powerfully extends the analysis of the abjection of the Black female body and stresses the turn to agency, performance, and enjoyment of sexuality. Along the way, Halliday takes the reader from Kyra Gaunt’s longstanding analysis of Black girls, movement, play, and dance through Dunham’s work cataloging bodily movements across the Black diaspora. Halliday not only shows how the body is strategically coded in a long tradition of subversive embodied performativity in Black diasporic cultures; she also demonstrates the political urgency of developing a Black girl epistemology. Ultimately, this brilliant and elegantly crafted article celebrates Black girl pleasure in movement, dance, self-love, and freedom, and it invites readers to share in the same.”

The SHF x Cultural Studies Award is a collaboration between the Stuart Hall Foundation and the Routledge/Taylor & Francis journal Cultural Studies. The award seeks to recognise an article by an early career scholar that best captures, and/or makes the most significant contribution to, Cultural Studies as Stuart Hall envisioned it, furthering Stuart’s interests, commitments and spirit as a political intellectual.

“I am shocked by this prestigious acknowledgement of my article “Twerk Sumn!: Theorizing Black Girl Epistemology in the Body.” I was so proud to publish an article that not only reclaims the cultural influence and importance of Black girls’ twerking, but also argues that twerking is a Black girl dance experience that builds self-confidence and community. “Twerk Sumn!”’s publication in Cultural Studies was a major highlight of my career thus far, and yet this award affirms how special this article truly is.

Furthermore, I am so honored to be acknowledged by the Stuart Hall Foundation, especially in the name and scholarly influence of Stuart Hall—whose work has been a guiding light of my own since I was introduced to him as a summer intern at the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers. Stuart Hall is one of the few scholars that I return to when I start a new project and from whom I always learn something new. Being of Caribbean heritage myself, I cannot wait to celebrate this award with all my family, friends, and colleagues who recognize the continued resonance of Stuart Hall and the brilliance of Black girls. Thank you to the Stuart Hall Foundation and to Cultural Studies for this great honor.”

– Aria S. Halliday, winner of the 2021 SHF x Cultural Studies award

Read more about Aria S. Halliday.
Learn more about the SHF x Cultural Studies Award.

Cultural Studies cover image: Detail of “Jin Chan” by Alina Wahab, 2020 (Instagram: @obscureoccultist)

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