PhD candidate Wigbertson Julian Isenia received an honourable mention for the Gregory Spragrue Prize from the Committee on LGBT History for his article "Looking for kambrada: Sexuality and social anxieties in the Dutch colonial archive, 1882–1923" (2019) published in Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies 22(2).
The committee consisting of Zeb Tortorici (New York University), Sarah E. Watkins and Elliott Powell (University of Minnesota) writes: "Isenia’s article showcases the methodological challenges (and rewards) of mining the colonial archives in the Caribbean for traces of same-sex sexual desire. Honing his analysis on the Papiamentu-language term kambranda (“comrade”)—which, in Curaçao, can refer to a nonsexual companion and to female same-sex erotic relationships— the author cogently traces how this term was deployed to articulate a series of anxieties around questions of race and emancipation, immigration and class, and morality and gender roles in Curaçao. Picking up on the postcolonial (archival) turn within queer and sexuality studies, Isenia’s engagement with Dutch colonial archival sources—including an 1882 anthropological study and a 1904 travelogue, both written in Dutch, and a 1923 novel written in Papiamentu—encompasses part of a broader “cultural archive” of same-sex desire under changing conditions of coloniality in Curaçao. For Isenia, these textual traces of kambranda women, not about recovering the experiences of women involved in such relationships but rather help articulate ideas about race and emancipation, social anxieties and patriarchy, and ideas about “respectability” and European civilizing missions in the wider Caribbean."
The article is now open access available: