The Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, SOLGA, is very pleased to announce that Mary L. Gray has been awarded the 2009 Ruth Benedict Prize in the category “Outstanding Monograph” for Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (New York University Press, 2009).
The Ruth Benedict Prize is presented each year at the American Anthropological Association’s national meeting to acknowledge excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective about a topic that engages issues and theoretical perspectives relevant to LGBTQ studies.
Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America is a major contribution to the ethnography of queer social movements and identity formations in the United States. Breaking from a longstanding focus of U.S. queer studies on urban space, Mary L. Gray demonstrates that rural queer formations are defined by rural cultures and require distinctive account. Gray argues that conventional models of queer activism presume a set of social and economic conditions that are unavailable rurally, which means they fail to recognize how rural queer youth engage each other and their home
communities. Gray’s fine-grained ethnography explains how, far from concentrations of LGBTQ people, rural youth perform queer community in the diverse spaces of public schools, the local Wal-Mart, statewide political lobbying, and internet-based social networks. A methodological strength in Gray’s project is its analysis of online media, notably the continuities and discontinuities between online and offline queer communities when their participants are geographically dispersed. Gray argues that online media do not merely transmit queer cultures, but are adapted by rural youth to represent and enact their distinctly rural queer formations. With multi-sited research and critical analysis, Out in the Country offers much-needed knowledge of rural queer youth while laying new groundwork for future ethnography and activism in rural queer spaces.
The Ruth Benedict Prize will be presented to the winning authors during the SOLGA Business meeting on December 5, 2009 at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.