June 16, 2017
The John V. Roach Honors College is pleased to report that Dr. Peter Szok, professor in the Department of History and Honors Faculty Fellow, received the 2017 Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Award from the American Folklife Center at the US Library of Congress. The Parsons Award, founded by AFC reference librarian Gerry Parsons in honor of his parents, provides funding for projects that increase awareness of the ethnographic collections at the Library of Congress. The Parsons Award also advances the availability of primary ethnographic materials to multiple audiences, particularly individuals and non-government organizations.
Dr. Szok’s project, “Insurgent Beauty: Native American Art in Modern Panama,” focuses on Panamanian materials housed at the Library of Congress. The Parsons Award will assist Dr. Szok as he completes a pioneering monograph on indigenous art in modern Panama. Through study of the Library’s Panamanian newspapers and periodicals, Dr. Szok will explore the historical and cultural influence of Guna artists who became active in urban Panama, particularly the artists’ appropriation of disciplines—painting, jazz, rock n roll, and modern dance–to project indigenous identity in Panamanian society. Dr. Szok’s work notes connection between this artistic activity, which originated around 1968, and “the renewed political mobilization by indigenous people and the eventual establishment of a series of Native American comarcas (autonomous regions).” To date, the comarcas constitute approximately twenty percent of the national territory in Panama.
Dr. Szok has extensive scholarship on Guna artwork and the oral histories of Guna artists, and the Parsons Award is the most recent award that will assist Dr. Szok in his study. He is a three-time Fulbright scholar, previously receiving a Fulbright grant to assist with this research. Dr. Szok also participated in TCU’s “Discovering Global Citizenship” program, which allowed him to bring indigenous artists and intellectuals to TCU and to support the Festival de Arte Dule in Panama, the largest Native American festival in Panama that features the art and performances of urban indigenous people. The Festival de Arte Dule (The People’s Art Festival) is a week-long annual event that marks the International Day of World Indigenous People on August 9th.
For more information on the Parsons Award, please visit the American Folklife Center. For Dr. Szok’s recent work with TCU students and Panamanian painter Aleo Deleon, we encourage you to look at this Honors feature.