CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Prize 2019 Winner

It is with great pleasure that CALACS announces the recipient of the 2019 CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Award:

Kevin Chrisman, Ph.D.

“Meet Me at Sanborns: Labor, Leisure, Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Mexico”

Dept. of History, York University

Supervisor: Dr. Anne Rubenstein

The Outstanding Dissertation Prize committee commends Dr. Chrisman’s Ph.D. dissertation, a highly original and beautifully written cultural history of the iconic Mexican institution that is the Sanborns retail chain.  “Meet Me at Sanborns” examines questions of nationalism, class, gender and sexuality from the dénouement of the Porfiriato, through the Revolution, to the present day.  The evaluating committee was struck by the breadth and richness of the archival and oral sources that Dr. Chrisman used to look at the experiences of workers, customers, public figures, and the broader Mexican public, as well as the overall excellence of the writing.


Meet Me at Sanborns: Labor, Leisure, Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Mexico

This dissertation is a cultural history about Sanborns, a Mexican business that began as a drugstore in 1903. It continues into the present as a national chain of restaurants and department stores owned by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Each chapter explores different topics of analysis: modernity, consumerism, and upper-class leisure culture; revolutionary masculinity and racial politics; food, commodities, and Mexican nationalism; working-class labor struggles and company paternalism, and urban sexuality. The dissertation examines how everyday life created and was created by post-Revolutionary Mexico’s changing gender ideologies, evolving nationalist culture, and openness to foreign capital. It argues that the Sanborns chain has been an essential site of contestation and redefinition of gender roles across Mexico. Tracing the development of Sanborns contributes to the discussion of Mexico’s national culture during the twentieth-century. Commercial retailers and spaces of consumption helped shape Mexico’s urban landscape and consumer identities. The popularity of Sanborns was shaped by local consumer tastes and global technologies as they developed over time. The work describes the collaboration and conflict between Sanborns and its customers who used the floor space in their own way; the store began as a place of leisure for Mexico’s upper-class but evolved into a sexual space shared among classes. Sanborns also became an important intermediary connecting U.S. manufacturers with Mexico’s developing consumer culture, and U.S. tourists with folkloric Mexican handicrafts. The fieldwork conducted for this project took place in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Acapulco. It incorporates the narratives of historical actors from a wide range of class and race positions. Source material for this project included government documents, company ephemera, business licenses, internal business documents, personal letters, advertisements, periodicals, photographs, film, novels, and other print media. The dissertation also incorporated ethnographic research from oral interviews with company employees and Sanborns customers.

Honourable Mention: Dissertation

Daniel Ruiz-Serna's “When Forests Run Amok: War and its Afterlives in Indigenous and African-Colombian Territories” has been chosen to receive an honourable mention in this year's Outstanding Dissertation Award competition. This is an outstanding achievement in research and writing, and well deserving of recognition amongst the many excellent nominees this year.  Dr. Ruiz-Serna completed his doctoral dissertation at McGill University with the supervision of Dr. Eduardo Kohn.  His work asks whether we can find new frameworks for understanding the psychic, spiritual and ecological effects of violence, and does so with great creativity.