ASAP is proud to announce the winner of the 2019 Book Prize.

With 90 submissions and many difficult decisions to make, the committee concluded that honorable mention should go to two titles (not ranked):

Stephen Best, None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life (Duke)

David Parisi, Archaeologies of Touch: Interfacing with Haptics from Electricity to Computing (Minnesota)

And the winner of the 2019 Book Prize is:

Justin Jesty, Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan (Cornell)

A virtuosic study of the intersection of art and politics, Justin Jesty’s Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan presents an original and important contribution to the fields of global contemporary art criticism and East Asian studies. But it is also a profound study of the art of one country that reaches outward toward other contexts and disciplines. Skewing the recent fascination with the so-called global conceptualism of the 1960s, Jesty shows how overlooked genres and amateur and collective artistic practices attempted to shape democratic culture from below amidst the radical uncertainty of the immediate postwar period in Japan. This was a transitional moment characterized by intense debate about how to move on from violent trauma and how not to reproduce the mistakes of the past. Jesty pushes back against the fashionable and aestheticized revolutionary demands typical of the neo-avant-garde by underscoring, instead, the problems of “organization, goal-directedness, and incremental change” that formed part of a postwar common sense overlooked by the emphasis, among recent art histories, on the effects of reconstruction and modernization during the following decades.

Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan reconstructs an intriguing corpus of works and phenomena: the woodblocks of artist-miners; the drawings and paintings of reportage artists visiting the sites of U.S. military occupation; the attempt, among a younger generation of artists, to practice forms of collective authorship and circulation of their works; and the mobilization of art in progressive pedagogy projects. In each case, Jesty underscores the imbrication of politics not only in the archive of art but also in the sociopolitical context that gave it meaning. In the author’s own words, Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan presents artists and movements “enacting delineable social change, not just simply marking the need for it.” One could make a similar case for the lucid and rich sociocultural and art historical reconstructions in Jesty’s book. Rather than merely engaging in meta-critical debates about art and politics, Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan reveals the movements and styles of the early postwar period as terrain for rethinking the definition and social function of art beyond modernist autonomy.

The committee for the 2019 Book Prize was: Joseph Jeon (chair, University of California, Irvine), Karen Benezra (Columbia University), and Rebecca Janzen (University of South Carolina). The committee thanks the authors, editors, and publishing staff who submitted their works to be considered for the Book Prize. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the achievements of everyone who had a book come out last calendar year.