Submission call

Durham, NC (September 11, 2017): Duke University is pleased to announce the continuation of a book award honoring an outstanding book of non-fiction, including graphic works, published in English on human rights, democracy and social justice in contemporary Latin America.

We are now open for submissions. Rules included below.

The Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America honors the leadership and legacy of Juan E. Méndez, a champion of justice who has devoted his life to the defense of human rights. Méndez is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and current Professor of Human Rights Law at American University.

Juan E. Méndez

“It is only fitting that this prize should bear the name of Juan Méndez, a wise, generous and courageous man who has distinguished himself in the field of human rights.  We are honored to have been associated with him through Duke’s Human Rights Archive and now to be extending that relationship through the Juan E. Méndez Book Award,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs.

This award began in 2008 as a collaboration between the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Duke, in recognition of WOLA’s decision to deposit its institutional papers at Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. “I know I speak for the entire WOLA family in our desire to ensure that the Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America is highly successful and builds on the success of its predecessor,” said WOLA Executive Director Matt Clausen.

Méndez’s papers are housed at Duke University Libraries’ Human Rights Archive, one of the largest collections of human rights materials at any American university. The papers document Méndez’s work as the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, as well as his work with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).  Méndez is well represented in the ICTJ records themselves, which are also housed at the Human Rights Archive along with the papers and records of noted human rights activists and organizations such as Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, Patricia Derian, Jerome Shestack, and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Méndez award winner will be announced in early 2018 with the winner invited to deliver a reading at Duke University in February 2018.      

“Our goal in continuing this award is both to recognize outstanding writing and also honor the human rights organizations and leaders who have deposited their invaluable papers at Duke,” said Robin Kirk, a prize judge and the co-director of the Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute. “Latin America has been a leader in the development and protection of human rights, and we want that legacy to both inform and inspire students and scholars.”

The 2016 WOLA/Duke book award went to Chad Broughton for Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities (Oxford University Press, 2016). The book uses a transnational and longitudinal approach to tell a human and humane story of the NAFTA-era from the point of view of those most caught up in its dislocation.

The Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke’s Human Rights Archives and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies cosponsor this award.

Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America


Scholarly and popular books, including graphic works, are eligible, either edited or authored. To be eligible, books must meet the following criteria:

  • An original, non-fiction book related to issues of human rights, the rule of law, social and/or economic justice, and democracy, as they are broadly understood, in contemporary Latin America. Books should pertain to events that took place in roughly the past 50 years.
  • Published in the English language by a commercial, university, or non-profit publishing concern. Books written originally in other languages and translated into English are eligible. Self-published books are not eligible.
  • Published in the two years before the date of the award, including the year of the award. In other words, books published in 2016 and 2017 are eligible for the prize awarded in 2018. Books published in 2015 or before are not eligible.

The award winner will be announced in early 2018 with the winner delivering a reading at Duke University in February. Judges will be looking for books that offer important contributions to research on Latin America while also enriching the general public’s understanding of Latin America. The winning book will reflect high standards of originality, high-quality research and  clear, compelling writing. Both scholarly and popular books are welcome. In the case of two or more authors, the prize money will be distributed equally among them.  

There is a $1,000 award.                                                                    

The deadline for entries is November 1, 2017. There is no entry form. Publishers, authors or readers may send inquiries to Please use the subject line Méndez Book Award.


Book copies should be mailed to

Méndez Book Award

Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute
Box 90403
114 S. Buchanan Blvd.
Durham, NC 27708

The submission should contain a short description of the book and publishing details; no supporting materials or reviews are necessary. If books are short-listed, we will request copies for all judges. For books due to be published in 2017 but after the entry deadline, nominators may send a pre-publication copy, indicating the publication date.  Judges are drawn from Duke University as well as journalists, scholars, writers and others who have worked in human rights in Latin America.



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