From the 2023 Oliver W. Koonz Human Rights Prize Judges
Professors Claudia Koonz, James Chappel, and Ellen McLarney
2023 Best Essay
Anushri Saxena, “Sex Testing of Intersex Women in Sport: History, Controversies, and Health Implications”
The issue of intersex participation and sports has attracted a great deal of attention in recent months. In her pioneering and subtle essay, Anushri Saxena plunges into the issue by using history to show that ambiguity about sex and gender originated during the Cold War, when the supposedly “un-feminine” bodies of Communist women were figures of concern. Using the tools of intersectional analysis, Saxena shows how sporting associations have raised alarms most frequently about the bodies of track and field athletes who represent the Global South. The current hysteria over these issues, therefore, manifests a much deeper set of anxieties about race and femininity. It is not clear what is to be done, and Saxena does not pretend to have the answers. Her beautifully written essay, though, does help us to ask the right questions.
2023 Best Alternative Project
Olivia Canter, Cultural Understanding in Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An Educational Program for Investigative and Treating Professionals
Olivia Canter has done remarkable, interdisciplinary work about the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting [FGM/C]. About three million girls in 30 countries are at risk annually. While FGM/C has been heavily studied, Canter takes a novel approach, seeking to educate healthcare providers about the practice and its cultural background. Her work seeks to aid the 513,000 girls and women who experienced or are at risk for FGM in in the U.S. Canter does this by educating the healthcare providers these girls and women will encounter. The committee was impressed by Canter’s humility and her zeal to bring her academic knowledge to a wider audience. Her prepared lecture on the theme was remarkably thorough, nuanced, and culturally sensitive. One of the most pressing challenges of our time is to bring academic knowledge of human rights, culture, and religion into medical spaces. Canter shows us how it can be done.