Professor Peter Szok Receives Parsons Award

Professor Peter Szok received recently the 2017 Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Award from the American Folklife Center at the U.S. 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.

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 Szok as he completes a pioneering monograph on indigenous art in modern Panama. Through study of the Library’s Panamanian newspapers and periodicals, 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 and roll and modern dance–to project indigenous identity in Panamanian society. 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 20 percent of the national territory in Panama.

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