Anand Prahlad received the Américo Paredes Prize for excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies. Anand Prahlad is Curator’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at University of Missouri.
Every year, the Cultural Diversity Committee, the Chicana/Chicano Section, and the Folklore Latino, Latinoamericano, y Caribeño Section join with the AFS Executive Board to select the Américo Paredes Prize, which recognizes excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with the people and communities one studies, or in teaching and encouraging scholars and practitioners to work in their own cultures or communities. Américo Paredes (1915–1999), a leading scholar in folklore and Greater Mexico studies, worked relentlessly throughout his life, in the words of Olga Najera-Ramirez, “to better understand, represent, and respect the rights, lives, and culture of US Latinas and Latinos.”
Dr. Prahlad’s strong and fierce commitment to his communities, as well as his scholarship and contributions to advancing folklore studies, clearly embody Américo Paredes’ cross-disciplinary, socially engaged legacy. Dr. Prahlad’s work with his own community honors the spirit of the Paredes Prize in countless ways. Through his publications with a focus on African American folklore–proverbs and popular culture–and his most recent work with a focus on his own testimonio, he has led the way for others. His exemplary mentoring of students and solid participation in AFS sessions, and committees have also paved the way for others. As with everything he does, Dr. Prahlad’s mentorship is graceful and kind. He asks questions, listens, guides, provides opportunities, and helps build confidence, all while treating students with the utmost respect and interest in who they are and what they have to offer.
Since his retirement, Dr. Prahlad continues to make an exceptional contribution to the field through integrating scholarship and engagement with people and communities. The field of disability studies has been woefully lacking within folklore scholarship and other professional work. Dr. Prahad is taking a lead in filling this gap through sharing his very personal experiences and struggles with succeeding as an academic with autism along with teaching, leading workshops, and publishing.
His beautiful memoir The Secret Life of a Black Aspie vividly reveals what most of us did not know about Dr. Prahlad. As an academic, he has had to mold himself into behaving and communicating, passing as neurotypical, while experiencing the world through texture and color. He interweaves his life story within the intense historical contexts of his childhood living on land that had been the plantation on which his family was enslaved; his philosophical, religious, and political explorations during the 1970s; and his eventual movement through his education and academic career.
Since publishing this book, he has been a leader advocating for greater attention to disability within the field and outside. He has participated in workshops with teachers in K-12 public schools, participated in the AFS Fellows session on folklore and disability, and mentored students. He is currently Guest Editor for a special issue of the Journal of American Folklore that considers folklore in relationship to diverse abilities/disabilities as well as diverse bodies.
Dr. Prahlad exemplifies the best of what the Prize seeks to recognize, a folklorist who as a committed scholar and teacher, has made a difference in the field and in people’s lives. His indefatigable work to strengthen AFS and make a more responsive Society aligns with his work in general to make the field a better place for everyone regardless of ability, gender, race, or class.
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