2021 Nancy Baym Book Award Winner

It is our great pleasure to announce that the Nancy Baym Book Award committee has chosen Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures (2020 NYU Press) by André Brock, Jr., as this year’s winner.

Distributed Blackness is a joyful exploration of Black cybercultural expression, which, along the way, claims its rightful place in the history of Black intellectualism and forges new theoretical paths for AoIR scholarship. Brock carefully constructs a methodology, Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis, which affords a powerful way to trace how identities are constructed online. Moreover, he makes a case for studying the libidinal economy – energies that emerge from desire and fear – as a key conceptual window into the circulation of digital media. Brock then explores Web browsers, Black Twitter, and Black discourse, concluding with a deeply theoretical conception of Black technoculture. And, like all of the best internet scholarship, Distributed Blackness resonates beyond digital networks. We’re witnessing a backlash against calls for social justice — made most explicit by the transnational attacks on “critical race theory,” but also visible in many smaller acts of intolerance and marginalization. In the face of this, Brock invites us to “happy reading” and a joyous affirmation of Blackness online. It is, to use a term from the book, a statement of pathos, a pleasurable excess of life in a time when life seems imperiled – and where the perils are not equally distributed across society. It is an essential book for AoIR and beyond.

This is the point at which the committee would usually say how hard it was to pick a winner, but this year it was easy. The committee was unanimous in its choice, and abundant with praise.

This is to take nothing away from the many other brilliant books we read this year, and we are grateful for all of the submissions.

AoIR would like to acknowledge and thank the committee members – Nancy Baym, Niki Cheong, Rob Gehl, Nicholas John (Chair), Heidi McKee, Panayiota Tsatsou and Robert Tynes – for their work in judging this year’s profusion of wonderful books, and Michelle Gardner for making sure all of the books reached all of the judges.

Finally, you can find André Brock on Twitter (@DocDre) and read his (open access) book online: http://opensquare.nyupress.org/books/9781479811908/