With immediate and unanimous agreement by the committee, Catherine Boland Erkkila’s
creatively conceived, well-researched, and clearly written article, “American Railways and the Cultural Landscapes of Immigration” Buildings & Landscapes
22, no. 1 Spring 2015, was selected for the 2016 Bishir Prize. Erkkila’s
work highlights the power of mobile landscapes of transit to define national identity at the turn of the 20th
century. Building on studies that trace the spatial definition of race and gender along the railways, she focuses on the experiences of another group: immigrants. Like blacks and women, they were segregated from the general population in waiting rooms, on platforms, and in sleeping cars. Unlike other groups, however, immigrants underwent a transformative experience during their journeys in what she terms “the spaces in between”: a continuous series of shaped experiences from the coastal ports where they arrived to their final destination in the country’s interior. Erkkila
traces their integration and assimilation into American society through theoretically informed analysis of material culture, architecture, and interior design. She draws on a treasure trove of primary sources, including first person accounts, redrawn railroad station plans, and railroad manuals. Both focused and broad in scope, it offers a wealth of material for several different research and teaching interests, and offers an important model for further research into historical and contemporary examples of racism, migration, and resettlement.
The Bishir Prize, named for longtime member and influential scholar Catherine W. Bishir,
is awarded annually to the scholarly article from a juried North American publication that has made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes. In judging the nominated articles, the jurors look for an article that is based on primary research, that breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology, and that contributes generally to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies. Entries may come from any discipline concerned with vernacular architecture studies. Articles published in the two years prior to the VAF annual conference are eligible for consideration. Catherine Boland Erkkila
has been an SAH member since 2009 and is the SAH Archipedia Project Editor. Catherine W. Bishir
has been an SAH member since 1998 The Vernacular Architecture Forum
is a partner organization of SAH.
For more information about VAF, the award, and submissions for 2017, click here