On April 16, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) announced that Kornel Chang, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University–Newark, is the recipient of the OAH’s 2021 Binkley-Stephenson Award, which is given annually for the best article that appeared in the Journal of American History during the preceding calendar year. The Award was presented during the OAH’s 2021 Annual Meeting.
Chang’s article, “Independence without Liberation: Democratization as Decolonization Management in U.S.-Occupied Korea, 1945–1948” (June 2020), is a robustly researched and ambitious examination of the U.S. occupation of Korea between 1945 and 1948. Chang carefully views the period as a capacious, uncertain moment when Koreans celebrated the end of Japanese colonization as self-determination and revolution while Americans negotiated Korean expectations, U.S. assumptions, and Soviet competition. Delicately balancing a nuanced, careful view of the top-level decision making of occupation officials—comfortably ill-informed about Korean conditions—with the ground-level struggles and innovations of ordinary Koreans, Chang ultimately helps us better understand the trajectory of a U.S. postwar imperium amassed through an accretion of politically sovereign nations. This groundbreaking study complicates a number of historiographies, speaking to diplomatic, labor, and Cold War literatures while imaginatively bringing the U.S. occupation to the study of decolonization, and decolonization to the scholarship of U.S. empire. Chang’s article brilliantly illuminates “how an empire without colonies was built upon the foundation of decolonization without liberation.”
The Organization of American Historians was founded in 1907 and is the largest professional organization dedicated to the teaching and study of American history. The mission of the OAH is to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching and presentation of American history, and to encourage informed public discussion of and engagement with historical questions. The mission of the OAH is guided by the principles of the advancement of scholarship, historical advocacy, and professional integrity. The OAH national headquarters are located in the historic Raintree House on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.
For the full list of OAH 2021 award and prize recipients, please visit the OAH website.