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SLU American Studies Professor Wins History Book Prize

Benjamin Looker, Ph.D., associate professor of American studies, was recently named co-recipient of the Kenneth Jackson Award at the annual meeting of the Urban History Association in Chicago.

Ben Looker, Ph.D.
Ben Looker, Ph.D., is an associate professor of American studies at Saint Louis University.

The Kenneth Jackson Award is given to the best book in North American urban history, and was awarded for Looker's 2015 A Nation of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, and Democracy in Postwar America (University of Chicago). 

"Benjamin Looker offers a sweeping view of how the most basic envisioned component of American cities was promulgated, dissected, and reconfigured in the service of various socioeconomic agendas beginning in the years of prosperous optimism at the end of World War II until the political upheavals of the Regan era in the 1980s," the prize committee noted.

"Remarkable in its scope and ambition," the committee continued, "Looker's work explicates the contested idea of neighborhood as reflected in popular culture, city planning, politics, literature, television, and sociology. … As the notion of neighborhood has once again become a focal point in urban upheavals during the current period, his book is timely in providing the foundation for a greater understanding of how we live now and how we might proceed to address some recalcitrant issues of urban life."

This is the second major book award that A Nation of Neighborhoods has received. In April 2016, it won a major prize at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, the Lawrence W. Levine Award for best book in American cultural history.

That committee cited Looker's book as "an innovative, imaginative portrayal of the concept of neighborhoods," "entirely original," and "cultural history at its best, with attention to a wide variety of media in constructing a dominant historical narrative."