Eve L. Ewing and Michael Rossi Receive the 2020 and 2021 Laing Awards

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The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce that Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side by Eve Ewing and The Republic of Color: Science, Perception, and the Making of Modern America by Michael Rossi are the recipients of the 2020 and 2021 Gordon J. Laing Awards. The awards were presented by  University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos at a gala reception on November 10, 2021, in the City View Room of the David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago.

The Gordon J. Laing Award is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications on the faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the list of the University of Chicago Press. Books published in 2017 and 2018 were eligible for the 2020 award and books published in 2018 and 2019 were eligible for the 2021 award. The award is named in honor of the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States.

Published in hardcover in 2018 and reprinted in paperback in 2020, Ghosts in the Schoolyard draws on Ewing’s insider experience in the Chicago Public School system—as a student, a teacher, and a researcher—to situate the City’s wave of school closings in 2013 within a larger context. The book was praised by Ta-Nehisi Coates and was widely discussed from coverage on NPR to “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and The Nation.

The Republic of Color was published in hardcover in 2019 and its significant praise includes a review from Science, which calls it an “intriguing look at the history of and current way we conceive of color. . . . This book does a beautiful job of weaving together the way the different color sciences have made a cultural impact throughout history.”

Garrett Kiely, Director of the Press commented, “The enthusiastic reception of both of these books speaks to not only their exceptional writing and research but also their place in ongoing conversations both within and outside of the academy. I am very proud to have them both on Chicago’s list.”

Ewing is assistant professor in Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago.

“The University of Chicago Press has published some of the most challenging and important scholarly texts ever—in my own personal academic life, and in the nation and the world— and it was already a point of pride for me to be counted among them. So above and beyond that, I’m now stunned and honored to be the recipient of this award,” said Ewing.

Michael Rossi is assistant professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Chicago.

“I am incredibly honored to be a Laing Award recipient, not simply for the recognition itself, but also to know that the book would be held in proximity with so many scholars that I admire for the rigor, intensity, and intellectual curiosity of their work. I want to extend my gratitude to everyone that I’ve worked with at the Press, and my colleagues who supported the project through some unlikely moments. The book benefited from the advice, care, critical questions, and insightful imaginings of many folks at the Press, in the history department, and around the University,” said Rossi.

All photos by Nancy Wong

“Eve Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard and Michael Rossi’s The Republic of Color are both remarkable pieces of scholarship. Ewing’s work is a shining example of an extremely rare sort of book: a carefully researched, beautifully written, and masterfully executed piece of scholarship that speaks not just to academics, but to a readership that extends far beyond the academy. Ewing renders with stunning clarity and poignancy the lived experience of those directly affected by recent school closures in Chicago, and she boldly challenges the assumptions guiding these and other school closures. Michael Rossi’s The Republic Color is a beautifully crafted intellectual history. Narrating the origins of color science in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century America, it reveals the social, cultural, and political impacts that the standardization and regulation of color had on the emerging industrial order. Rossi skillfully crosses disciplinary boundaries, handling a vast array of sources, to show that the science of color was much more than the study of perception: it was a way of shaping how individuals and groups interacted with the world. Richly textured and superbly written, Rossi’s study exemplifies the University of Chicago’s commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry. The Press Board is deeply honored to recommend Ghost in the Schoolyard for the 2020 Laing Award, and The Republic of Color for the 2021 Laing Award,” said Ryan Coyne, chair of the Board of University of Publications

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos noted, “Since the earliest days of the University, UChicago Press has played an important role in connecting the work of our faculty and scholars to the world-at-large. I am delighted to be part of this year’s Gordon J. Laing Award ceremony, which affords us the opportunity to celebrate books of distinction written by members of our faculty, and offer my warmest congratulations to Eve L. Ewing and Michael Rossi for their well-deserved awards.”

Ewing and Rossi join a distinguished list of previous recipients that includes Adrian Johns, Deborah Nelson, Alison Winter, Robert Richards, Martha Feldman, Bernard E. Harcourt, Philip Gossett, and W. J. T. Mitchell.

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