Obama Dissertation Prize

Each year, the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany awards the Obama Dissertation Prize for outstanding Ph.D. work in the field of transnational American studies. The recipient will be invited to Mainz to present their dissertation project as part of the talks taking place around the Obama Institute’s annual Thanksgiving Obama Lecture.

Eligible for submission are dissertations completed at either a German or a foreign university in transnational American Studies and related fields, such as Early American Studies, Indigenous Studies, Life Writing, Ecology, Transnational History, Asian American/Pacific Studies, Material and Media Studies, Religious Studies, International Politics, and Economy.

Unpublished manuscripts of dissertations, defended in the last two years, written in German or English, will be evaluated by an international panel to select the award winner.

In order to apply for the Obama Institute Dissertation Prize, please submit:

  • a cover letter
  • abstract of your dissertation (two pages)
  • two letters of reference (e.g. the supervisors’ dissertation reports)
  • your CV

The deadline for submission is May 1. Please submit these documents via email.

The international panel will discuss all applications and request the submission of the most promising dissertation manuscripts until June 1.

The award winner will be announced in September of each year. The award ceremony takes place annually in November (Thanksgiving Day).


Prof. Dr. Alfred Hornung
Speaker, Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies
University of Mainz
Jakob-Welder-Weg 20
55128 Mainz Germany

+49 6131 39-23535

Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2023
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Dr. Lara Track (Universität Heidelberg) for her dissertation “Zwischen Frieden und Frauenrechten: Women Strike for Peace und die amerikanische Frauenrechtsbewegung im Spiegel transnationaler Kooperationen, 1961-1990”.

Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2022
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Dr. Christoph Nitschke, (University of Oxford, U.K.) for his dissertation “Boom and Bust Diplomacy: The Financial Crisis of 1873 and U.S. Foreign Relations”.

Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2021
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Dr. Alessandra Magrin Haas (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.) for her dissertation “The Wild West in Italy and in the Italian Imagination: Travel Writing, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Popular Culture”.
Obama Dissertation Prize Recipients 2020
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to both Dr. Carlos Alonso Nugent (Yale University, USA) for his dissertation “Imagined Environments: Mediating Race and Nature in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands” and Dr. Hannah Waits (University of California, Berkeley, USA) for her dissertation “The Missionary Majority: American Evangelicals and Power in a Postcolonial World”.
Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2019
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Dr. Noaquia N. Callahan (The University of Iowa, USA, fourth from the left) for her dissertation “Heat of the Day: Mary Church Terrell and African American Feminist Transnational Activism”.
Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2018
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Argelia Segovia Liga (Missouri State U, Springfield, second from the left) for her dissertation “‘The Rupture Generation’: Nineteenth-Century Nahua Intellectuals in Mexico City, 1774-1882”.
Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2017
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Joost Baarssen (Amsterdam) for his dissertation “American Dreams, European Nightmares: Anti-Europeanisms in the United States”.
Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2016
The Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Stephan Kuhl (Goethe Universität, Frankfurt) for his excellent dissertation entitled “The Novels of Crude Psychology: Richard Wright, Fredric Wertham, and the Twofold Truth of Literary Practice”.

The Galinsky prizes were awarded to Abby Russell for her graduate seminar paper “The Colonial Relation in the Caribbean: the Performative Commons of Leonora Sansay’s Secrect History” and to Christian Müller for his Seminarshausarbeit “Melville’s ‘The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids'”.

Obama Dissertation Prize Recipient 2015
In 2015, the Obama Dissertation Prize was awarded to Holger Drössler for his excellent dissertation entitled “Islands of Labor: Community, Conflict, and Resistance in Colonial Samoa, 1889-1919”.

A second prize was awarded to Curd Benjamin Knüpfer for his dissertation entitled “Right Wing Realities? News Media Fragmentation, Conservatism, and the Framing of U.S. Foreign Policy”.