Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT professor’s latest book ‘Guaraná’ earns multiple distinctions

Ana Campos

A UT history professor earned three distinctions for his latest book at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco last month.

Seth Garfield’s book, titled “Guaraná: How Brazil Embraced the World’s Most Caffeine-Rich Plant,” received the Bolton-Johnson Prize, the Warren Dean Prize in Brazilian History and an honorable mention for the Elinor Melville Prize for Latin-American Environmental History at the Association’s Conference on Latin American History. The book explores guaraná, a plant native to the Amazon Basin, and how it intertwines Brazilian history and culture. 

“Like any author, I was somewhat apprehensive about how the book would be received,” Garfield said. “I went out on a limb in some ways in writing this book because it is unorthodox in its temporal scope and the way it brings together different types of historiographical trends.”

Garfield was the co-winner of the Bolton-Johnson Prize alongside Paulina Alberto, a professor of African and African American studies and history at Harvard University. Alberto’s book, “Black Legend: The Many Lives of Raúl Grigera and the Power of Racial Storytelling in Argentina,” exposes the history of biased narratives through the life of Grigera, a Black Argentinian icon in the early 20th century. 

Barbara Mundy, the Elinor Melville committee chair, said Garfield’s book was chosen as an honorable mention for the prize because it is beautifully written. 

“(Garfield) doesn’t see (humans) as being the only players in the world around us; he really sees the plants and environment as having a particular agency,” Mundy, an art history professor at Tulane University, said. “He did a beautiful job of balancing all those factors and, in some ways, decentering human agency.”

Juan Sebastián Macías and Raquel Torua Padilla, two first-year Ph.D. students in the history department, were in Garfield’s Postcolonial Brazil course last semester. Macías said Garfield is a passionate professor who cares about his students. 

“I have an accent and I didn’t grow up in the US,” Macías said. “(Garfield) makes an effort to engage with you. He really makes you feel comfortable in the classroom.”

Torua said each student in the class was required to draft a grant proposal for “Guaraná” from Garfield’s perspective. 

“I am a historian interested in indigenous communities, so I thought this was a very creative and interesting way to study indigenous communities,” Torua said. “This is a story of multiple peoples, characters and stages of the history of Brazil, and very creatively, how guaraná is bringing it all together.”

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