Duke Human Rights Book Award Renamed to Honor International Activist Juan E. Méndez

Past winners of the Mendez Book Award
Past winners of the Mendez Book Award

A longstanding Duke University book award honoring an outstanding work of non-fiction published in English on human rights, democracy and social justice in contemporary Latin America is continuing under a new name.

The Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America honors the legacy of Juan E. Méndez, a champion of justice who has devoted his life to the defense of human rights. Méndez is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and current Professor of Human Rights Law at American University.

“It is only fitting that this prize should bear the name of Juan Méndez, a wise, generous and courageous man who has distinguished himself in the field of human rights.  We are honored to have been associated with him through Duke’s Human Rights Archive and now to be extending that relationship through the Juan E. Méndez Book Award,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs.

This award began in 2008 as a collaboration between the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Duke, in recognition of WOLA’s decision to deposit its institutional papers at Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. “I know I speak for the entire WOLA family in our desire to ensure that the Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America is highly successful and builds on the success of its predecessor,” said WOLA Executive Director Matt Clausen.

Méndez’s papers are housed at Duke University Libraries’ Human Rights Archive, one of the largest collections of human rights materials at any American university. The papers document Méndez’s work as the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, as well as his work with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).  Méndez is well represented in the ICTJ records themselves, which are also housed at the Human Rights Archive along with the papers and records of noted human rights activists and organizations such as Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, Patricia Derian, Jerome Shestack, and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“Our goal in continuing this award is both to recognize outstanding writing and also honor the human rights organizations and leaders who have deposited their invaluable papers at Duke,” said Robin Kirk, a prize judge and the co-director of the Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute. “Latin America has been a leader in the development and protection of human rights, and we want that legacy to both inform and inspire students and scholars.”

The 2016 WOLA/Duke book award went to Chad Broughton for Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities (Oxford University Press, 2016). The book uses a transnational and longitudinal approach to tell a human and humane story of the NAFTA-era from the point of view of those most caught up in its dislocation.

The Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke’s Human Rights Archives and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies cosponsor this award.