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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Megan Ward Receives Joseph and Yetta Blau Award for Research on National Security, Narco-Culture, and Borderland Religions

Megan Ward, a PhD candidate in the Jackson School of International Studies, has received the Spring 2019 Joseph and Yetta Blau Award for Excellence in Research from the Simpson Center for the Humanities. In selecting Ward for the $2,000 award, the Simpson Center Executive Board recognizes the ambition of her dissertation, “National Security, Narco-Culture, and Popular Saints: Policing Religion on the Border.”

Ward’s dissertation, under the direction of Tony Lucero (JSIS), explores how and why U.S. law enforcement officers routinely see devotion to informal borderland saints, such as Jesús Malverde and Santa Muerte, as evidence of involvement in the narcotics trade. The project argues that as state agents link religious beliefs to various forms of crime and violence, they generate a defense culture that reproduces frontier policing against new communities of migrants, Native peoples, marginalized religious communities, and refugees.

The Blau award was established in 2008 by Herbert Blau in honor of his parents to support graduate student scholarship. Herbert Blau was Lockwood Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at the UW and an influential scholar and champion of experimental theater who was credited with bringing the work of playwright Samuel Beckett, among others, to American audiences.

Congratulations, Megan!