Graduate Student Essay Prize

2020 Citation Recipient

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Leah Valtin-Erwin

The ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize, established in 2006, is awarded for an outstanding essay by a graduate student in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Winner: Leah Valtin-Erwin

Title: “A Bag for All Systems: Shopping Bags and Urban Grocery Shopping in Late Communist and Early Post-Communist Eastern Europe 1980- 2000,” Indiana University

The Selection Committee for the ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize announces the 2020 prize goes to Leah Valtin-Erwin, graduate student in Department of History at Indiana University, for her essay “A Bag for All Systems: Shopping Bags and Urban Grocery Shopping in Late Communist and Early Post-Communist Eastern Europe 1980-2000.” The essay examines how consumers in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, East Germany, and Romania, used shopping bags in their daily life during the late communist and post-communist periods. The paper makes a number of subtle historiographical points in addition to its exploration of the relation of daily life to economics, the social sphere, and politics. Committee members praised the essay for its focus on continuity between the communist and post-communist periods (as well as discontinuity), and its use of a regional (rather than national) model: the author’s conclusions apply broadly to urban spaces throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Committee members mentioned that this is a remarkable and relatable history that draws the reader in and brings to life a seemingly ephemeral part of history, giving it more prominent importance. The narrative voice is engaging, descriptions are very clear, and the author integrated many aspects of everyday life and social memory