Spanish professor's research about food and feminism and women’s accounts of war earns accolades

Author: Beth Staples

Miseres Vanesa Square
Vanesa Miseres

Vanesa Miseres, associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, has won awards for her articles that analyze women’s roles in the Paraguayan War, and that explore how food and language in recipes communicate feminist ideas in Argentine literature.

The Association of Gender and Sexualities Studies (AGSS) presented Miseres with the 2023 Victoria Urbano Prize for Best Academic Article for “La Guerra del Paraguay y sus otras alianzas: las memorias de Dorothéa Duprat y el Libro de Oro” (“The Paraguayan War and its Other Alliances: Dorothéa Duprat’s Memoirs and the Libro de Oro”).

Miseres appreciates the recognition by AGSS, as more than 15 years ago her first printed article was also published in one of its journals.

She wrote her more-recent award-winning article because of her fascination with the complexities of Paraguay’s war with Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil in the 1860s, including the important role that women played before and after the war.

Women contributed to Paraguay’s economy and military during the war, said Miseres, an affiliated faculty member in the Gender Studies Program. And they were vital to reconstruction after the war, during which 70% of Paraguay’s males — adults and children — were killed.

Miseres discovered that women’s written accounts revealed that residentas (women who followed the national army) and destinadas (female prisoners of the Paraguayan militia) — who have been represented as antagonists — actually faced comparable challenges to survive, provide for their children, and resist military abuses.

Last spring, the same piece earned an honorable mention for Best Article from the 19th-Century Section of the Latin American Studies Association.

And, most recently, Feministas Unidas Inc. selected Miseres’ “Cooking and feminism through Argentine Literature” for the 2023 Adela Zamudio Award for Best Academic Article.

“From collective cookbooks to short stories and novels, the language of cooking is recurrent among women writers for the expression of feminist thinking.”

Miseres said she was particularly honored to be selected for the award that’s named after the Bolivian poet and women’s rights activist and comes from an organization central to Latin American feminist studies in the U.S.

Traditionally, Miseres said, cooking and feminism have been perceived to be at odds.

“The space of the kitchen represented insurmountable walls for generations of women,” said Miseres, who teaches an honors seminar, Food and Foodways in the Americas, and co-edited the Food Studies in Latin American Literature: Perspectives on the Gastronarrative essay collection.

But while conducting research, she found that cooking and food also have been channels to express political and aesthetic ideas through time.

“From collective cookbooks to short stories and novels, the language of cooking is recurrent among women writers for the expression of feminist thinking,” she said.

Miseres, a fellow with the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and Kellogg Institute for International Studies, has also garnered support and recognition for other recent academic pursuits.

Last year, she and professor of anthropology Vania Smith-Oka received a three-year grant from Humanities Without Walls for a project that encourages Latinx women who have incurred violence during pregnancy and childbirth to share their experiences through art and literature.

Miseres also earned an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Humboldt Research Fellowship that enabled her to work on her book, Gender Battles. Latin American Women, War, and Feminism, at Freie Universität Berlin in 2022.

Her first book, Mujeres en tránsito: viaje, identidad y escritura en Sudamérica (1830-1910), won the 2018 Alfredo Roggiano Prize for Latin American Literary Criticism and was an honorable mention for the Victoria Urbano Critical Monograph Prize.