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The University of Alabama

UA Historian, Author Receives Two Prestigious Awards

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. Steven B. Bunker, associate professor of history at The University of Alabama, has received awards from two distinguished Latin American studies associations for his book, “Creating Mexican Consumer Culture in the Age of Porfirio Diaz,” published by the University of New Mexico Press.

Dr. Steven B. Bunker

Dr. Steven B. Bunker

The book received the Thomas McGann Award for outstanding book published in Latin American Studies in 2012 from the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies, the oldest Latin American academic organization. It also received the 2013 Mexico Humanities Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association. With more than 7,000 members internationally, the association is the largest for scholars of Latin American studies.

Bunker’s book is the first to analyze Mexico’s consumer culture under President Porfirio Diaz — a period known as the Porfiriato (1876-1910) — and apply that analysis to understanding how people viewed the rapid economic changes that took place in the 40 years before the Mexican Revolution. The book overturns conventional wisdom that only the elite participated in the modernizing of consumer culture and demonstrates the popular and participatory nature of the Mexican modernizing process.

It also illustrates how Europeans, particularly the French, shaped this modernizing consumer culture before World War I and left an imprint on Mexican consumption patterns that are still seen today.

The Thomas McGann Award committee called Bunker’s book “a refreshing reconceptualization of Porfirian modernization through the lens of consumption.”

“Steven Bunker has written a sparkling history of goods, their consumption and consumer culture generally in Porfirian Mexico,” the committee said.

In his research for the project, Bunker used archives in Mexico, France and the United States, consulting sources in several languages. Some of his more unusual sources included patent applications; advertising ephemera bought at flea markets; and business archives like those of Mexico’s first department store, the Palacio de Hierro, which were not readily or easily accessible.

“Publishing this book and having it recognized by two awards committees is the culmination and validation of nearly two decades of labor and intellectual development,” said Bunker, who received his doctorate in history from Texas Christian University in 2006.  “I am thankful for the research support granted me by the UA department of history and The College of Arts and Sciences that helped finish this project and have allowed me to begin work on my second book, for which I have obtained an advance contract from the University of New Mexico Press.”

The history department is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.