2023 Catherine W. Bishir Prize Recipient

The 2023 winner of the Catherine W. Bishir Prize is Valentina Davila for her article "Altars of Hope: Venezuelan Domestic Workers and the Material Culture of the Divine," which appears in the Spring 2022 edition of Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Davila is part of the small but growing cohort of VAF-ers who are expanding scholarship beyond U.S.-built environments. Davila takes us to Venezuela, to the humble back rooms of domestic workers, where she engages in oral history and ethnography to highlight the voices and experiences of an often-overlooked group. She adeptly uses the material culture of shrines to tell a larger social story about the dislocations and class fractures of contemporary Venezuela. Davila takes an active role in her field-based research and writing, refusing to slumber behind the impersonal third person. She exemplifies VAF’s commitment to identifying alternative forms of authorship within the built environment, making a compelling case for the efforts of domestic workers to inscribe identity and meaning into their spaces through alter making.

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