Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize Announces Its 2018 Shortlist in ‘Global Understanding’

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The UK’s relatively young Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize announces its shortlist, which honors nonfiction books that enhance ‘global cultural understanding.’

Image: Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Mankind’s Challenges ‘Know No Borders’
The British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan book award—having received submissions from publishers, fellows of the academy, and open call—is announcing today (September 11) its 2018 shortlist.

The prize carries a purse of £25,000 (US$32,594) and recognizes “an outstanding contribution to global cultural understanding that illuminates the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.”

The winner is to be announced at an evening ceremony held at the British Academy on October 30.

This is still a relatively young award, having been first conferred in 2013 to Karen Armstrong for her work in culture and religions.

The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding in its current cycle, has considered titles in nonfiction published in English in the two years since March 1, 2016. The jury looks for work that is “rigorous and evidence-based,” based in original research and capable of advancing public understanding and debate.

Authors of all nationalities are welcome, wherever they’re based. They may work in any language as long as the submitted material is in English.

This year’s jury is chaired by Ash Amin, CBE FBA, the academy’s foreign secretary. Working with Ash as jurors are:

  • Historian and political scientist Rana Mitter FBA
  • Social anthropologist Dame Henrietta Moore DBE FBA
  • Writer and broadcaster Prof. Patrick Wright FBA
  • Writer Madeleine Bunting
2018 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize Shortlist

Listed alphabetically by author, the six contenders announced today (September 11) are:

  • The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue (UK, The Bodley Head)
  • Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain</e,> by James Fergusson (UK, Bantum Press)
  • Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Bulgaria, Granta Books)
  • Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (UK, One World)
  • I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet (Germany, Virago)
  • Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds</iem by Dame Anne Salmond (New Zealand, Auckland University Press)

As organizers are pointing out, the Muslim world is examined in three of the six titles.

“In The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason, Christopher de Bellaigue introduces the key ideas,” the prize’s officials tell us, “cities and figures that shaped modern Islam.

“Journalist James Fergusson explores the nuances of Muslim identity and longing in Britain today in Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain.”

In the third instance, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, German-born Washington Post journalist Souad Mekhennet documents her often perilous assignments in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Black Tudors is the debut by Miranda Kaufmann in which she uncovers the long-forgotten records–and remarkable stories–of Africans who lived in Tudor England.

In Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, Bulgarian-born writer Kapka Kassabova not only explores the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece but also the borderlines that exist between cultures. And Dame Anne Salmond looks at New Zealand as “a place where multiple worlds collide, beginning with a fine-grained inquiry into the early encounters between Maori and Europeans (1769-1840).”

In a prepared statement, jury chair Amin is quoted, saying, “All of these fine books display an appetite for both research and original thinking that sets them apart in the rapidly changing, and often shallow, information world of today. Here, the truth counts, as does the commitment to delve deep into the making of cultural identities, affiliations, and connections. This prize is awarded for global cultural understanding, and that is precisely what all of these books deliver.

“In these difficult times it is important to be reminded of the ties that bind us, whoever and wherever we are. The books shortlisted for this prize do just that, and magnificently.”

And a statement is also being provided to news media from Alun Evans, chief of the British Academy, who says, “Across the globe, we stand at a crossroads: the challenges mankind faces know no borders, from the rapid development of new technologies to climate change; from military conflicts to the spread of disease–yet we remain divided. Never has there been a greater need for the global cultural understanding this prize seeks to celebrate.

“The British Academy proudly champions the humanities and social sciences, and these subjects’ power to illustrate and illuminate. That’s why we are grateful to Nayef Al-Rodhan for establishing such an important and timely prize, and for highlighting the benefit of tackling these challenges.”

Background on the Prize’s Name

The prize is named for its sponsor, the Saudi neurologist and geostrategist Nayef Al-Rodhan, an honorary fellow at St. Antony’s Oxford, and program director with the Geopolitics and Global Futures Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

His writings include Emotional Amoral Egoism (LIT Verlag, 2008); Neo-Statecraft and Meta-Geopolitics (LIT Verlag, 2009); Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Al-Rodhan’s site is called Sustainable History.

The last three winners of the Al-Rodhan Prize are:

  • Timothy Garton Ash for Free Speech (2017)
  • Prof. Carole Hillenbrand for Islam: A New Historical Introduction (2016)
  • Neil MacGregor for A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany: Memories of a Nation (2015)

The prize, now “for Global Cultural Understanding,” was known until last year as the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding. This will be its second prize year with the “Global Cultural Understanding” moniker.


More from Publishing Perspectives on book award programs is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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