The British Academy Announces the 2019 Al-Rodhan Prize Shortlist

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Urging readers to ‘look to other cultures to find answers’, this year’s Al-Rodhan picks are powered by thought from Africa to China, from Latin America to India and Pakistan.

Image: Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize

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

UK, India, USA Represented in Shortlist
In London today (September 10), the British Academy is announcing the six-title shortlist for the 2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.

The prize carries a purse of £25,000 (US$30,864) and is focused on nonfiction deemed to “contribute to global cultural understanding and illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.” As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the prize was won last year by Kapka Kassabova for her Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe published by Granta in the UK and by Graywolf in the States.

Drawn from more than 80 submissions, this year’s shortlisted titles again elicit talk of borders at a time when Brexit and the political chaos around the concept is so intense in the UK, British Academy president Sir David Canadine saying, “Each of the writers nominated for this year’s prize encourages the reader to trace the remarkable ways in which ideas are transmitted beyond borders, dynasties and ages.”

2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Shortlist

  • The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah (USA), Profile
  • How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy by Julian Baggini (UK), Granta Books
  • A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution by Toby Green (UK), Allen Lane
  • Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell (UK), The Bodley Head
  • Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided by Aanchal Malhotra (India), Hurst
  • Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture by Ed Morales (USA), Verso

This year’s winner is to be announced on October 30.

In a brief comparative discussion of the six titles named, organizers of the award write, “Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy explains why world philosophies matter for global understanding, and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity is an exploration of identities as made from cross-cultural engagements. Maoism: A Global History is Julia Lovell’s examination of Maoism as an international force.

A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution is Toby Green’s transforming history of West and West-Central Africa’s economic outreach to the world.

“In Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided, New Delhi-based artist and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra offers an alternate history of the subcontinent through memories of unity echoed around handfuls of items carried between the new India and Pakistan.

“In Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture, Ed Morales addresses the impact of the 58 million Latin-Americans who now inhabit the United States and challenge its dualist black-white identity norms.”

‘Meticulous and Original Research’

Shortlisted authors for the 2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize are, from left, Kwame Anthony Appiah (image: Steve Bisgrove); Julian Baggini (image: Richard H. Smith); Toby Green; Julia Lovell; Aanchal Malhotra (image: Aashna Malhotra); and Ed Morales

To be eligible for entry this year, books had to be works of nonfiction published between March 1 of last year and March 31 of this year. Authors may be of any nationality, based anywhere in the world, and working in any language provided that the nominated work is available in the English language.

“It’s a shortlist which we hope will spark curiosity, promote dialogue, and inspire readers to look to other cultures to find answers to the big questions about the world today. These are the workings of great minds.”Ash Amin, jury chair

The jury this year is chaired by Ash Amin, who’s joined on the panel by historian and political scientist Rana Mitter: social anthropologist Dame Henrietta Moore;  writer and broadcaster Professor Patrick Wright; and writer Madeleine Bunting.

In a prepared statement, Amin is quoted, saying, “The jury has selected a shortlist of six exceptional books far-reaching in scope, purpose, and purchase.

“Each beautifully crafted book has been chosen for its meticulous and original research. It’s a shortlist which we hope will spark curiosity, promote dialogue, and inspire readers to look to other cultures to find answers to the big questions about the world today. These are the workings of great minds.”

And Canadine, in his remarks. says, “Such rigorous, timely and original nonfiction writing provides the rich context the global community needs to discuss and debate present-day challenges. Each of the writers nominated for this year’s prize encourages the reader to trace the remarkable ways in which ideas are transmitted beyond the confines of borders, dynasties and ages.

“As the voice for the humanities and social sciences, the British Academy is proud to celebrate the most illuminating examples of literature and academic inquiry that foster global cultural understanding. I wish to express sincere gratitude to Nayef Al-Rodhan for his role in establishing this important prize.”

The Award’s Nayef Al-Rodhan

The award’s sponsor Al-Rodhan is 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 own 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 prize now “for Global Cultural Understanding,” was established in 2013 and originally was called the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding. This will be its third year with the “Global Cultural Understanding” moniker.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book award programs is here, and more from us on the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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