The British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize Announces 2020 Shortlist

In News by Porter Anderson

‘Converging in their concern with the legacies of empire,’ five titles are named by the £25,000 Al-Rodhan Prize program in London.

A “Stop the Spread” sign stands in a rainy Covent Garden in London on September 5. Image – iSTockphoto: VV Shots

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

‘A Genuinely Post-Imperial Understanding’
Among the several leading nonfiction literature awards, the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding is specifically calibrated to serve as a foil to nationalism, isolationism, and trends toward what Anne Applebaum calls in her summer release  Twilight of Democracy (Penguin Random House/Doubleday, July 21)–”the seductive lure of authoritarianism.”

The academy’s £25,000 (US$32,587) prize is awarded annually for a book that contributes to “public understanding of world cultures.”

It’s meant “to illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide,” as its media messaging has it, based in the work of the award’s sponsor, 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.

This year’s shortlist was selected from more than 100 submissions, a record.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, this year’s jury  is led by King’s College literature and history professor emeritus Patrick Wright and includes Oxford political scientist Rana Mitter; Henrietta Moore, the social anthropologist at University College London; and author and journalist Madeleine Bunting.

New to the jury is Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji.

In a prepared comment for today’s announcement, Wright speaks for the jury on its rationale, saying, “This year, our jury has selected a shortlist of five distinguished books exploring issues of urgent global significance.

“The range is various as it should be, but this year’s titles converge in their concern with the legacies of empire: and the things that have been done–and still need to be–to create a genuinely post-imperial understanding of how different cultures have and might in future interact with one another.”

And Sir David Cannadine, president of the British Academy, weighs in as he does each year, saying this time, “This wide-ranging and diverse shortlist demonstrates the power of nonfiction, and of the humanities and social sciences, to examine the critical issues of our time through a global lens–from justice and liberation to notions of identity and belonging.

“As we live through extraordinary times, writing such as this helps us to understand the complexities and wonders of our world.”

Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize Shortlist

Image: British Academy

On September 29, the shortlisted writers are to speak on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, a program that then will be available as a podcast in the BBC Arts & Ideas series.

Another program on October 1 is to present the five shortlisted authors and the jury members in live conversation in partnership with the London Review Bookshop. BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight host Ritula Shah is to moderate the event. You can register to participate, free of charge, here.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the 2019 winner of the Al-Rodhan is researcher and historian Toby Green, whose A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution, was published in the UK by Penguin Books’ Allen Lane imprint.

Al-Rodhan’s 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.

In the 4:28 a.m. ET update (0828 GMT), the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports a fast-rising caseload of 352,451 infections in the United Kingdom’s population of 67 million. There are 47,673 fatalities recorded there, as Amy Woodyatt reports for the London bureau of CNN that health officials fear citizens have let down their guard, erroneously believing that the pandemic has ended.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.