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The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2019 shortlist

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“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.”

Historian and President of the British Academy, Professor Sir David Cannadine

Today, the British Academy announces the six books shortlisted for the seventh Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.

The international book prize, worth £25,000, rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to global cultural understanding and illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.

The six books on the 2019 shortlist were selected from over 80 submissions. Alphabetically by author, they are:

  • 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)

The 2019 shortlist is a model of diversity and reach, ranging from the philosopher Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy, which explains why world philosophies matter for global understanding, and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, an exploration of identities as made from cross-cultural engagements; to Maoism: A Global History, Julia Lovell’s examination of Maoism as an international force.

There is localised depth, too. 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; while in Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture, Ed Morales addresses the potent impact of the 58 million Latin-Americans who now inhabit the United States of America and challenge its dualist black / white identity norms.

Chair of the jury, Professor Ash Amin FBA comments:

“The jury has selected a shortlist of six exceptional books that is far-reaching in scope, purpose and purchase. Each beautifully crafted book has been chosen for its meticulous and original research. It is a shortlist that 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.”

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, added:

“Such rigorous, timely and original non-fiction 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.”

Professor Ash Amin is joined on the 2019 jury by: historian and political scientist Professor Rana Mitter FBA; social anthropologist Professor Dame Henrietta Moore FBA; writer and broadcaster Professor Patrick Wright FBA and writer Madeleine Bunting.

The winner will be announced at an evening ceremony held at the British Academy in London on Wednesday 30 October. The evening will include a panel discussion with the shortlisted writers, chaired by Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji.

The winner in 2018 was Kapka Kassabova for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe.