Global Indian author Mahmood Mamdani is among four authors from around the world to be shortlisted for the 2021 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding on Tuesday.
The 75-year-old Mumbai-born Ugandan academic and writer is in the running for the £25,000 non-fiction prize for ‘Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities’, described as an in-depth inquiry into political modernity, colonial and postcolonial, and an exploration of the roots of violence that has plagued postcolonial society. In the book, Mamdani is said to set out a "powerful and original" argument that the nation-state and the colonial state created each other.
“An original and forcefully argued book that explores how the development of the colonial and postcolonial nation state has produced ‘permanent minorities’, who are then victimised as existing outside national belonging,” the judges of the prize said in reference to his book.
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“The book is particularly strong in exploring the consequences of this problem, here shown to have caused extreme xenophobic violence in various postcolonial situations. Mamdani makes a convincing case for the necessary reimagining of politics that has to happen before the situation can be improved. A valuable book on an issue of outstanding importance,” they note.
Others on the 2021 shortlist include Sri Lankan-born Cambridge historian Sujit Sivasundaram for ‘Waves across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire’, a maritime history of the Empire. Scotland-based Cal Flyn is shortlisted for ‘Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape’, an exploration of the ecology and psychology of abandoned places. Eddie S. Glaude Jr, chair of the Department of African American studies at Princeton University, is in the running for ‘Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Today’, dubbed a searing indictment of racial injustice in America, inspired by the life and work of the American essayist, novelist and playwright James Baldwin.
“Through meticulous research and compelling argument each writer shortlisted for this important prize casts new light on a globally significant problem, raising important questions, and suggesting the lessons that might be learnt for the future,” said Professor Patrick Wright, Fellow of the British Academy and Chair of this year’s jury.
“Each of the selected books reaches out to invite the reader to make their own interrogation and thereby to participate in an increase of ‘global understanding’. In different ways, the books all speak directly to the urgent challenges of the times in which we live,” he said.
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The international book prize rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to public understanding of world cultures and is intended to introduce readers to books on urgent and globally significant topics.
“The British Academy is honoured to support this unique non-fiction book prize which celebrates exceptional writers who illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide. This year's shortlist shows the breadth and depth of the humanities and social sciences and the vital role they can play in deepening our understanding of people, cultures and societies," said Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy.
The 2021 winner will be announced on October 26 by the British Academy, the UK's national voice for the humanities and social sciences.