The five-strong shortlist for the British Academy's £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding sees works on the discoveries of 20th-century anthropologists side by side with studies on the legacies of Empire.
The annual international prize, which celebrates "the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to global cultural understanding", saw a record number of submissions in 2020.
Shortlisted are: Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands by Hazel V Carby (Verso), in which former Yale professor Carby summons her memories of growing up in post-war England and Wales, as the daughter of a Jamaican father and Welsh mother, to trace the history of her family as it was shaped under the British Empire; Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent by Priyamvada Gopal, fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge (also Verso), which "makes the point that the imperial project was fiercely resisted outside Britain and in that resistance emerged the ideas of what it means to be free"; and Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power by Rhodes professor of American history Pekka Hämäläinen (Yale University Press), described as a long-overdue history of the Lakotas – the tribe of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse – and their role in shaping America’s colonial and indigenous histories.
Also on the list are The Reinvention of Humanity: A Story of Race, Sex, Gender and the Discovery of Culture by Charles King, a professor at Georgetown University (The Bodley Head), who explores how a group of pioneering cultural anthropologists – mostly women – shaped our interpretation of the modern world; and All Our Relations: Indigenous Trauma in the Shadow of Colonialism by Tanya Talaga (Scribe), which explores intergenerational trauma and the alarming rise of youth suicide among indigenous people in Canada.
“This wide-ranging and diverse shortlist demonstrates the power of non-fiction, and of the humanities and social sciences, to examine the critical issues of our time through a global lens," said historian and president of the British Academy Professor Sir David Cannadine. "As we live through extraordinary times, writing such as this helps us to understand the complexities and wonders of our world.”
The judging panel is made up Professor Patrick Wright (chair), Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji, historian and political scientist Professor Rana Mitter, social anthropologist Professor Dame Henrietta Moore and writer Madeleine Bunting.
The writers will be brought together from around the world for a live online event, in partnership with the London Review Bookshop, on 1st October. The event will be chaired by Ritula Shah, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s "The World Tonight". Tickets for the event are free.
The writers will also feature in conversation on BBC Radio 3’s "Free Thinking" programme on 29th September and will be available to download on the BBC Arts & Ideas podcast.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday 27th October.
Last year's winner was Toby Green for A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (Penguin).
- De Bellaigue, Mekhennet, Kaufmann shortlisted for £25k British Academy prize
- William Collins scores two on £25k British Academy Book Prize shortlist
- Carby's 'exceptional' history of British Empire scoops £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize
- Baggini, Green and Lovell make Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist
- Kassabova wins British Academy's £25k Prize for Global Cultural Understanding