Annie Zaidi has won the $100,000 (£78,927) Nine Dots Prize for innovative thinking with her essay Bread, Cement, Cactus.
Zaidi’s book, based on her prize-winning essay, will be published by Cambridge University Press in May 2020 and made available in an open access format.
Judges said Zaidi's entry "combines memoir and reportage to explore concepts of home and belonging rooted in her experience of contemporary life in India, where migration – within the country, especially from villages to cities – is high. The proposed book will answer the central question through examining how a citizen’s sense of ‘home’ might collapse, or be recovered."
The 40-year-old freelance writer whose work includes reportage, essays, short stories, poetry and plays, said: “What really appealed to me about the Nine Dots Prize was the way it encourages entrants to think without borders or restraints. My work has often crossed over genres, traversing between memoir and journalism, and this timely but wide-open question encouraged us to approach it with methods that were equally far-ranging. I had been working towards a similarly themed project for a while but didn’t have the financial, or even mental, bandwidth to do it justice. The Prize will allow me to dedicate time to the examination of this question, which is of critical importance in the modern world – and it will help fund the necessary research trips, which, as a freelancer, is something I appreciate hugely. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to the challenges and excitement of the year ahead.”
Established to promote and encourage innovative thinking to address problems facing the modern world, the prize is funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation. Entries were judged anonymously by leading international thinkers including Anne Applebaum, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Ira Katznelson and David Runciman.
Now in its second cycle, the Prize challenged entrants to answer the question ‘Is there still no place like home?’ in a 3,000-word essay. As well as the prize money, Zaidi, who is based in Mumbai, has been given the opportunity to spend a term at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University.
The inaugural Nine Dots Prize posed the question ‘Are digital technologies making politics impossible?’ and was won by former Google employee turned Oxford philosopher, James Williams.