2 Indian-origin Authors Named to British Academy Book Prize Shortlist
Cover of Sri Lankan author Sujit Sivasundaram’s book, “for “Waves across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire.” (thebritishacademy.ac.uk photo)
India-West Staff Reporter
The British Academy Sept. 7 announced the shortlist for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2021, with two Indian-origin authors on the list.
Named among the authors were Ugandan Mahmood Mamdani and Sri Lankan Sujit Sivasundaram, as well as Cal Flyn and Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Mamdani was named for “Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities.”
Mamdani sets out the powerful and original argument that from the New World to South Africa, to Israel to Germany to Sudan, the nation-state and the colonial state created each other. Mamdani describes the study as “an in-depth inquiry into political modernity, colonial and postcolonial, and an exploration of the roots of violence that has plagued postcolonial society.”
Sivasundaram was named for “Waves across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire.”
Colonialism is further explored in the book by Sivasundaram, by approaching the era from the perspective of indigenous peoples in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
In this maritime history of empire, Sivasundaram tells the story for the first time, from the viewpoint of Aboriginal Australians and Parsis, Mauritians and Malays, showing how people of color asserted their place and their future as the British Empire expanded.
“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,” jury chair Patrick Wright said in a statement. “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.”
Adds British Academy president Julia Black, “The British Academy is honored 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.”
The international book prize, worth £25,000, rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to public understanding of world cultures.
This year’s shortlist introduces readers to four books on urgent and globally significant topics.
The selected titles explore racism in America (approached through the example of the writer James Baldwin), the role of the modern colonial nation-state in the creation of “permanent minorities” around the world, the legacies of revolution and empire when viewed from the “small seas” of the global South, and life in the “blighted post-human” landscapes of a deteriorated planet.
The four 2021 shortlisted writers will be brought together from around the world for a special live online event, in partnership with the London Review Bookshop, on Oct. 13.
The winner will be announced Oct. 26.