Two authors with Indian heritage, Nandini Das from the UK & Kris Manjapra from the US, have been shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize 2023 for Global Cultural Understanding, an esteemed international non-fiction award with a prize of GBP 25,000. The announcement of the shortlist was made here on Tuesday.
Nandini Das, originally from India and now residing in the UK, has been nominated for her work titled ‘Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire’. Meanwhile, Kris Manjapra, who hails from the Caribbean with a mixed African and Indian background and currently resides in the US, has made it to the shortlist with his book ‘Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation’.
This prestigious prize, now in its 11th year, welcomes submissions from authors of any nationality, regardless of their geographical location, and accepts works in any language, as long as the nominated piece is available in English and published in the UK. The award recognises research-based non-fiction works that have significantly contributed to the public’s understanding of global cultures and their interconnectedness.
The 2023 jury, chaired by Professor Charles Tripp, a Fellow of the British Academy, expressed their deep admiration for the exceptional quality of writing within this year’s shortlist. They commended the authors for their remarkable ability to unearth new discoveries and offer fresh perspectives on long-held perceptions.
Nandini Das, who is in her 40s and currently holds the position of Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the English faculty at the University of Oxford, left an indelible mark with her debut work on the shortlist. Born in India, Das studied at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University before pursuing further education in England.
The judges lauded her book as a groundbreaking piece of literature. They described it as a beautifully written account that chronicles England’s inaugural diplomatic mission to India during the early 1600s. By weaving together biography and historical narrative, Das manages to oscillate between microscopic details and grand vistas seamlessly.
The judges recognised the book’s contribution in shedding light on how the Mughals and English comprehended and sometimes misunderstood each other. Das’s work illuminates crucial insights into the global connections and evolving power dynamics of this pivotal period in world history through this shifting perspective.
Kris Manjapra, also in his 40s, spent his formative years in Canada and currently serves as the Stearns Trustee Professor of History and Global Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. His shortlisted book delves into the protracted demise of slavery and the shortcomings of emancipation.
The judges’ remarks on Manjapra’s work praised it for its restrained yet passionate approach, providing a comprehensive and disquieting account of the false promise of emancipation that accompanied the formal abolition of slavery in the 19th century. Set against the backdrop of the vast transatlantic slave trade and the persistent myths surrounding its conclusion, Manjapra’s book gives voice and memory to those who were enslaved. It identifies the forces responsible for establishing new systems of servitude in the aftermath of slavery and vigorously argues against the denial of these lingering legacies in our society.
Joining the esteemed 2023 shortlist for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding are a diverse array of authors from around the world.
- France-based Daniel Foliard presents ‘The Violence of Colonial Photography,’ a compelling exploration of photography’s role in the history of British and French imperialism.
- Irene Vallejo, based in Spain, offers ‘Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World,’ a comprehensive account of literary culture in ancient times.
- Tania Branigan, a UK-based journalist, takes readers on a journey with ‘Red Memory,’ unearthing rarely-heard stories from China.
- Dimitris Xygalatas, an anthropologist hailing from the US, examines the significance of ‘Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living.’
The highly anticipated winner of the GBP 25,000 prize will be unveiled during a prestigious awards ceremony scheduled for October 31 in London. Each of the shortlisted authors will receive GBP 1,000 in recognition of their remarkable contributions to the world of nonfiction literature.
The 2023 judging panel for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding comprises Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed FBA, Visiting Professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics; Professor Rebecca Earle, a renowned food historian and Professor of History at the University of Warwick; Fatima Manji, an award-winning broadcaster; and Professor Gary Younge Hon, an acclaimed author, broadcaster, and Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester.