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The 2018 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist

The 2018 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist

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‘In these difficult times it is important to be reminded of the ties that bind us, whoever and wherever we are. The books shortlisted for this prize do just that, and magnificently.’

Ash Amin FBA

The shortlist for The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2018, the British Academy’s prestigious international book prize, is announced today, Tuesday 11 September.

Worth £25,000, the prize rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to global cultural understanding and illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.

The six books on the 2018 shortlist, alphabetically by author, are:

  • The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue (UK, The Bodley Head)
  • Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson (UK, Bantam Press)
  • Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Bulgaria, Granta Books)
  • Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (UK, One World)
  • I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet (Germany, Virago)
  • Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Dame Anne Salmond (New Zealand, Auckland University Press)

Chaired by Professor Ash Amin CBE FBA, the Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, the jury has selected a shortlist of six exceptional books, each chosen for its meticulous and original research, and the cogency and public relevance of its argument.

Commenting on behalf of the jury he says: “All of these fine books display an appetite for both research and original thinking that sets them apart in the rapidly changing, and often shallow, information world of today. Here, the truth counts, as does the commitment to delve deep into the making of cultural identities, affiliations, and connections. This prize is awarded for global cultural understanding, and that is precisely what all of these books deliver. In these difficult times it is important to be reminded of the ties that bind us, whoever and wherever we are. The books shortlisted for this prize do just that, and magnificently.”

Alun Evans, Chief Executive at the British Academy, added: "We are delighted to announce today the shortlist for the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. In Britain, and across the globe, we stand at crossroads: the challenges mankind faces know no borders, from the rapid development of new technologies to climate change, from military conflicts to the spread of disease – yet we remain divided. Never has there been a greater need for the global cultural understanding this prize seeks to celebrate.

“The British Academy proudly champions the humanities and social sciences, and these subjects’ power to illustrate and illuminate. That is why we are grateful to Nayef Al-Rodhan for establishing such an important and timely prize, and for highlighting the benefit of tackling these challenges.”

Each of the six books on the shortlist addresses questions of identity and culture in one form or another.

Three of the books shortlisted for the 2018 Al-Rodhan prize

The Muslim world is explored in three of the six titles. In The Islamic EnlightenmentThe Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason, Christopher de Bellaigue introduces the key ideas, cities and figures that shaped modern Islam, while journalist James Fergusson explores the nuances of Muslim identity and longing in Britain today in Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain.

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad is a compelling memoir by German-born journalist Souad Mekhennet, in which she documents her often perilous assignments in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Three of the books shortlisted for the 2018 Al-Rodhan prize

In Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, Bulgarian-born writer Kapka Kassabova not only explores the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece but also the borderlines that exist between cultures.

Black Tudors is the debut by Miranda Kaufmann in which she uncovers the long-forgotten records – and remarkable stories – of Africans who lived in Tudor England.

In her most ambitious book to date, Tears of Rangi, Dame Anne Salmond looks at New Zealand as a site of cosmo-diversity, a place where multiple worlds collide, beginning with a fine-grained inquiry into the early encounters between Maori and Europeans from 1769-1840.

Professor Ash Amin FBA (Chair) is joined on the 2018 jury by: historian and political scientist Rana Mitter FBA; social anthropologist Dame Henrietta Moore DBE FBA; writer and broadcaster Professor Patrick Wright FBA and writer Madeleine Bunting.

The prize was founded and is generously sponsored by the International Relations scholar Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan. It was first awarded in 2013 and this is the first year that a shortlist has been introduced.

The last three winners were Professor Timothy Garton Ash for Free Speech (2017), Professor Carole Hillenbrand for Islam: A New Historical Introduction (2016), and Dr Neil MacGregor for A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany: Memories of a Nation (2015).

The winner will be announced at an evening ceremony held at the British Academy on Tuesday 30 October.

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