The CESS book prize for 2012 is awarded to the author of the best social science book on Central Eurasia published in 2010 or 2011. This year’s prize goes to Johan Rasanayagam forIslam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: the morality of experience (Cambridge UP).
The panel was comprised of Paul Stronski, Bhavna Dave (SOAS) and David Montgomery (Pittsburgh) with John Heathershaw (Exeter) acting as a non-voting chair.
Six books were shortlisted from fourteen very good submissions.
The short-listed books were:
Jones-Luong and Weinthal, OIL IS NOT A CURSE, Cambridge UP.
McGlinchey, CHAOS, VIOLENCE, DYNASTY, Pitt UP
Pedersen, NOT QUITE SHAMANS, Columbia UP
Radnitz, WEAPONS OF THE WEALTHY Cornell UP
Rasanayagam, ISLAM IN POST-SOVIET UZBEKISTAN, Cambridge UP
Trevisiani, LAND AND POWER IN KHOREZM, Lit Verlag
Each of these books is an outstanding contribution to the literature on Central Eurasia and all were highly ranked by at least one member of the committee. However, there was unanimity regarding the winner.
Bhavna Dave commented that Rasanayagam’s book is “in-depth, lucid, very well-researched and a significant contribution to our understanding of Islam, of Central Asia (Uzbekistan) and to several disciplines including anthropology, politics, and history. I rank it at the top for its readability and accessibility to a wide audience – specialists and general readers alike.”
Paul Stronski stated, “I thought Rasanayagam’s “Islam in Post Soviet Uzbekistan” was particularly strong. It crosses multiple disciplines and speaks to those involved in history, political science, anthropology, the study of everyday life and religion. It was very effective in conveying how individual communities experience/shape social and religious identities under repression — both in the Soviet-era and post-Soviet era. I also found his chapters on disease and healing particularly insightful, especially in how he weaves family, gender, and community relations into that narrative.”
David Montgomery commented, “[It is] ethnography at its best and really gets at material that can only be obtained through long ethnographic work. It makes a significant theoretical contribution to the study of both Islam and Morality.”
Dr. Rasanayagam is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Uzbekistan where his doctoral dissertation examined the themes of the state and citizenship. More recently, he has conducted research on Islam in Central Asia, specifically on the processes of moral reasoning through which individuals come to an understanding of what it means to be a good Muslim. He is currently developing research interests in the category of religion and the secular in Muslim contexts. Islam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan is his first book.