Book Awards

Submit a Nomination

CESS gives one Book Award annually. It recognizes work in the Social Sciences and in History & Humanities in alternating years. CESS began offering these book awards in 2007 to each subject in every other year; from 2018 to 2020 both awards were given annually; beginning in 2021, each award is given in alternating years.

Submissions for the 2021 CESS Book Award in Social Sciences are now closed. The deadline was May 17, 2021.

The CESS Book Award and a monetary prize of $500 is presented to the author of the book or monograph that represents the most important contribution to Central Eurasian studies during the award period. An interdisciplinary panel of scholars of Central Eurasia, selected annually by the CESS Board from among a pool of applicants, consider scholarly merit, argumentative scope, and felicity of style in their deliberations.

The winners will be announced during the CESS Annual Conference, which is being held October 14-17, 2021 in virtual format, with support from The Ohio State University.

Rules and procedures for the competition are as follows:

1. Books must be scholarly monographs based on original research and published in English in 2020;

2. Books may be submitted in one category for one competition only, and no book may be considered more than once;

3. Scholarly monographs translated into English from other languages are eligible for consideration;

4. Edited volumes, new editions of previously published books, bibliographies, dictionaries, and textbooks are not eligible;

5. Nominations may be made by either the publisher, the author, or a CESS member.

To be considered, three copies of the book should be sent to the CESS mailing address by the deadline specified above. Given current restrictions on movement as a result of COVID-19, e-books are preferred. Authors/publishers should contact CESS to submit an e-book or to ask any questions.

Social Sciences committee (2021)History & Humanities committee (2022)
Larry Markowitz
Dina Sharipova
Akram Umarov
Chair: TBD

2021 Book Award


The winner of the 2021 CESS Book Award is Embattled Dreamlands: The Politics of Contesting Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish Memory by David Leupold. The book was published by Routledge in 2020. Congratulations to the author!

Cover of Embattled Dreamlands and portrait of David Leupold

The Book Award Committee wrote in its citation:

David Leupold’s exceptional book explores the complex and contested Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian visions of homeland in the greater Van region of contemporary Turkey. Through a layered analysis of collective violence, constructed national histories, and imagined homelands, Embattled Dreamlands demonstrates how violence and population displacement in the early 1900s produced homeland imaginaries and mutually exclusive interpretations of the past. Based on five years of ethnographic and historical research, Leupold’s rich tapestry of Ottoman and Soviet history, imagined geographies, and national narratives makes unique theoretical contributions to studies of collective memory and provides an insightful and impartial assessment of sectarian and national identities. The book invites us to evaluate critically and carefully our past and its impact on our contemporary imagined worlds.

2021 Book Award Committee – Social Sciences

Shortlisted books

There were a number of outstanding works published on Central Eurasia in 2020 that were nominated and considered by the Committee. Thank you to all the authors whose works were considered this year and to everyone who submitted a nomination. Congratulations to all those whose books were shortlisted!

Social Sciences

Kudaibergenova, Diana T. (2020). Toward Nationalizing Regimes: Conceptualizing Power and Identity in the Post-Soviet Realm. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Leupold, David. (2020). Embattled Dreamlands: The Politics of Contesting Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish Memory. Routledge.

Ptáčková, Jarmila. (2020). Exile from the Grasslands: Tibetan Herders and Chinese Development Projects. University of Washington Press.

Sharafutdinova, Gulnaz. (2020). The Red Mirror: Putin’s Leadership and Russia’s Insecure Identity. Oxford University Press.

Past Book Award Winners


The winners of the 2020 awards were announced during the Online Week of Central Eurasian Studies on October 14, 2020. Many congratulations to Matthew King and Timothy Grose, the 2020 Book Award winners!

Read interviews with our prize winning authors on the CESS Blog: Interview with Matthew King; Interview with Timothy Grose.

Matthew King (L) and Timothy Grose (R), winners of the 2020 CESS Book Awards

The Awards Committees wrote the following about their choices:

Matthew W. King’s Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire is at once a reverent mystical biography, a groundbreaking intellectual history, and a remarkably original contribution to the academic study of Buddhism. Passionately written but never hagiographical, the book is ultimately as much about its esteemed subject, the Buddhist monk and polymath Zava Damdin (1867-1937), as it is about “anxious creativity in the face of state violence, and about the periodization and interpretation of modernization in Asia beyond the national subject” (198). By focusing on Damdin and his efforts to grasp and explain the fall of the Qing empire and the rise of socialism, Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood challenges Western state-centric narratives and conceptual maps of nations, regions, and empires, while also foregrounding the social construction of scholastic knowledge. 

2020 Book Awards Committee – History and Humanities

Timothy Grose’s masterful book provides unparalleled insights into identity formation among Uyghurs by examining efforts to integrate them into the broader “Chinese Nation.” The book focusses on the experiences of Uyghur graduates of a national boarding school program. Building amazing rapport with his key informants, Grose shows how living under an invasive surveillance apparatus and encountering oppressive policies in their everyday lives, the “Xinjiang Class” graduates participate in Chinese mainstream society while also nurturing and strengthening ties that extend far beyond Xinjiang and reach into global communities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the period right before Xinjiang became largely inaccessible to research Negotiating Inseparability in China is an urgent and timely book that will make a contribution for years to come.

2020 Book Awards Committee – Social Sciences

2019 – History & the Humanities

Feldman, Leah. 2018. On the Threshold of Eurasia: Revolutionary Poetics in the Caucasus. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

View all past Book Award winners.