Book Awards

Submit a Nomination

CESS Book Awards are now open! The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2023.

CESS gives two Book Awards annually, one in the Social Sciences and one in History & Humanities.

The Book awards offering began in 2007 in each category in alternating years; from 2018 to 2020 both awards were given annually; in 2021, the award was given only in Social Sciences; beginning in 2022 awards are given in both categories each year.

The CESS Book Awards and two monetary prizes of $500 are presented to the authors of the books that represent the most important contributions to Central Eurasian studies during the award period. Two interdisciplinary subcommittees 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 of the 2023 Book Awards will be announced during the CESS Annual Conference, held at the University of Pittsburgh on October 19-22, 2023.

Rules and procedures for the competition are as follows:

1. Books must be scholarly monographs based on original research and published in English in 2021 or 2022;

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, the link to the book should be sent to the Society Administrator (please email ) by the deadline specified above. E-books are strongly preferred.

Social Sciences subcommittee (2022)History & Humanities subcommittee (2022)
Asel Doolotkeldieva (Kyrgyzstan)
Işık Kuşçu-Bonnenfant (Türikye)
Caress Schenk (Kazakhstan)
Mikhail Akulov (Kazakhstan)
Yulia Gradskova (Sweden)
Nancy Steinhardt (United States)

Book Award Winners

2022 Book Award


Congratulations to the 2022 CESS Book Award winners! Omar Sadr for his 2021 Negotiating Cultural Diversity in Afghanistan. Routledge (2022 – Social Sciences) and Sören Urbanski for his 2020 Beyond the Steppe Frontier. Princeton University Press (2022 – History & the Humanities).

The Book Award Committee wrote about Sadr’s book that it has:

a solid theoretical background; the author utilized appropriate methodology to solve his
thought-provoking research question. The research is a case study on Afghanistan yet theoretically
contributes to the cultural diversity and integration debates almost everywhere in the world. Sadr tackles
the problem of cultural diversity from an interesting angle; that of the grassroots and local intellectual.
This also sheds light on the problems related to the top-down nation-building efforts of the Afghan state
for the last few decades and offers useful solutions to them.

On Urbanski’s book former CESS President Morgan Liu (2019-2022) said:

I’ve been waiting for a major study on the topic of yourthis kind of monograph for many years.  It’s a truly “CESS topic”, meaning one that spans traditional area studies territories, which is one primary purpose of CESS.  In particular, I’ve been trying to get Russia/Soviet scholars to talk with China scholars within CESS.  His work advances that dialogue significantly.

2021 Book Award


The 2021 CESS Book Award winner 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 several 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.

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.

2020 Book Awards

The winners of the 2020 awards were announced during the Online Week of Central Eurasian Studies on October 14, 2020. 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

View all past Book Award winners.