Book Awards

Submit a Nomination

CESS gives two Book Awards annually, one for work in History & Humanities and another for work in the Social Sciences. CESS began offering these book awards in 2007 to each subject in every other year, and in 2018 both awards became available on an annual basis.

Submissions for the 2021 CESS Book Awards are now open. The deadline has been extended to May 17, 2021 for both Social Sciences and History & Humanities.

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. Two interdisciplinary panels 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 at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

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.

2021 committee members (to be announced)

History and the Humanities committee Social Sciences committee
Chair: TBD
Chair: TBD

2020 Book Awards


The winners of this year’s 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!

Information from the awards committees can be found on this page. You can also 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

Shortlisted books

Thank you to all the authors whose works were considered this year, and congratulations to all those who have been shortlisted!

History and the Humanities

Berberian, H. (2019). Roving Revolutionaries: Armenians and the Connected Revolutions in the Russian, Iranian, and Ottoman Worlds (First edition). University of California Press.

Keller, S. (2019). Russia and Central Asia: Coexistence, Conquest, Convergence. University of Toronto Press.

King, M. W. (2019). Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire. Columbia University Press.

Peterson, M. K. (2019). Pipe Dreams: Water and Empire in Central Asia’s Aral Sea Basin. Cambridge University Press.

Social Sciences

Bukharbayeva, B. (2019). The Vanishing Generation: Faith and Uprising in Modern Uzbekistan. Indiana University Press.

Grose, T. (2019). Negotiating Inseparability in China: The Xinjiang Class and the Dynamics of Uyghur Identity. Hong Kong University Press.

Malejacq, R. (2019). Warlord Survival: The Delusion of State Building in Afghanistan. Cornell University Press.

Marat, E. (2018). The Politics of Police Reform: Society against the State in Post-Soviet Countries. Oxford University Press.

*See note below regarding the Social Sciences award

Past Book Award Winners

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.