Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies

2022 Citation Recipient

Anastasia Shesterinina

The Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, established in 2008 and sponsored by the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Anastasia Shesterinina
Title: Mobilizing in Uncertainty: Collective Identities and War in Abkhazia (Cornell University Press)

In Mobilizing in Uncertainty: Collective Identities and War in Abkhazia, Anastasia Shesterinina examines a key puzzle in political science: How do ordinary people navigate uncertainty to make mobilization decisions in war? She employs the case of Abkhaz mobilization decisions in the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992–1993. Shesterinina’s rich analyses are based on 150 original, in-depth interviews that she conducted among both participants and nonparticipants of the war. Her nuanced theoretical exploration expands on theories of collective threat framing and collective conflict identities that ordinary people developed before the war, that they later deploy to make sense of the violence, and help them decide whether and how to mobilize. One of Shesterinina’s main findings is that variation in threat perceptions alters mobilization decisions, which together have long-term effects on how war develops, and whether and how ordinary people mobilize (continuously) during and after war. Her work highlights that the process of mobilizing for a war effort begins months and years prior to any commencement of violence. In fact, she argues, collective conflict identities are also shaped in advance and activated when a threat is perceived. But crucially, collective conflict identities are not static, Shesterinina warns, and also evolve throughout the war, specifically when responding to inter-group violence. Shesterinina’s work is, thus, theoretically and empirically strong, and we expect that it will be employed by multiple generations of scholars to study other conflicts in the region and beyond. The committee agreed her findings could be tested and expanded to other conflict contexts and do not only apply to regional war contexts like the Abkhaz case.

Honorable Mention: Oleksandra Tarkhanova
Title: Compulsory Motherhood, Paternalistic State?: Ukrainian Gender Politics and the Subject of Woman (Palgrave Macmillan)

Compulsory Motherhood, Paternalistic State?: Ukrainian Gender Politics and the Subject of Women is an empirically rich text which presents a clear-eyed analysis of Ukrainian state gender politics. It eloquently examines how relations between woman-citizens and the state have shifted over different historical periods. Employing a critical theoretical framework, the book engages major debates in European scholarship about the role of neoliberalism and anti-gender political sentiment.