Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies

2021 Citation Recipient

Gulnaz Sharafutdinova

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

The committee is delighted to select Gulnaz Sharafutdinova’s The Red Mirror: Putin’s Leadership and Russia’s Insecure Identity for this year’s Davis Center Book Prize. In The Red Mirror, Sharafutdinova provides a fresh approach to answering the longdebated question: “What explains Putin’s enduring popularity in Russia?” Her creatively theorized and rigorously researched book provides crucial insight into Russia’s evolving identity politics. The Red Mirror begins with the moving context of Sharafutdinova’s own experiences as an émigré and social scientist and then turns to the question of the regime’s longevity. It is exceptionally well-written and argued. Sharafutdinova’s judicious deployment of Social Identity Theory allows her to account for the complexities and nuances of how, when, and why identities matter in Russian politics. When they connect to collective affect, specifically a shared sense of humiliation and shame, they are especially powerful. In support of her argument, Sharafutdinova develops evidence from focus groups, media analysis, and survey data. She vividly depicts the events of the 1990s and the regime’s use of political technologies, both of which fostered a convincing narrative that resonates with popular experience. Putin’ political longevity is rooted in notions of greatness, exceptionalism, and victimhood, features of Russian public life that show few signs of waning even as they lead Russia toward economic and cultural stagnation. The Red Mirror reaches across multiple disciplines and in doing so helps us better understand the phenomenon of Putinism in Russia and patrimonial state-nationalism elsewhere in the world.

Honorable Mention: Kathryn Graber
Title: Mixed Messages: Mediating Native Belonging in Asian Russia (Cornell University Press)

The committee also gives honorable mention to Kathryn Graber’s Mixed Messages: Mediating Native Belonging in Asian Russia. Based on her extensive data from media producers and consumers in Buryatia, Russia, Mixed Messages seamlessly weaves together analysis, positionality, and policy recommendations. Graber presents a complex picture of the Buryat language for the reader; by embracing the contradictions of her interlocutors, the author enhances a well-written and highly engaging ethnographic narrative.