Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies

2017 Citation Recipient

Juliet Johnson

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: Juliet Johnson
Title: Priests of Prosperity: How Central Bankers Transformed the Postcommunist World (Cornell University Press)

When are central bankers more than just central bankers? When they are revolutionaries! The study of politics and economics in the post-socialist space has swung of late from transition to backsliding, and from integration to disintegration. In Priests of Prosperity, however, Juliet Johnson swings back. Eschewing the large-scale, birds-eye views and accepted dogmas of political science, Johnson delivers a deeply researched and theoretically significant study of the everyday processes of international policy diffusion – and its consequences. Drawing on more than 160 interviews and covering five countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Johnson provides an exploration of the mechanisms and pathways through which crucial post-socialist policymakers came to think and act in ways that were more global than local, navigating conflicting identities, loyalties and interests in the process. As such, Priests of Prosperity is a compendium of rare achievements: a study tackling an incredibly complex topic in an accessible way; a deeply qualitative approach to a field usually reduced to quantitative abstraction; and a grounded area-studies exercise that can and will shape broader disciplinary debates. For these achievements, the committee is pleased to award the Davis Center Prize to Juliet Johnson.

Honorable Mention: Rebecca Gould
Title: Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press)

What is the meaning of the Caucasus? That is the ambitious question asked – and answered – in Rebecca Gould’s fascinating Writers & Rebels. Drawing on deep, almost ethnographic use of a startling range of sources – including previously untapped archives, as well as literature in several languages – Gould spans almost two centuries and four geographies to deliver an engrossing and sensitive study that uncovers the inner workings of colonialism and insurgency in the Caucasus. Gould plays a very impressive trick with this book, deconstructing a region often treated by pundits as a monolithic entity, but then rejecting the prevailing academic approach that treats the region as an almost accidental agglomeration of unrelated political communities, to reconstruct the Caucasus through overlapping narratives of conflict and contention. At the same time, the book amply demonstrates the analytical value of literature as a source for social scientists, a methodological innovation that should stand as an inspiration for scholars around the world. For these achievements, the committee is pleased to award Honorable Mention to Rebecca Gould.