Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2012 Citation Recipient

Katherine Verdery

The Barbara Jelavich Book Prize, established in 1995 and sponsored by the Jelavich estate, is awarded annually for a distinguished monograph published on any aspect of Southeast European or Habsburg Studies since 1600, or nineteenth and twentieth- century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history in the previous calendar year.

Co-Winner: Katherine Verdery
Title: Peasants under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962 (Princeton University Press)

Peasants Under Siege is a monumental work: something approaching a “total history” of collectivization in Romania, written by two social scientists with deep commitments to comparative and theoretically engaged scholarship. Kligman and Verdery show how the process of collectivization from 1949 to 1962 actually made the Romanian Communist Party. The experience of party cadres’ working among the country’s vast peasant population; the institutional innovations that collectivization required; and the persistent practices of avoidance employed by average citizens all imparted to the party a set of habits that would define its role in government up to 1989 (and perhaps, in different guises, even beyond). Leading a team of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and others, Kligman and Verdery have also demonstrated the power of collaborative work. Peasants Under Siege is an important testament to the possibilities of multi-method, multidisciplinary research–a true model for how the state-socialist past should be approached by historians, sociologists, and others. In its scope, depth, and conceptual sophistication, it has no equivalent in the study of peasant politics and collectivization in other east European and Eurasian contexts. It is destined to become a classic in the field, truly required reading across multiple disciplines, given its use of evidence ranging from state archives to music and poetry. Most remarkably, the book stands as an illustration of how deep engagement with place, process, and the lives of real people can enhance our understanding of high politics.

Co-Winner: Gail Kligman