Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies

2015 Citation Recipient

Valerie Sperling

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: Valerie Sperling
Title: Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (Oxford University Press)

Valerie Sperling’s book, Sex, Politics, & Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia, is the definitive account of Russia’s extreme new gender regime. In this volume Sperling revisits the terrain of her earlier path-breaking book, Organizing Women in Contemporary Russia: Engendering Transition (1999), in which she tracked the development of the Russian women’s movement as a lens onto the fraught democratization process in Russia. How things have changed, and yet remained the same! In Sex, Politics, & Putin, readers will find a fascinating and theoretically rich description of the current regime’s exploitation of feminism and homosexuality to create political legitimacy — an account that draws on a wealth of field interviews, case studies, social media resources, and Sperling’s long engagement with the topic of gender politics. Yet this is more than just a book about gender politics. Just as her earlier book anatomized and theorized the links between regime change and social activism in Yeltsin’s Russia, this newer work again sets the parameters for understanding civil society, legitimacy, and contentious politics in a re-authoritarianizing state.

Honorable Mention: Yanni Kotsonis
Title: States of Obligation: Taxes and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and Early Soviet Republic (University of Toronto Press)

Yanni Kotsonis’ book displays a remarkable depth of scholarship and helpfully contextualizes the Russian/Soviet experiences of taxation and citizenship within the broader field of comparative state-building.

Honorable Mention: Samuel A. Greene
Title: Moscow in Movement: Power and Opposition in Putin’s Russia (Stanford University Press)

Samuel A. Greene’s Moscow in Movements provides a comprehensive study of social movements in Russia from 2005 through the summer of 2013 and offers a rich and refreshing analytical framework for thinking about social protest, elite strategies, and state-society relations under Putin.