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Yale Ferguson Award Committee Announces Winners

The Yale H. Ferguson Book Award Committee, composed of: 

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson (Chair), American University
Dave Benjamin, University of Bridgeport
Ay┼če Zarakol, University of Cambridge

considered 16 books submitted for the Ferguson Award this year. The committee was tasked with recognizing “the book that most advances the vibrancy of international studies as a pluralist discipline” published in 2012. 

The books that the committee considered were submitted by authors, publishers, and readers, and widely varied in terms of topic, perspective, research methodology, and theoretical orientation. Each and every book submitted was excellent, and committee members had a difficult time choosing the best among them. Two books, however, stood out, and became the co-winners of the 2013 Ferguson Award. 

The first of those books was Zheng Wang’s Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. As noted in the book jacket, the book explains unexpected trends in Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy such as the increasing mass support for the CCP after the Tiananmen crackdown of 1989 or the popularity of anti-Westernism in China with a focus on history education in China which casts the country “as the victim of foreign imperialist bullying during ‘one hundred years of humiliation.’” In constructing that explanation, Wang visits China’s primary schools, memory sites and history textbooks, providing an account that is both theoretically compelling and empirically rich. The committee recognises this remarkable book not only for the very substantial contributions it makes to historical memory scholarship and our understanding of Chinese politics, but also for the case it makes, by demonstration, of the importance of methodological pluralism in International Relations as a discipline.  

The committee had the same reaction to another book, though for very different reasons. That book was Daniel Levine’s Recovering International Relations. As the book-jacket summary explains: "Recovering International Relations bridges two key divides in contemporary IR: between 'value-free' and normative theory, and between reflective, philosophically inflected explorations of ethics in scholarship and close, empirical studies of practical problems in world politics."  Ultimately, Levine's thought-provoking study is a clarion call to International Relations theorists to abandon the choice between normative and empirical approaches and, instead, embrace "sustainable critique," through which our multiple methodologies can come to play a dual role: they can help us to "tell stories in their own terms", and they can provide a check on any one version being regarded as the singular, and uniquely true story of a specific international event. The committee notes the substantial value that Recovering International Relations brings to the discourse about methodology, and attempts to derive more insightful inquiries into international relations.

The committee ultimately decided to split the award because it concluded that both books were equally worthy of recognition, albeit for different reasons. The committee urges ISA members to read both books.

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