2013 Grawemeyer Award Winner

27 November 2012, 1002 EST

Congratulations to Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan for winning the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World. As readers may recall, Chenoweth is a Duck of Minerva guest blogger.

Chenoweth and Stephan won the $100,000 prize for their 2011 book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press). This is a succinct description from the press website:

Combining statistical analysis with case studies of specific countries and territories, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan detail the factors enabling such campaigns to succeed and, sometimes, causing them to fail. They find that nonviolent resistance presents fewer obstacles to moral and physical involvement and commitment, and that higher levels of participation contribute to enhanced resilience, greater opportunities for tactical innovation and civic disruption (and therefore less incentive for a regime to maintain its status quo), and shifts in loyalty among opponents’ erstwhile supporters, including members of the military establishment.

Chenoweth and Stephan conclude that successful nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and internally peaceful democracies, which are less likely to regress into civil war.

The authors skillfully employ a multi-method research approach in this work. Specifically, they analyze a large-N database to explain the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance and the ineffectiveness of violence resistance. They also provide interesting and illustrative case studies of the Philippines, Iran, Burma and Palestine. Not all of these cases ended successfully, of course, and they justify their selections in the text.

For those who call for international relations scholars to produce policy-relevant research, this book is an excellent recent example. For everyone else: read it, cite it, and teach it.

At this point, I should probably offer an important disclosure. As chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville, I played a direct role in this selection. According to the multi-tier vetting process that was established decades ago, the chair is one of many individuals with a seat on the Award’s Final Selection Committee. Other members include the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (or a designated representative), the University President (a role long passed to the Executive Director of the Awards), and several “lay” members of the community.

Of course, books do not magically appear on the Final Selection Committee’s reading list. Nominations for the award must be received by mid-January each year. Initially, nominated works (mostly books) are reviewed by a mix of University of Louisville and external readers — primarily academics from the pertinent field. The first round process concludes in early June, typically producing a short-list of about seven semi-finalists.

Through the summer, a three-person International Jury reads these seven works in order to recommend three finalists to the Final Selection Committee. In the case of World Order, the Jury has traditionally ranked the three finalists, though some other Grawemeyer Awards use a different process. The Jury members receive a list of all nominations and have the power to elevate an overlooked work to the semi-finalist list. After the Final Selection Committee recommends a winner, the University’s Board of Trustees must approve it.

After 17 years of directing the award, I passed along leadership of the prize in mid-summer 2011. In other words, this is the first competition since about 1993 that I didn’t oversee from the start. Last year, I chaired the committee for the first round and helped select the 2012 International Jury before departing on my fall sabbatical. For a list of all prior winners, visit this page.