The Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies

2013 Rothschild Prize Winner

The winner for 2013 is Sener Akturk, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey (Cambridge University Press).

Sener Akturk’s bold and pathbreaking book makes a significant contribution to scholarship on ethnic studies. He develops a theory that argues that the continuity of state ethnic policies depends on the presence or absence of three variables: counter-elites representing ethnically disenfranchised constituencies, whether these elites can get a hegemonic majority in government, and whether they have a new discourse on ethnicity that can challenge the existing paradigm. He argues that when all three variables are present, the ethnicity regime can shift, whereas the absence of even one factor will prevent a shift from occurring. He demonstrates the utility of this theory through an analysis of shifts in ethnic policy in Germany, Turkey, and Russia. In Germany, he shows how the combination of political shifts with a new discourse on the role of immigrant minorities in society resulted in the liberalization of the country’s citizenship law. In Turkey, similar factors were responsible for the granting of language rights to Kurds and other previously unrecognized minority groups. Akturk shows how the transition from communist rule to quasi-democracy in 1990s Russia allowed leaders to implement a long-contemplated plan to remove ethnic labels from individual identity documents. In addition to showing how ethnic regimes can be changed, Akturk highlights situations in which attempts to change the regimes fail because of the absence of one or more of the required variables. Along the way, Akturk clarifies a number of conceptual confusions, including the terminological one between ethnic and national. His concept of “ethnicity regimes” can be used widely by other scholars examining state policies on ethnicity in other parts of the world and in other contexts. Combining a robust yet parsimonious theoretical explanation with close analysis of specific cases, Regimes of Ethnicity will encourage scholars to focus on state policies on ethnic issues.

The committee would also like to award an honorable mention to Sherrill Stroschein, Ethnic Struggle, Coexistence, and Democratization in Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press).

The winner of the 2013 Rothschild Prize was chosen by the following scholars
Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University; Committee Chair
Alison Frank, Harvard University
Harris Mylonas, George Washington

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