Book Awards

Submit a Nomination

CESS gives two Book Awards annually, one in the Social Sciences and one in History & Humanities. We invite authors and publishers to submit their works for this significant accolade in Central Eurasian studies. The award ceremony will be a highlight of our annual conference, scheduled for June 6-9, 2024, at Turan University in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Initiated in 2007, these awards have evolved to celebrate outstanding contributions in both categories.  The 2024 awards will include books published in 2022 and 2023. The tradition of books awards highlights our commitment to acknowledging academic excellence and fostering scholarly contributions in Central Eurasian studies.

Please ensure submissions are made by March 31, 2024. We strongly prefer e-book submissions.

Award Significance:

The CESS Book Awards, accompanied by two monetary prizes of $500 each, are presented to authors whose books are deemed to have made the most significant contributions to the field of Central Eurasian studies during the award period. Selection is undertaken by two interdisciplinary subcommittees, annually chosen by the CESS Board. These committees evaluate submissions on scholarly merit.

Submission Rules and Procedures:

  • Eligibility: Scholarly monographs based on original research, published in English in 2022 or 2023.
  • One-Time Submission: Books may be submitted in only one category for a single competition; each book is eligible for consideration only once, though books submitted in the last year published in 2022 will be automatically reconsidered.
  • Translations: Scholarly monographs translated into English are eligible.
  • Exclusions: Edited volumes, new editions of previously published books, bibliographies, dictionaries, and textbooks are not eligible.
  • Nominators: Nominations can be made by the publisher, author, or a CESS member.

How to Submit:

For consideration, contact with a link to the book, an electronic version or information on how to send bound copies.

Please ensure submissions are made by March 31, 2024. We strongly prefer e-book submissions.

We eagerly anticipate your submissions and look forward to celebrating the outstanding contributions to Central Eurasian studies at our 2024 conference.  For questions, please contact committee chair Jeff Sahadeo (

Book Award Winners

2022 Book Award


Congratulations to the 2022 CESS Book Award winners! Omar Sadr for his 2021 Negotiating Cultural Diversity in Afghanistan. Routledge (2022 – Social Sciences) and Sören Urbanski for his 2020 Beyond the Steppe Frontier. Princeton University Press (2022 – History & the Humanities).

The Book Award Committee wrote about Sadr’s book that it has:

a solid theoretical background; the author utilized appropriate methodology to solve his
thought-provoking research question. The research is a case study on Afghanistan yet theoretically
contributes to the cultural diversity and integration debates almost everywhere in the world. Sadr tackles
the problem of cultural diversity from an interesting angle; that of the grassroots and local intellectual.
This also sheds light on the problems related to the top-down nation-building efforts of the Afghan state
for the last few decades and offers useful solutions to them.

On Urbanski’s book former CESS President Morgan Liu (2019-2022) said:

I’ve been waiting for a major study on the topic of yourthis kind of monograph for many years.  It’s a truly “CESS topic”, meaning one that spans traditional area studies territories, which is one primary purpose of CESS.  In particular, I’ve been trying to get Russia/Soviet scholars to talk with China scholars within CESS.  His work advances that dialogue significantly.

2021 Book Award


The 2021 CESS Book Award winner is Embattled Dreamlands: The Politics of Contesting Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish Memory by David Leupold. The book was published by Routledge in 2020. Congratulations to the author!

Cover of Embattled Dreamlands and portrait of David Leupold

The Book Award Committee wrote in its citation:

David Leupold’s exceptional book explores the complex and contested Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian visions of homeland in the greater Van region of contemporary Turkey. Through a layered analysis of collective violence, constructed national histories, and imagined homelands, Embattled Dreamlands demonstrates how violence and population displacement in the early 1900s produced homeland imaginaries and mutually exclusive interpretations of the past. Based on five years of ethnographic and historical research, Leupold’s rich tapestry of Ottoman and Soviet history, imagined geographies, and national narratives makes unique theoretical contributions to studies of collective memory and provides an insightful and impartial assessment of sectarian and national identities. The book invites us to evaluate critically and carefully our past and its impact on our contemporary imagined worlds.

2021 Book Award Committee – Social Sciences

Shortlisted books

There were several outstanding works published on Central Eurasia in 2020 that were nominated and considered by the Committee. Thank you to all the authors whose works were considered this year and to everyone who submitted a nomination. Congratulations to all those whose books were shortlisted!

Social Sciences

Kudaibergenova, Diana T. (2020). Toward Nationalizing Regimes: Conceptualizing Power and Identity in the Post-Soviet Realm. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Ptáčková, Jarmila. (2020). Exile from the Grasslands: Tibetan Herders and Chinese Development Projects. University of Washington Press.

Sharafutdinova, Gulnaz. (2020). The Red Mirror: Putin’s Leadership and Russia’s Insecure Identity. Oxford University Press.

2020 Book Awards

The winners of the 2020 awards were announced during the Online Week of Central Eurasian Studies on October 14, 2020. Congratulations to Matthew King and Timothy Grose, the 2020 Book Award winners!

Read interviews with our prize-winning authors on the CESS Blog: Interview with Matthew King; Interview with Timothy Grose.

Matthew King (L) and Timothy Grose (R), winners of the 2020 CESS Book Awards

The Awards Committees wrote the following about their choices:

Matthew W. King’s Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire is at once a reverent mystical biography, a groundbreaking intellectual history, and a remarkably original contribution to the academic study of Buddhism. Passionately written but never hagiographical, the book is ultimately as much about its esteemed subject, the Buddhist monk and polymath Zava Damdin (1867-1937), as it is about “anxious creativity in the face of state violence, and about the periodization and interpretation of modernization in Asia beyond the national subject” (198). By focusing on Damdin and his efforts to grasp and explain the fall of the Qing empire and the rise of socialism, Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood challenges Western state-centric narratives and conceptual maps of nations, regions, and empires, while also foregrounding the social construction of scholastic knowledge. 

2020 Book Awards Committee – History and Humanities

Timothy Grose’s masterful book provides unparalleled insights into identity formation among Uyghurs by examining efforts to integrate them into the broader “Chinese Nation.” The book focusses on the experiences of Uyghur graduates of a national boarding school program. Building amazing rapport with his key informants, Grose shows how living under an invasive surveillance apparatus and encountering oppressive policies in their everyday lives, the “Xinjiang Class” graduates participate in Chinese mainstream society while also nurturing and strengthening ties that extend far beyond Xinjiang and reach into global communities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the period right before Xinjiang became largely inaccessible to research Negotiating Inseparability in China is an urgent and timely book that will make a contribution for years to come.

2020 Book Awards Committee – Social Sciences

View all past Book Award winners.