Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
The Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize honors a distinguished work of scholarship in South Asian Studies that promises to define or redefine the understanding of whole subject areas. The committee particularly seeks nominations of broad scholarly works with innovative approaches that may concern any topic in any discipline or may cross disciplinary lines.
The prize recognizes a distinguished scholarly monograph beyond the author or authors’ first monograph or published research project. First monographs should be submitted for the Bernard S. Cohn Prize.
$1,000 to the author.
Guidelines for Submission
- Nominated books must be original, scholarly, nonfiction works with a 2019 copyright date, and must be the first publication of this text in English anywhere in the world.
- The book’s subject matter must deal with South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh).
- Works are not eligible if they are reference works, exhibition catalogs, textbooks, essay collections, poetry, fiction, memoirs, or autobiographies.
- Translations will be eligible only if they include a substantial introduction, annotation, or critical apparatus.
- Co-authored books are eligible; edited volumes of essays are not.
- Publishers must complete the book nomination form. Each press may nominate a maximum of six books for the Coomaraswamy Prize.
- Only publishers may nominate books.
- Upon receipt of a completed nomination form, publishers will be provided with addresses for prize committee members. A copy of each entry, clearly labeled “Coomaraswamy Prize,” must be sent to each member of the committee.
Nominations must be received by June 30, 2020 to be eligible for the 2021 awards.
Coomaraswamy Prize Committee
Cynthia Talbot (Chair)
University of Texas at Austin
Johns Hopkins University
Winner and Citation
Tony K. Stewart, Witness to Marvels: Sufism and Literary Imagination. University of California Press, 2019.
In the highly innovative Witness to Marvels: Sufism and Literary Imagination, Tony K. Stewart opens up an entire genre of popular Bengali literature to serious scholarly scrutiny. Although pir-kathas, or tales about the fabulous deeds of Sufi saints, have flourished since at least the sixteenth century in both oral and written forms, they were largely ignored by scholars due to their magical character and lowbrow origins. Stewart demonstrates, through deep familiarity with this Bengali genre and the creative application of literary critical methods, that these Sufi-inspired stories of adventure and marvel were far more than mere entertainment. Pir-kathas also performed the valuable cultural role of introducing Islamic elements into a familiar regional landscape of story-telling about the supernatural. Weaving Islamic and Indic cosmologies together in a multitude of imaginative ways, over time these stories increasingly envisioned a shared world in which Islamic perspectives were ascendant. The fresh light cast on processes of religious conversion in Witness to Marvels make it significant far beyond the realm of Bengali literature, religion, and history. It also offers both inspiration and new methods for the study of the numerous genres of tale literature that scholars of precolonial South Asia have neglected for too long.