Coomaraswamy Prize

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 2021 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, 2022 to be eligible for the 2023 awards.

Coomaraswamy Prize Committee

Anirudh Krishna
Duke University

Ayesha Jalal
Tufts University

Kavita Sivaramakrishnan
Columbia University

2022 Award

Winner and Citation

Cover of Benjamin Hopkins, Ruling the Savage Periphery: Frontier Governance and the Making of the Modern State

Benjamin D. Hopkins, Ruling the Savage Periphery: Frontier Governance and the Making of the Modern State (Harvard University Press, 2020)

Ruling the Savage Periphery by Benjamin Hopkins shows how a British colonial experiment in South Asia shaped modern frontier governmentality across the globe. Drawing on an array of archival sources, the book powerfully argues how the imperial governing practice of drawing Pathan tribes of the India’s northwest frontier into a relationship of excluded dependency on the colonial state served as a template for ruling peripheries in Africa and the Americas. Hopkins documents the ways in which the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation, the legal instrument deployed by the British to administer their Afghan frontier after 1872, influenced the way empires and nations treated their extremities globally. The system initially devised by Robert Sandeman in Baluchistan ensnared tribal peoples into contributing to their own surveillance and subjugation. The economic squeeze on the tribes and the persistent threat of state coercion ensured compliance for the most part but the violence inherent in the regime of frontier governmentality remained a clear and present danger in the colonial mind. The FCR and the Sandeman System were replicated, in spirit if not always in form, as far afield as the Northern Frontier Province of colonial Kenya, South Africa, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, the San Carlos Apache reservation in southern Arizona, and the “Pais de Las Manzanas” lining the Argentine pampas. A gripping historical study, this book excavates the origins of contemporary crises in Pakistan’s border regions with Afghanistan, in northern Nigeria, Kenya’s troubled northern border with Somalia, in Iraq and Palestine—all products of late nineteenth century frontier governmentality. Hopkins’ provocative contention that violence created colonial empires but sustains post-colonial states ought to stir up a debate that might help correct the mythifications and delusions of the nation and its narrations.

Past Awards

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize

1992 Margaret Trawick, Notes on Love in a Tamil Family

1993 Philip Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas

1994 Kathryn Hansen, Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theatre of North India

1995 Richard Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier: 1204-1760

1996 Bina Agarwal, A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia

1997 Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922-1992

1998 Emma Tarlo, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India

1999 Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images

2000 Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity and Belief

2001 George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact of Global Proliferation

2002 Claude Markovits, The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750-1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama

2003 Arvind Rajagopal, Politics after Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India

2004 Ann Grodzins Gold and Bhoju Ram Gujar, In the Time of Trees and Sorrows: Nature, Power, and Memory in Rajasthan

2005 Cecelia Van Hollen, Birth on the Threshold: Childbirth and Modernity in South India

2006 Joseph S. Alter, Yoga in Modern India: The Body between Science and Philosophy

2007 Susan Seizer, Stigmas of the Tamil Stage: An Ethnography of Special Drama Artists in South India

2008 Sheldon Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India

2009 Ramya Sreenivasan, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India c. 1500-1900

2010 Pravina Shukla, The Grace of the Four Moons: Dress, Adornment and the Art of the Body in Modern India

2011 Finbarr Barry Flood, Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter

2012 Molly Emma Aitken, The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting

2013 Nile Green, Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840-1915

2014 Akhil Gupta, Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India

2015 Niraja Gopal Jayal, Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History

2016 Richard M. Eaton and Phillip B. Wagoner, Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600

2017 John S. Hawley, A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement

2018 Cynthia Talbot, The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Chauhan and the Indian Past 1200-2000

2019 Anirudh Krishna, The Broken Ladder: The Paradox and Potential of India’s One Billion

2020 Santanu Das, India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images, and Songs

2021 Tony K. Stewart, Witness to Marvels: Sufism and Literary Imagination