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Hirschman Prize Awarded to Banerjee, Duflo, & J-PAL

The 2014 Albert O. Hirschman Prize was awarded in February to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and to the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which they cofounded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at a public event hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, Hirschman’s academic home.

The SSRC’s highest award, the Hirschman Prize recognizes academic excellence in international, interdisciplinary social science research, theory, and public communication, in the tradition of German-born American economist Albert Hirschman. Exploring theory and practice, the history of ideas—economic, social, or political—and innovative approaches to fostering growth, Hirschman saw scholarship both as a tool for social change and as an inherent value in a world in need of better understanding.

Like Hirschman, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are deeply committed to producing new social scientific knowledge that expands frontiers of discovery while also confronting deep practical and ethical issues, and they share his passion for promoting economic development and alleviating poverty and its disastrous effects. Few university-based initiatives in the social sciences have accomplished as much as J-PAL in terms of both the rigor of research and the potential of the resulting knowledge to affect both social policy and ordinary lives around the globe.

The prize ceremony included a history of Albert Hirschman’s life and work given by Dani Rodrik, Albert O. Hirschman Professor at the IAS School of Social Science and the 2007 recipient of the Hirschman Prize. Esther Duflo spoke extensively about J-PAL’s history and context in the world of social science and specifically about the use of randomized controlled trials in various types of interventions. SSRC board member Margaret Levi, chair of the prize selection committee, moderated a lively conversation between Duflo, Yale economist Christopher Udry, and the audience. SSRC president Ira Katznelson presented the awards. For more details of the event, and to download a transcript of Duflo’s remarks, please visit the SSRC website.

In Council News

The Council announced the University Fund for the Social Sciences—a new SSRC partnership with a consortium of higher education institutions to advance social science scholarship and collaboration—presenting a founding group of twenty US colleges and universities.

The Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum released the fourth in its series of CPPF Working Papers on Women in Politics: “Gender and Elections: Temporary Special Measures beyond Quotas,” by political scientist Mona Lena Krook [PDF available].

Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum program coordinators Aaron Pangburn and Sabrina Stein presented a paper on “The State of Security Council Reform” at the International Studies Association’s 2015 Annual Convention. Sabrina Stein also organized and participated in, with CPPF associate director Renata Segura, a convention roundtable on “Drug Policy: Challenges and Possibilities of Reform.”

Tatiana Carayannis, CPPF’s deputy director, was a coauthor of “Virunga’s White Savior Complex,” a Foreign Affairs piece critiquing the Oscar-nominated documentary’s depictions of race, conflict, and politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

African Peacebuilding Network director Cyril Obi was interviewed in Dakar, Senegal, by the African institute Thinking Africa [video], at a conference on “International Criminal Justice, Reconciliation, and Peace in Africa: The ICC and Beyond” cosponsored by the APN. He later participated in a New York City panel discussion on the upcoming general elections in Nigeria hosted by the CUNY Graduate Center’s Advanced Research Collaborative.

In an article for the New Republic, Josipa Roksa and Education Research Program director Richard Arum described how US colleges fail to prepare graduates for the job market or for participation in a democratic society, as revealed by Collegiate Learning Assessment Longitudinal Study findings published in their recent book Aspiring Adults Adrift. Their earlier companion volume, Academically Adrift, was at the center of a Times Higher Education story on a new impetus for learning gains measurement in the United Kingdom.

Measure of America’s national human development report The Measure of America 2013–2014 provided sociocultural and economic context for a MintPress News article on an emerging solar energy trend in West Virginia. Curbed Los Angeles drew on income data from the program’s most recent state report, A Portrait of California 2014–2015, in looking at the relationship between home loans and race in that city.

Drugs, Security and Democracy fellows Adam D. Baird (2011), Ana Teresa Villarreal Montemayor (2012), and Kevin Lewis O’Neill (2011) each contributed a chapter to the interdisciplinary volume Violence at the Urban Margins, now available from Oxford University Press.

Drugs, Security and Democracy fellow Isaac Campos-Costero (2013) coedited “The New Drug History of the Americas,” a special issue of the Hispanic American Historical Review, featuring articles by DSD and International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellows Valeria Manzano (2013 and 2006) and Lina Britto (2011 and 2009).

International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellow and Association for Asian Studies–SSRC Dissertation Workshop participant Elizabeth Ann Cecil (2013 and 2012) contributed an article to South Asian Studies coming out of her funded projects investigating the earliest known religious community devoted to the worship of the Hindu god Siva.

International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellow Colin Brewster Hoag (2013) shared his first-person experience in the field in an Allegra Lab essay on policing in Johannesburg’s Hillbrow neighborhood.

Eurasia Program Postdoctoral Research fellow Kelly M. McMann (2006) drew on her fellowship-supported research in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for her new Cornell University Press volume Corruption as a Last Resort: Adapting to the Market in Central Asia.

From Our Forums

At Kujenga Amani, an essay by Dorcas Ettang presents recommendations for state- and peacebuilding in contexts of identity-related conflicts. APN Residential Postdoctoral fellow Gbemisola Abdul-Jelil Animasawun (2014) traces Boko Haram’s trajectory and the security challenge it presents for Nigeria’s impending elections. Jude Cocodia examines the contributing factors to conflict in Mali as well as the African Union’s intervention there.

In the ongoing Religion and Digital Culture series at The Immanent Frame, journalist Nathan Schneider offers a core text from the open source software movement as a corrective to technological analogies in the study of religion, and theology professor Kathryn Reklis highlights tensions surrounding religious community adoption of new technologies for worship. A joint project with Religion Dispatches considers religious freedom in the United States.

On Deadline

Korean Studies Dissertation Workshop
Applications Due: May 1

Korean Studies Workshop for Junior Faculty
Applications Due: May 1