ICAS Book Prize 2017

The ICAS Book Prize (IBP) was established in 2004 by the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), whose Secretariat is housed at the offices of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands. The IBP is just one way in which ICAS and IIAS facilitate the confluence of localised ‘connected knowledges’ and the decentring of the landscape of knowledge about and in Asia. The recent diversification of the IBP’s language basis, in collaboration with new partners and sponsors, is a clear example of this decentralising approach. In addition to the existing English Edition, the IBP this year also honours publications in Chinese, Korean, French and German. 

To achieve this growth, prospective partners were approached to either organise and/or sponsor the respective language editions. The following institutes were eager to take up the challenge: The Education University of Hong Kong (Chinese Edition), Groupement d’intérêt scientifique Études asiatiques (GIS Asie) (French Edition), the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and the Schweizerische Akademie für Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften (SAGW) (German Edition), and Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC) (Korean Edition). Together with the Asian Library/ Leiden University (English Edition), the IBP is now shouldered by six institutions in Asia and Europe. 

The Secretariat of each language edition – consisting of a secretary and an acting secretary – and in cooperation with the IBP General Secretariat, compiled a Reading Committee of four persons representing the field of Asian studies. Setting up a new endeavour such as this costs a lot of energy and takes time to establish itself; nevertheless, each Secretariat succeeded in putting together Reading Committees with enthusiastic members, and successfully persuaded publishers to submit a good number of books. All language editions attained a critical mass of 30 or more books, comparable to the number reached by the first English Edition of the IBP in 2005. 

This bodes well for the future of our multilingual ICAS Book Prize, and several secretaries informed me that as of the 2019 edition they will also be accepting dissertations. Rightly so, because many excellent ones go unnoticed, and by offering a platform for these dissertations they will become visible in the wider world of Asian studies. Some Secretariats are also considering including a Colleagues’ Choice Award, which is already an element in the English Edition. For the eighth instalment of the IBP, in 2019, the IBP General Secretariat is actively in contact with institutes that could potentially organise and/or sponsor Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese Language Editions. 

The shortlists presented here all count 5 publications with the exception of the Chinese, the German and the English Dissertation Editions, with respectively 4, 4, and 3 entries each. The English Edition, which received no less than 330 entries from 60 publishers worldwide, has shortlists for two award categories: Humanities and Social Sciences. Once the number of submitted books for a particular language edition reaches 100, the Reading Committee is split into a Humanities and a Social Sciences section, and as a consequence two prizes are awarded. This is the case both for the English Edition and its Dissertation category, for which 125 theses were submitted. 


From left to right: Seth Jacobowitz, Gauri Bharat, Hans van Ess, Adams Bodomo, Jaehun Jeong, Han Vermeulen, Lui Tai-Lok

Furthermore, in view of the large number of submissions for the English Edition, during the sixth edition of the IBP a number of additional Accolades were put in place to highlight specific aspects of books, e.g.: the Publisher’s Accolade for Outstanding Production Value, the Teaching Tool Accolade and the Edited Volume Accolade. With the inclusion of the Accolades, nearly 10 percent of all submissions for the English Edition are now recognised in one way or another. The Colleagues’ Choice Award has recently also been divided into a Humanities and a Social Sciences section, due to the sheer number of books. 

The members of the six Reading Committees compiled citations for each of the shortlisted books, which are included here in English and Chinese only. 

Last but not least we would like to thank all (acting) secretaries and members of the six Reading Committees of the IBP 2017, as well as all publishers who submitted their books. It was a pleasure working with them all, on what has become one of the biggest and most content-rich Book Prizes in the world.