The Winners of the 3QD Politics & Social Science Prize 2015

PolWinner2015 Strange 2015 P SSc Politics Charme Quark 2015

Kenneth Roth has picked the three winners from the nine finalists:

  1. Top Quark, $500: Kenan Malik, Assimilation vs. Multiculturism
  2. Strange Quark, $200: Xavier Marquez, The Saudi Monarchy as a Family Firm
  3. Charm Quark, $100: Omar Ali, Blasphemy, blasphemy laws, Pakistan, Charlie Hebdo…

Here is what Ken had to say about them:

It was a pleasure to read an extraordinary group of essays, but it was difficult to rank them, since all deserve recognition. Still, in my view, three essays stand out, and even suggest an ordering:

I give the top prize to Pandaemonium: Assimilation vs. Multiculturism. It takes on a timely, important and difficult topic—how should European nations adjust to their increasingly diverse societies, particularly their growing numbers of Muslims? The essay elegantly contrasts British multiculturism and French assimlationism, but instead of finding one superior, it sees each as flawed, though in different ways. Its critiques are clear and astute, and instead of stopping there, it goes on to prescribe an approach of “lived diversity” rather than treating people by rigid categories, and encourages a revival of civil society organizations that cross ethnic and religious boundaries. European (and other) leaders would do well to read the article and learn from it.

The second prize goes to Abandoned Footnotes: The Saudi Monarchy as a Family Firm. After placing the Saudi monarchy in a global perspective of other monarchies and family dynasties, it insightfully analyzes the workings of this complex family business: how it chooses the CEO aka king, how it curtails any penchant to excessive reform or divisive politicking, how it keeps in touch with popular sentiments without such dangerous institutions as elections or a free press, and how it manages to keep the vast number of competing princes feeling they have more to gain from upholding the family business than from the fratricide common to other monarchies. I left with a far better understanding of how this remarkably resilient institution has managed to weather the difficult political currents shaking the region.

The third prize goes to Brown Pundits: Blasphemy, blasphemy laws, Pakistan, Charlie Hebdo…. It focuses mainly on Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which have been the source of executions, lynching, and long jail sentences, often against seemingly arbitrary victims, usually religious minorities. The article begins by placing these laws in context: far worse than both the relatively constrained laws left by British colonialists and the superficially comparable laws maintained elsewhere to defend other religions. The article is at its most perceptive in explaining why, despite the increasingly global conversation permitted by the Internet, which would seem to make acceptance of “blasphemous” statements an unavoidable necessity, powerful interests in Pakistan are pushing to maintain the blasphemy prohibition, whether as a tool to suppress “uppity” minorities or as a way to discourage possible secularist rapprochement with India that might threaten the rationale for the military's budget and prerogatives.

My thanks to 3QD for giving me the honor of serving as judge. And, foremost, my gratitude to these and the many other writers who make 3QD such an essential stop for any serious reader on the Web.

Congratulations also from 3QD to the winners (remember, you must claim the money within one month from today—just send me an email). And feel free, in fact we encourage you, to leave your acceptance speech as a comment here! And thanks to everyone who participated. Many thanks also, of course, to Ken Roth for doing the final judging and for his liking of 3QD.

The three prize logos at the top of this post were designed by me, Sughra Raza, and Carla Goller. I hope the winners will display them with pride on their own blogs!

Details about the prize here.