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Keddie Awarded Balzan Prize

Emeritus Professor of History Nikki Keddie honored for her research and studies and her many publications on the Islamic world

By Diane James

The Zurich, Switzerland, and Milan, Italy co-based International Balzan Foundation fosters achievements worldwide through its annual awards. Its aim is “to promote, throughout the world, culture, science, and the most meritorious initiatives in the cause of humanity, peace and brotherhood among peoples.”

Professor Keddie is only the third woman to be so honored by the foundation in its nearly 50-year history. Mother Teresa was awarded a Balzan prize in 1978, as was French sociologist and historian Dominique Schnapper in 2002.

In honoring Professor Keddie, the Balzan Foundation cited her contributions to our understanding of the Islamic world from the end of the nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century, and praised her “scientific biography and analysis of the work of the Islamic reformer Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani… [as] one of the most important contributions to understanding the connection between Islamic ideology and Western imperialism.” (Sayyid Jamal ad-Din "al-Afghani," A Political Biography, 1972).

Also honored this year are Colin Renfrew for Prehistoric Archaeology, Sir Michael Marmot for Epidemiology, and Pierre Deligne for Mathematics. Additionally, the foundation awarded a Special Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood Among Peoples to the Community of Sant'Egidio, citing its DREAM project to prevent transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child and by blood transfusions, and noting its achievements at the Central Hospital in Maputo.

The Balzan Foundation was established in Switzerland in 1956 by Angela Lina Balzan, the daughter of Eugenio Balzan who was the managing director and a co-owner of the Milan-based Corriere della Sera until 1933 when he left Italy in opposition to the fascist regime. He died in Lugano in 1953.

Nominations for the Balzan prize are received from the world's leading learned societies, and candidates are selected by a committee composed of eminent European scholars and scientists. Since 1961, the foundation has awarded 95 prizes to a total of 100 artists, scientists, humanitarians and institutions. Previous winners include Eric Hobsbawm, Jorge Luis Borges, Paul Hindemith, György Ligeti, Samuel Eliot Morisson, Jean Piaget, Stanley Hoffman and Paul Ricoeur.

Center for Near Eastern Studies