The Grain of Sand Award

The Grain of Sand Award honors a political scientist whose contributions to interpretive studies of the political, and, indeed, to the discipline itself, its ideas, and its persons, have been longstanding and merit special recognition.

Drawing combined inspiration from the opening lines of William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” and Wislawa Szymborska’s “View with a Grain of Sand” (excerpted below), the Grain of Sand Award honors a scholar whose contributions demonstrate creative and sustained engagement with questions of enduring political importance from an interpretive perspective. Echoing Szymborska’s “We call it a grain of sand,” the award underscores the centrality of meaning making in both the constitution and study of the political; drawing on Blake’s “To see a world in a grain of sand,” the award honors the capacity of interpretive scholarship to embody and inspire imaginative theorizing, the intentional cultivation of new lines of sight through an expansion of literary and experiential resources, and the nourishing of a playfulness of mind so necessary to the vitality of social science.

The award will be announced and presented at the annual APSA conference during the business meeting or reception of the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Conference-related Group (IMM).

With the exception of the first two years, each year’s award committee will be determined at that meeting or shortly thereafter and will work together with the IMM CG’s outgoing program chair(s).  The award committee will, however, be under no obligation to make an award every year.

Nominations should include a copy of the nominee’s curriculum vitae and a minimum of two supporting letters summarizing the nominee’s contributions and explain the merit for this award. Please e-mail nomination materials (individually or as a unit) to the outgoing Program Committee chair (see the People page) no later than March 1 of each year.

Members of the award committee are the IMM Executive Committee, serving as a committee of the whole.

For information on contributing to the funding of this award, please contact the IMM Executive Committee Chair, Frederic C. Schaffer.

The 2022 Grain of Sand Award has been awarded to Partha Chatterjee, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University and Honorary Professor of Political Science, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, for his decades of interpretive, interdisciplinary research, teaching and mentorship on nationalism, postcolonial theorizing and institution-building in South Asian political and social studies.

Auguries of Innocence [excerpt]
by William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour….
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye…
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

View with a Grain of Sand
by Wislawa Szymborska

We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect, or apt. Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn’t feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it, it is not different from falling on anything
else with no assurance that it has finished falling
or that it is falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.The lake’s floor exits floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
The water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.

They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes.
A second second.
A third.
But they’re three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like a courier with urgent news.
But that’s just our simile.
The character is invented, his haste is make-believe,
his news inhuman.

[transl. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh]

Previous recipients of the Grain of Sand Award:

2022. Partha Chatterjee.

2021. Mary Fainsod Katzenstein. The citation is here.

2020: Hanna Fenichel Pitkin. The citation is here.

2019: No award given.

2018: Lee Ann Fujii (posthumously). The citation is here.

2017: Peregrine (Peri) Schwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow. The citation is here and a photo.

2016: Mary Hawkesworth, Rutgers University. The citation is here and a couple of photos.

2015:  No award given.

2014: Deborah A. Stone, Dartmouth College. The citation is here; her comments on receiving the award are here.

2013: James C. Scott, Yale University. The citation is here.

2012: No award given.

2011: Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania. The citation is here.

2010: Bud Duvall, University of Minnesota. The citation is here.

2009: Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, University of Chicago. The citation and their replies, published in PS: Political Science and Politics, are here.

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