June 23, 2008 Library of Congress to Select $1 Million Kluge Prize Winner; "America's Nobel" for Study of Humanity to be Given Dec. 10

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Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will award the fourth John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity on Dec. 10, 2008, the culmination of the Library’s most extensive worldwide search yet for nominees. Nominations will be accepted until July 15. Endowed by its namesake benefactor, the $1 million Kluge Prize recognizes and promotes the study of the wide range of scholarly disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes, including history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities, and linguistics. “The study of humanity helps us understand ourselves and grow as a people, and the Kluge Prize acknowledges the central importance of these pursuits,” Billington said. “While it is open to scholars from around the world, it is fitting that the Kluge Prize is an American prize. Academic examination of the humanities and social sciences has been largely centered in the United States in the past century, and the Library of Congress is most comprehensive repository of international scholarly research and reflection on these subjects.” The Librarian of Congress is directing the most wide-ranging and ambitious nomination process yet for the Kluge Prize. To date, more than 2,000 people in universities and learned institutions all over the world have been asked to submit nominees, and 196 foreign embassies and consulates have been asked for the top scholars from their countries. The Librarian also has turned to the expertise residing in the Library of Congress itself: Dozens of curators, area-studies experts, and acquisitions specialists have provided nominees representing the highest degree of excellence in the study of humanity. The process comprises four main stages:
  • Nominations are accepted until the July 15 deadline. (A link to the nomination procedure is below.)
  • Evaluation of the nominees then begins. Independent outside experts are called upon to prepare formal peer reviews and informal assessments. On the basis of this material, as well as the evaluation by Library curators of works of scholarship by promising candidates, the Librarian of Congress selects a group of finalists. For each finalist, a dossier is prepared that contains biographical and bibliographic information, as well as key excerpts from seminal works, critiques, commentaries, and specially commissioned peer reviews.
  • A Final Review Panel then reviews each person in that group intensively and comprehensively, considering his or her entire life’s work as documented in the dossiers. The Final Review Panel, when needed, solicits advice, and may even commission special studies.
  • The panel then presents its views to the Librarian of Congress on the level and degree of each finalist’s accomplishments and their impact within and beyond the finalist’s field. The Librarian draws upon all the evaluation and discussion to make the final decision concerning the award of the Kluge Prize.
To date, nearly 300 nominees have been submitted from 90 countries. Like the acquisitions of the Library of Congress itself, scholarship undertaken anywhere in the world, in any language, is considered for the Kluge Prize. The Library’s collections are universal in nature, in roughly 470 languages, and about 60 percent are in languages other than English. The 2008 Kluge Prize winner will be announced this fall, with the awarding of the Prize to take place Dec. 10 during a gala week at the Library of Congress celebrating the study of humanity. Previous Kluge Prize winners, awarded in 2003, 2004 and 2006, are:
  • John Hope Franklin (2006): A leading scholar who opened up the now-burgeoning field of African-American history as a key area in the study of American history. Drawing upon a variety of primary-source materials, his varied writings have advanced the discussion of the African-American experience in broader society.
  • Yu Ying-shih (2006): Described by his peers as “the greatest Chinese intellectual historian of our generation.” His impact on the study of Chinese history, thought and culture has reached across many disciplines, time periods and issues, and he has examined in a profound way major questions and deeper truths about human nature.
  • Jaroslav Pelikan (2004): The first scholar of Christianity to fully integrate the Eastern and Orthodox traditions into the study of the history of Christian doctrine. He is the author of one of the most comprehensive studies in the past century of the history of any major religion.
  • Paul Ricoeur (2004): A philosopher who brought critical depth to the perspectives of an unprecedented number of major thinkers of the modern era. He has consistently focused on fundamental aspects of humanity, such as notions of “self,” memory and responsibility.
  • Leszek Kolakowski (2003): A scholar of philosophy who wrote one of the most profound and influential critiques of Marxism. He had enormous influence in Poland’s Solidarity movement and on moving Eastern Europe beyond the influence of communism.
Further information about the Kluge Prize and former Prize recipients is available at www.loc.gov/kluge/prize. To learn more about the selection process and how to submit nominations, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/prize/process.html. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibits. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its Web site www.loc.gov. The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, endowed in 2000, brings the world’s leading thinkers to the Library to distill wisdom from its rich resources and to stimulate, through informal conversations and meetings, Members of Congress, their support staffs and the broader public policy community. The Center’s charter is to “help bridge the divide between knowledge and power.”


PR 08-114
ISSN 0731-3527