The Howard T. Behrman Award medal

Simon Gikandi and Philip Nord receive Behrman Award for the humanities

May 8, 2017 2:49 p.m.

Princeton professors Simon Gikandi and Philip Nord have received the University's Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities. 

Gikandi, the Robert Schirmer Professor of English, has been on the faculty since 2004. He is affiliated with the departments of African American studies and comparative literature and the programs in African studies and urban studies

Siman Gikandi portrait

Simon Gikandi

Gikandi specializes in the history of the novel with a particular focus on postcolonial literature of Africa, India and the Caribbean. He also studies cultural and literary theory. 

His most recent book, "Slavery and the Culture of Taste," received numerous awards. He is also the author of "The Columbia Guide to East African Literatures in English Since World War II"; "Ngugi wa Thiong'o"; "Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism"; "Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature"; "Reading Chinua Achebe"; and "Reading the African Novel."

In nominating Gikandi for the Behrman Award, a colleague wrote: "At the pinnacle of a career now entering its fourth decade and showing no signs of slowing down, Gikandi is without question one of the most respected and influential scholars of our era. … Gikandi's global perspective on the humanities has helped bring profound changes both to the profession and to Princeton."

Gikandi also has brought transformations to the curriculum, notably through new undergraduate courses on "Global English," "Modern Evil" and "Postcolonial Cities." He taught the freshman seminars "Literature and Human Rights" and "Cross-Cultural Transformations of Tragedy," and has taken students to Ghana for the PIIRS Global Seminar "African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures." He also teaches a range of graduate-level courses and has mentored many Ph.D. candidates. In 2014, he was awarded the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching from Princeton. 

Noting Gikandi's "bone-deep dedication to students," a colleague added: "He trains not just students but faculty as well to better understand the diverse and rich world we live in, one that extends far beyond what many Princeton students enter knowing." 

Gikandi founded the African Humanities Colloquium, which sponsors an international conference hosted alternately at Princeton and in Africa. In 2009, he was named cultural ambassador for Africa Day by the government of Angola. 

From 2011-16, Gikandi served as editor of PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association, and expanded publications focused on postcolonial and African authors. Last year, a forum was devoted to Gikandi's legacy at the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association. Gikandi has edited many publications and serves on numerous editorial as well as academic review boards. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2001, among other honors. 

Nord, the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, began teaching at Princeton in 1981 and served as chair of the history department from 1995 to 2001. He is affiliated with the Department of French and Italian and the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society. He served as director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies from 2012-16.

Nord studies the political and cultural of modern France. He has held several visiting appointments at universities in France, as well as in Italy and Germany.  

Philip Nord portrait

Philip Nord

For Nord's Behrman Award nomination, one colleague wrote: "Throughout his long and distinguished career, he has never lost sight of the big picture, writing in a beautiful, accessible style, constructing bridges between different disciplines in the humanities, and striving ceaselessly to develop interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the past. The human condition, à la Nord, cannot be reduced to a single thread. Historians should never be comfortable with a single answer to the question Why."

Nord's books, most of which have been translated into French, include "Impressionists and Politics: Art and Democracy in the Nineteenth Century"; "The Republican Moment: Struggles for Democracy in Nineteenth-Century France"; "France 1940: Defending the Republic"; "and Paris Shopkeepers and the Politics of Resentment." He is co-editor with Nancy Bermeo of "Civil Society before Democracy; Lessons from Nineteenth-Century Europe." He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, which led to his 2010 book, "France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era."

About his scholarship, a colleague wrote, "He is equally at home writing about an art movement, Impressionism, against a rich canvas of social and economic history of the late 19th century, as he is reconstructing the remaking of the French state after World War II."

Nord teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern France — from 1815 to the present — as well as graduate courses on modern Europe. A colleague noted that his teaching career has been "stellar," attracting "top-notch graduate students" who are transformed into "scholars of distinction." And, to his undergraduate students, he is "extraordinarily attentive, even measured against the level of devotion of many of the 'legendary' professors in the department, past and present."

Nord is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has received a Kellett Fellowship, Georges Lurcy Fellowship and Tocqueville Fellowship, among other honors.