2022 ROBERT C. TUCKER/STEPHEN F. COHEN DISSERTATION PRIZE
The Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize, established in 2006 and sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, is awarded annually (if there is a distinguished submission) for an outstanding English-language doctoral dissertation in Soviet or Post-Soviet politics and history in the tradition practiced by Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen. The dissertation must be defended at an American or Canadian university, and must be completed during the calendar year prior to the award.
Winner: Thomas Loyd, Georgetown University, History
Title: “Black in the USSR: African Empire, Soviet Students, and the Politics of Global Education during the Cold War”
In this well-written, theoretically nuanced, and engaging study, Thomas Loyd captures strategic African and Soviet efforts to promote development and internationalism. Contrary to a number of companion studies that foremost offer Moscow-based institutional histories, Loyd’s evidentiary base is wide: beginning with an understanding of African university structures and postcolonial nationalism in the second half of the twentieth century and tracking student arrivals to Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, while also digging deeply into accounts of the lives of African students across the republics. More than thirty archives from across Africa and the former USSR inform the text. Loyd follows with contemporary oral histories undertaken in Africa with alumni of these Soviet outreach efforts, bringing African voices to bear on Soviet claims of internationalism. While recognizing the agility of the USSR’s international project, alongside the sincerity of many of its founding actors to create new and more just worlds, Loyd makes the case that fundamental race-based discrimination was baked into Soviet relations with Africa from the outset. Anti-Africanness, in this context, was systemic to the contradictions of the post-Stalinist moral order, where internationalism never eclipsed Soviet patriotism. As Loyd writes: “Soviet officials struggled to reconcile the post-revolutionary Soviet and revolutionary African present” (135). Competition across First, Second, and Third Worlds, as well as late socialist culture itself, are wrought anew through this rich, multidisciplinary study that is deserving of a wide audience.