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Princess of Asturias Awards 05/15/2024

Michael Ignatieff, Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences

Michael Ignatieff’s broad-ranging and varied career stands out for his defence of fundamental and universal human rights and values.


Canadian academic and essayist Michael Ignatieff has been granted the 2024 Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, as announced today by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.

The Jury for the Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by Alejandro Portes and made up of María Paz Battaner Arias, Javier Echeverría Ezponda, Teresa Freixes Sanjuán, Juan Pablo Fusi Aizpurúa, Mauro Guillén Rodríguez, Silvia Iranzo Gutiérrez, Araceli Mangas Martín, Ricardo Martí Fluxá, Manuel Menéndez Menéndez, Jaime Montalvo Correa, Leandro Prados de la Escosura, María Dolores Puga González, Fernando Vallespín Oña and Jaime Pérez Renovales (as acting secretary).

This candidature was put forward by Jesús García Calero, member of the Jury for the 2024 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature.

Born in Toronto (Canada) on 12th May 1947, Michael Ignatieff graduated in History from the University of Toronto in 1969 and, in 1976, earned a PhD in the same discipline from Harvard University. He furthered his education with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and began working as an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia. He has taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, at the University of Toronto and at the Central European University in Budapest and Vienna –an institution created by George Soros–, of which he was rector from 2016 to 2021 and where he still works. In addition, he has been a fellow at King's College, Cambridge, and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford and the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. He has also been a television host and columnist for publications such as The Observer and The New York Times Magazine. In 2006, he was elected to the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament for the Liberal Party of Canada, of which he was deputy leader (2007-2008) and leader (2009-2011) and, as such, served as leader of the country’s opposition.

According to specialists, Michael Ignatieff’s broad-ranging and varied career stands out for his defence of fundamental and universal human rights and values. Through his books, articles and television programmes, he has contributed ideas for overcoming ethnic and religious differences and the search for common values within the context of globalization, the clarification of the consequences of the technological revolution, the analysis of moral conflicts in the face of cultural relativism and opposition to violent nationalisms, among other topics. Ignatieff defines himself as an internationalist and defender of constitutional legality. He has been a key player in international consensus regarding the rights of individuals, and not just states, appealing to international security organizations to defend the former from violence. During the time he lived in the United Kingdom, he achieved great popularity for his articles in The Observer and, above all, for his BBC documentary series, Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. Author of numerous articles and books, his most notable essays include The Needs of Strangers (1984), The Russian Album (1987, republished in 2023), The Warrior's Honor (1998), Isaiah Berlin: A life (1998, republished and updated in 2023), an acclaimed biography of the philosopher based on conversations with the author), Virtual War (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil (2004), The Ordinary Virtues (2017) and On Consolation (2021). Ignatieff has also written plays and novels, including Scar Tissue (1993), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He is a regular contributor to international media outlets such as The Atlantic and Project Syndicate.

Knight of the Order of Academic Palms of France and member of the Order of Canada, Michael Ignatieff holds honorary degrees from thirteen universities, including McGill (Canada), Edinburgh (Scotland) and Maastricht (Netherlands), to name but a few. Outstanding among the numerous awards he has received are the Heinemann Prize of the Royal Society of Literature (UK, 1987), the Orwell Prize (UK, 2001), the Otis Social Justice Award (USA, 2002), the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (Canada, 2012), the Francisco Cerecedo Journalism Award (Spain, 2012) and the Dan David Prize (Israel, 2019).

As stated in the Statutes of the Foundation, the Princess of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. In keeping with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences is to be granted to “creative and/or research work in the field of anthropology, demography, economics, ethics, geography, history, law, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology or teaching as well as in the disciplines corresponding to each of these fields.”

This year, a total of 36 candidatures comprising 17 different nationalities were put forward for the Social Sciences Award.

This is the fourth of the eight Princess of Asturias Awards to be bestowed in what is now their forty-fourth year. Previously, the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts was granted to singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, the Award for Communication and Humanities went to Franco-Iranian cartoonist, film director and painter Marjane Satrapi and the Award for Sports was conferred on badminton player Carolina Marín. The corresponding Awards for Literature, International Cooperation, Technical and Scientific Research, and Concord shall be announced in the coming weeks (in the preceding order).

As is customary, the presentation of the Princess of Asturias Awards will take place in October in a solemn ceremony presided over by Their Majesties The King and Queen, accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía of Spain.

Each Princess of Asturias Award comprises a Joan Miró sculpture symbolizing the Award, a diploma, an insignia and a cash prize of fifty thousand euros

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