2005 Ralph Bunche Award 2005 Ralph Bunche Award

For the best scholarly work in political science, published in 2004, that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism.

Award Committee: Andrea Y. Simpson, University of Richmond, chair; Anthony Affigne, Providence College; and Khalilah Brown-Dean, Yale University

Co-Recipient: Richard M. Valelly, Swarthmore College

Book: The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement (University of Chicago Press)

Co-Recipient: Seyla Benhabib, Yale University

Book: The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (Cambridge University Press)

Citation (Valelly): The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement, offers scholars of race and ethnicity an unparalleled historical and social scientific explanation of how and why African Americans first won political enfranchisement, lost it, and won it again in the second reconstruction. Valelly convincingly argues that it is institutions--parties and the Courts--which made it possible for coalitional efforts to succeed during the second reconstruction in ways that were impossible during the first. The emergence of friendly courts, the stabilization of parties, and African-American activism accompanied the dawning of the second reconstruction, and the beginning of black political incorporation. 

As evidence for this argument, Valelly submits everything from mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century data on Congressional investigations of southern election fraud to records of violent and non-violent white supremacist events from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.  The depth and breadth of historical sources are impressive, as is the original and creative way Valelly applies them to his project.

This book appears during a time of extreme anxiety over the future of one of the institutions featured in this project: The Supreme Court. A few days before this writing, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor submitted her resignation from the Court. Already there is considerable hand wringing over the effect of any possible replacement on a wide range of issues--abortion rights, civil rights and civil liberties. A shift in the current balance of the Court could result in the further erosion of rights established by the Court in the past several decades. Valelly demonstrates to us why such angst is not without cause: institutions matter. Institutions may help broaden or constrict political participation and policies that support social justice.

Every scholar who cares about race, democratic processes and institutions should read this work. In engaging and flawless prose, Valelly gives us an analysis that combines a variety of methodologies for a rich and thorough portrait of how people, parties, and institutions may create a place at the political table for marginal groups if certain contextual factors are present.

Citation (Benhabib): Professor Benhabib, in this timely and enlightening work, examines notions of citizenship rights within and between borders.  Recently, national news programs have featured reports of the activities of the Minutemen, a group of vigilante citizens attempting to stop Mexican citizens from crossing the border into the United States. Patrolling the border between Arizona and Mexico, these armed vigilantes seek to prevent "illegal aliens" from entering the United States.

One wishes that they would read The Rights of Others for a reasoned exposition about why this activity is undemocratic and morally suspect.  Benhabib makes the connection between human rights and the rights of individuals to be "legal" persons no matter what territory they find themselves in or to what country they migrate. Benhabib asserts that with "20 million refugees, asylum seekers, and 'internally displaced' persons in the world" the conventional concept of protecting borders from so-called "outsiders" is in contradiction with contemporary notions of human rights (pp. 5-6). Benhabib advocates cosmopolitan federalism, which involves transnational forms of citizenship and the incorporation of those who support with their labor and resources the nations in which they reside while retaining rights and connections with the nation in which they were born. 

This work explains how and why we can apply democratic theories of politics must to current dilemmas around citizenship status. Benhabib reminds us that here in the United States, young people without citizenship status are able to join the armed services and die for the country in which they have no "legal" rights. We can correct this injustice and others like it around the globe, with more open and democratic policies toward human beings, wherever they seek to build, or rebuild, their lives.  

Honorable Mentions

The quality of several books submitted for this year's award prompted the committee to institute a new tradition: "that of offering honorable mentions to one or two deserving authors. This year, the committee would like to announce honorable mentions to the following authors and books:

Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell, University of Chicago for Barbershops, Bibles,
and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought (
University Press)

James L. Gibson, Washington University, St. Louis for Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation? (Russell Sage Foundation)