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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Global Humanities Translation Prize

Northwestern University's Global Humanities Initiative and Northwestern University Press are pleased to announce the opening of the fourth annual Global Humanities Translation Prize competition. 

Prize Details

The Global Humanities Translation Prize seeks to encourage and recognize translations that strike a nuanced balance between scholarly rigor, aesthetic grace, and general readability, especially those that introduce a wider audience to:

  • underrepresented and experimental literary voices from marginalized communities
  • humanistic scholarship in infrequently translated languages
  • important classical texts in non-Western traditions and languages

The winner will receive a total cash prize of $5,000 ($1,000 at the time of the initial award, followed by $4,000 upon completion of the project), as well as a commitment from Northwestern University Press to publish the finished work. The work submitted for consideration may not be under contract elsewhere.

Review Criteria

Submissions will be judged by a rotating committee of Northwestern faculty, distinguished international scholars, writers, and public intellectuals.

The deadline for this year's competition is now May 1, 2021.  Please send submissions to Rajeev Kinra at with the subject line "Translation Prize."


Required Materials

To enter the competition, please submit a dossier that includes the following:

  • A proposal (7 to 10 pages) that describes or summarizes the work to be translated, and explicates its larger literary, historical, and scholarly significance.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A sample of the proposed translation along with corresponding text in the original (no longer than 30 pages).
  • A specific timeline for completion. Applicants should be aware that the complete translated manuscript must be submitted for publication nine months after the prize recipient is selected.
  • The names of up to three references (who will be contacted if necessary).
  • The rights status of the work, whether privately held or in the public domain. If the work is not in the public domain, then the name of the rights holder of the work, as well as full bibliographic detail of the original work’s most recent publication.
  • The titles and publishers of any current competing editions.

The deadline for this year's competition is now May 1, 2021. Please send submissions to Rajeev Kinra at with the subject line "Translation Prize."

Frequently Asked Questions 

How long should my proposal be?
The proposal should be no longer than seven to ten pages. Sections include a description of the work and its relevance, timeline to completion, audience for the work, and rights status. The suggested length does not include the CV or translation sample.

How do I know if the work I want to translate is in the public domain?
A helpful resource for determining if material is in the public domain is available here:

How do I determine who holds rights for a work that is not in the public domain?
Look at the copyright page for the original language edition. The publisher of record can be directly emailed to inquire if they continue to hold the rights. Verifying the rights holder is all that is needed for the application. If the publisher is no longer in existence, a modest amount of internet searching can determine who bought them out and who may hold the rights now. We do not expect the proposed translator to secure rights, but the current rights status is crucial information to determine if the work can be published.

What if my translation will take longer than the proposed timeline to complete?
The timeline to completion section of the proposal should be as accurate as you can anticipate. Projects that have strong merit but cannot be completed in the time frame may be invited back for consideration in future years of the competition.

How long will it take to know if the proposal has been selected as the winner?
The committee will take up to twelve weeks from the final application deadline to notify the winner and those who were shortlisted. 

If you have any further questions, please send them to Rajeev Kinra at

Northwestern's Global Humanities Initiative, of which the prize is just one component, was cofounded in the fall of 2015 by Laura Brueck, an associate professor of Indian literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, and Rajeev Kinra, an associate professor of South Asian and Global History.

It is supported jointly by the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and seeks to put the university at the forefront of a vital international conversation about the continuing role of the humanities in building a more just, tolerant, and humane twenty-first century. “Our goal," Brueck and Kinra note, "is to bring much-needed attention not only to the rich humanistic and artistic traditions of the non-West, but also to the relevance of those traditions and other marginalized voices for discussions surrounding global development and public policy.”

The inaugural prize in 2016 was shared between the team of Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark for their translation of Manzoor Ahtesham’s The Tale of the Missing Man from modern Hindi and Carl Ernst for his annotated translation of the classical Arabic poems of the mystic Mansur al-Hallaj, Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr. Both works are now available from Northwestern University Press.  The second annual winner in 2017, Lawrence Venuti, has now translated Catalan poet J. V. Foix's Daybook 1918: Early Fragments.  The most recent winner, Joyce Zonana, is translating Joseph d'Arbaud's La Bèstio dou Vacarés and several of d'Arbaud's short stories from the Provençal.

Founded in 1893, Northwestern University Press publishes sixty-five scholarly monographs as well as quality works of fiction, drama, nonfiction, and poetry annually. “The Press’s partnership with the Global Humanities Initiative,” says Press director Jane Bunker, “is very much part of our long tradition of bringing exceptional translations of important works to an English-speaking audience. We expect that this award will bring a renewed measure of academic prestige to the craft of translation itself.”