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14 March 2019

The Holberg Prize names Professor Paul Gilroy as 2019 Laureate

Zaiba Hakim

Professor of American and English Literature at King’s College London, Paul Gilroy, has been announced today as this year’s recipient of the prestigious Holberg Prize, one of the largest prizes awarded annually to an outstanding researcher in the arts and humanities.

Image: Logo of Holberg Prize

The Holberg Prize, awarded each year by the government of Norway, has named Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature at King’s College London as its 2019 Laureate.

Professor Gilroy receives the Holberg Prize for his substantial contributions to cultural studies, critical race studies, sociology, history, anthropology and African-American studies. The British cultural historian and postcolonial scholar will receive an award of 6,000,000 Norwegian kroner (GBP 530,000) during a formal ceremony at the University of Bergen, Norway on 5 June 2019.

Professor Gilroy is an original thinker and public intellectual who remains fearlessly outspoken on matters of race and racism. He is a courageous, inspiring figure, whose work has been transformative, dealing with some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Dame Hazel Genn, Holberg Committee Chair

Professor Gilroy has been among the most frequently cited black scholars in the humanities and social sciences. As a scholar and political advocate, his work focuses on opposing all forms of racism and ethnic absolutism. A sensitive interpreter of black aesthetics, he has contributed largely to the emergence of black artists, writers and intellectuals.

Responding to the key purpose of his work, Gilroy notes: “My research responds to the deficit of imagination that denies all human beings the same degree of humanity. I have focused on the infrahuman presence that results from the invocation of racial difference and tried to re-write humanism by stretching it to more accommodating moral and political dimensions.”

“For me,” Gilroy adds, “a critique of racism and race-thinking provides a route into clearer, deeper understanding of humankind and its contested nature.”

Professor Gilroy has published a number of highly influential works, including There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack (1987), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), Against Race (2000), After Empire (2005) and The Black Atlantic in Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (2010). Alongside these, Gilroy has co-authored three books and written numerous scholarly articles and essays. 

Paul Gilroy joined the Department of English at King’s College London in September 2012 having previously worked at the London School of Economics, Yale University and Goldsmith’s College, University of London. Commenting on his Holberg Prize win, Janet Floyd, Professor of American Literature & Culture and Head of the Department of English, said: “We are very proud to have Paul Gilroy as a colleague in the English Department and we consider it a privilege to work with him. He has our warmest congratulations on this prize.”

Marion Thain, a fellow professor with the King’s Department of English and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, also complimented the 2019 Holberg Laureate: “Many congratulations to Professor Gilroy on this prestigious and richly deserved award,” she said. “Paul’s celebrated and highly influential body of work has had an indelible impact on his field, and we are delighted to have him as a colleague here at the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.”

Alongside his academic work, Gilroy was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of London by Goldsmith’s College, the University of Liège, and the University of Sussex. He has also worked as a curator, journalist, researcher and musician.