Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

11 Nov, 2012

Indian-Born Professor at Columbia Univ Wins Kyoto Prize for Global Achievement


KYOTO, Japan–(BUSINESS WIRE)– November 10, 2012 – Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, an Indian literary critic and educator and Professor at Columbia University, was one of three eminent people conferred the annual Kyoto Prize, Japan’s highest private award for global achievement. She was honoured with the Arts and Philosophy Prize in the field of Thought and Ethics.

Although Prof Spivak, who founded the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University in New York, is best known for her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” which spotlights those who are economically dispossessed, she is also the author of a brilliant treatise entitled: “Terror: A Speech After 9-11”, which questions the rationale of the official response to the 9/11 attacks.

That speech can be downloaded and read by clicking on this link. It says, “The US is fighting an abstract enemy: terrorism. Definitions in Government handbooks, or UN documents, explain little. The war is part of an alibi every imperialism has given itself, a civilizing mission carried to the extreme, as it always must be.”

She adds, “Something called “terror” is needed in order to declare a war on it—a war that extends from the curtailment of civil liberties to indefinite augmentation of military self-permission. Without the word terror, (Prof Spivak’s italics) this range of things, alibied in the name of women, cannot be legitimized.”

Two other winners of the 28th annual Kyoto Prize by the non-profit Inamori Foundation (President: Dr. Kazuo Inamori) were Dr. Ivan Edward Sutherland, an American computer scientist regarded as the “Father of Computer Graphics,” in the field of Advanced Technology; and Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese molecular cell biologist, in the field of Life Science.

Each laureate received a 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal, a cash gift of 50 million yen (approximately US$630,000) and a diploma in recognition of lifelong contributions to society.

The laureates are in Kyoto for the week attending the ceremony, holding lectures and workshops, and participating in youth development programs. They will reconvene in San Diego, Calif. March 12-14, 2013 to participate in North America’s twelfth annual Kyoto Prize Symposium, a three-day celebration of the lives and works of the laureates with an opening Gala and ongoing lectures at host universities.

More details on the 2012 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Professor Gayatri Spivak, Arts and Philosophy, India

Professor Spivak, 70, is an Indian intellectual, activist, and University Professor at Columbia University, where she founded the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Prof. Spivak plans to donate a portion of her prize funds to her foundation, the Pares Chandra Chakravorty Memorial Literacy Project, which provides primary education for children in rural India. She exemplifies the modern intellectual through her theoretical work for the humanities based on comparative literature and her devotion to multifaceted educational activities, especially in developing regions. Her work often focuses on those marginalized by globalization, including the new immigrant, the working class and women, among others. She is perhaps best known for her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” which spotlights those who are economically dispossessed and rendered without agency by their social status.

Dr. Ivan Sutherland, Advanced Technology, United States

Dr. Sutherland, 74, is an American computer scientist and visiting scientist at Portland State University. He is widely regarded as the “Father of Computer Graphics” for his lifetime of pioneering work in developing graphical methods of interacting with computers. Dr. Sutherland’s early achievements include creating Sketchpad in 1963, a breakthrough application that allowed users to directly manipulate figures on a computer screen through a pointing device. Sketchpad’s approach was years ahead of its time and served as a conceptual progenitor to today’s “graphical user interface” in everything from smartphones to computer workstations. His work has supported applications ranging from computer operating systems to video editing, animation, 3-D modeling and virtual reality.

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi*, Basic Sciences, Japan

Dr. Ohsumi, 67, is a Japanese scientist, researcher and professor who has made groundbreaking contributions toward elucidating the molecular mechanisms and physiological significance of autophagy, demonstrating how a cell degrades its own proteins in order to adapt to nutritional deficiency or other environmental influences. Autophagy is now regarded as a vital cell-recycling system that may aid in future treatments for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other age-related ailments. Dr. Ohsumi is currently a professor at the Frontier Research Center of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he and his colleagues continue their world-leading work in autophagy.

About the Inamori Foundation and the Kyoto Prize

The non-profit Inamori Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, regarded among Japan’s most respected business leaders. Inamori founded multi-billion dollar Kyocera Corporation in 1959 and KDDI Corporation, Japan’s No.2 telecommunications provider, in 1984. He created the Kyoto Prize in 1985, in line with his belief that a human being has no higher calling than to strive for the greater good of society, and that the future of humanity can be assured only when there is a balance between our scientific progress and our spiritual depth.

To date, the prize has honored 90 individuals and one not-for-profit enterprise (The Nobel Foundation), collectively representing 15 nations. Individual laureates range from scientists, engineers and researchers to philosophers, painters, architects, sculptors, musicians and film directors.

The United States has produced the most recipients (36), followed by Japan (16), the United Kingdom (12), and France (8). Seven Kyoto Prize winners have subsequently been recognized with the Nobel Prize, including the 2012 Nobel recipient in Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka (2010 Kyoto Prize laureate in Advanced Technology). For more information about the Kyoto Prize and a webcast of the ceremony, visit http://www.kyotoprize.org/en/. Information about North America’s Kyoto Prize Symposium in March 2013 is available at www.kyotoprize-us.org.