Nine Dots Prize winner Joanna Kusiak

Image © Andy Bate

Cambridge-based researcher and scholar-activist Joanna Kusiak has been announced as the winner of the 2022/23 Nine Dots Prize for her ‘exciting’ and ‘provocative’ response to the Nine Dots Prize question: ‘Why has the rule of law become so fragile?’ She receives US$100,000 and a book deal with Cambridge University Press for her winning entry.

• Nine Dots Prize press release

The Nine Dots Prize is a prize for a book that has not yet been written. Every two years, its Board sets a question and invites people to respond with a 3,000-word essay and a book proposal. The winner receives US$100,000, which enables them to spend time researching, developing their ideas, and turning their essay response into a full-length book which is published by Cambridge University Press.

Among many exciting entries for the Nine Dots Prize this year, Joanna’s proposal stood out to the jury for the freshness of its ideas. We are really looking forward to hosting her at CRASSH next year to support the writing process.

– Joanna Page, Director, CRASSH

Kusiak’s winning essay argued that the rule of law has always been fragile, a result of its paradoxical foundations which bind together law and politics. Taking the case of the 2021 Berlin referendum, in which voters decided to expropriate more than 240,000 properties from corporate landlords into public ownership, Kusiak demonstrates the potential of radically legal politics as a path to deepen our democracies and renew the rule of law. Read extracts from her winning entry.

Joanna Kusiak is a scholar-activist who works at the University of Cambridge. Born in Poland, she has been shaped by the emancipatory tradition of the Solidarność movement and by the brutality of the neoliberal transformation. Her work focuses on urban land, housing crises, and the progressive potential of law. In 2021 she was one of the spokespeople of Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen, Berlin’s successful referendum campaign to expropriate stock-listed landlords. She also writes and performs poetry.

Nine Dots Prize 2022/23 winner Joanna Kusiak said: “The rule of law promises that all people are free and equal, yet too often it fails to deliver on its promise, getting entangled by power. My book, provisionally titled Radically Legal, showcases how social movements in Berlin and Warsaw work with the law to renew its emancipatory potential. My proposal was the work of love, and I feel elevated by winning the Nine Dots Prize. I am a scholar-activist, which means that I only engage with the topics that I believe are socially important.”

Mandy Hill, Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press said: “Dr Joanna Kusiak’s insightful, stimulating work on the rule of law is a worthy and timely winner. Her work epitomises Cambridge University Press’ values: enabling inspirational and contested ideas and voices to reach a wider audience. We are excited to support Dr Kusiak to convert her ideas into book form.”

About the Nine Dots Prize

The Nine Dots Prize is a prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues. Its heartland is in the analysis of contemporary society and societal challenges, and it welcomes responses that draw on any perspective and discipline. Entrants are challenged to submit 3,000-word responses to a question set by the Board. The winner receives US$100,000, which supports them to write a short book expanding on their ideas to be published by Cambridge University Press in a variety of formats, including open access, meaning the book can be downloaded free of charge.

The Nine Dots Prize is judged anonymously and funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation, an English-registered charity established to fund research into significant but neglected questions relevant to today’s world. Its name references a lateral thinking puzzle that can only be solved by drawing outside of a box of nine dots arranged in three rows of three. It is supported by Cambridge University Press and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), both departments of the University of Cambridge.

About the Kadas Prize Foundation

The Kadas Prize Foundation was established to fund research into significant but neglected questions relevant to today’s world. Its main charitable activity is as a prize-awarding body, enabling Prize winners to further their work in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences to benefit the public. The Foundation was established by Peter Kadas, who has worked around the world for a number of leading institutions. Originally from Hungary, he holds Canadian and UK citizenship and currently lives in Barcelona, where he is a Senior Adviser at BXR Corporate Consulting Partners SL, which is an adviser to investment group BXR Group.

Past winners

The 2017/2018 Nine Dots Prize was won by former Google employee turned Oxford philosopher, James Williams, who submitted the best response to the question ‘Are digital technologies making politics impossible?’ The resulting book, Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, was published in May 2018 to critical acclaim (‘A landmark book’ – the Observer; ‘Switch off your smartphone, slouch in a comfy chair, and pay your full, undivided, attention to this short, absorbing, and deeply disturbing book’ – Financial Times). It was chosen as Princeton University’s 2019 Pre-read and sent to all incoming students as an introduction to intellectual life at Princeton.

The 2019/2020 Nine Dots Prize was won by Mumbai-based writer Annie Zaidi, who submitted a ‘powerful’ and ‘unique’ response to the question ‘Is there still no place like home?’ The resulting book, Bread, Cement, Cactus: A Memoir of Belonging and Dislocation, explores notions of home and belonging rooted in Zaidi’s experiences of life in India. It was described by the Observer as a ‘compelling exploration of the intimate and political sides of an itinerant life’.

The 2021/2022 Nine Dots Prize was won by Berlin-based journalist Trish Lorenz, who in her winning essay argued that no question of what it means to be young in the 21st century should overlook the significant youth populations of sub-Saharan African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. Focusing on Nigeria – one of the youngest countries in the world, where more than 42% of the population is under 14 years old – as a case study, she conducted in-depth interviews and discussions with the youth population. The resulting book Soro Soke: The Young Disruptors of an African Megacity was published in May 2022.


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