Geography professor emerita Gillian Hart wins Vega Medal

Gillian Hart received the Vega Medal from the Crown Princess of Sweden on April 24 (Photo by Henrik Garlöv/

Gillian Hart, right, received the Vega Medal from Victoria, crown princess of Sweden, on April 24. (Photo by Henrik Garlöv/

Gillian Hart, a UC Berkeley professor emerita of geography, has been awarded the 2018 Vega Medal from the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography for her contributions to human geography. The award is  the most prestigious prize in the discipline.

Hart is a world-renowned expert on questions of gender, race and power that she has explored through critical engagements with labor studies, development studies and agrarian and regional studies, according to her award citation.

“Professor Emerita Hart has established a worldwide reputation as one of human geography’s leading thinkers: an unrivaled expert on the dialectic of global and local change, on how this dialectic plays out in the rural regions of Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, and on the Gramscian political-economic theory to which she has often turned to understand these issues,” reads the citation in part

The citation also mentions that she has co-edited two influential anthologies and written three monographs:

  • Power, Labor, and Livelihood (1986), which originated in her dissertation fieldwork in a Central Javanese village and which challenged prevailing economistic and Eurocentric understandings of agrarian change in Southeast Asia;
  • Disabling Globalization (2002), which engaged critically with discourses of “globalization” and, at the same time, explored progressive alternatives to neoliberalism in South Africa; and
  • Rethinking the South African Crisis (2014), which examines the erosion of African National Congress hegemony and the proliferation of populist politics in the light of the contradictory development of local governance in the post-apartheid era.

As part of the honor, Hart was asked to organize and lead a symposium and invite three scholars with whom her work is in conversation.

The symposium — entitled “Resurgent Nationalisms and Populist Politics” — was organized around the observation that, instead of just the triumph of liberal democracy, the end of the Cold War coincided with waves of right-wing nationalisms and populist politics sweeping over many different regions of the world. It posed questions of how best to understand these processes in relation to one another, and the political stakes.

Hart’s keynote lecture outlined a framework for understanding resurgent nationalisms and populist politics that has grown out of her work on South Africa and India, and suggested how it might help shed light on recent developments in the U.S.

Two previous Vega prize recipients from Berkeley’s geography department are Carl Sauer (1957) and Allan Pred (1991).

More information on the Vega Symposium is available by clicking these links:

Movie from the Vega Symposium 2018

Pictures from the Vega Day 2018