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Trilling and van Doren Awards Presented to Professors Bynum and Dirks by College Students

By James Devitt

The students of Columbia College have awarded the 2002 Mark van Doren Teaching Award to University Professor Caroline Bynum, a professor of history, and the 2002 Lionel Trilling Book Award to Professor Nicholas Dirks, chair of the anthropology department, for his book "Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India" (Princeton 2001).

The van Doren Award, now in its 41st year, is given to one teacher in the College each year for outstanding leadership and teaching. The Trilling Award, now in its 27th year, goes to one book published in the last calendar year by a faculty member teaching in Columbia College. Winners are selected by the Columbia College Academic Awards Committee, chaired by Yaacob Dweck, CC '02, Michael Fishman, CC '02, and Daniel Immerwahr, CC '02.

"Professor Bynum has a very unusual ability to combine rigorous academic standards with an understanding that students exist as people outside of the classroom," said Immerwahr. "The students with whom the committee spoke about Professor Bynum told us that she not only made them better thinkers, but changed their lives in a very positive way."

The committee noted that it considered several outstanding books for the Trilling Award, but that "Castes of Mind" stood out for its breadth of scholarship, its originality and its accessibility.

"It was astounding to the committee that Professor Dirks was able to make some very complex arguments about the relationship between colonialism and caste in India so clear and enjoyable to read," said Immerwahr. "One of the sections that we found particularly compelling, which tells how a particular archive was collected, gives a good example of what we liked about the book. In it, Professor Dirks deals successfully with a body of theory about how archival evidence forms our knowledge of the past, but his treatment of the subject is concrete, enlightening, and even entertaining."

Bynum is the third person to win both awards -- she won the Trilling Award in 1992 for "Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion" (Zone Books 1991). The others are Wm. Theodore de Bary, the John Mitchell Mason Professor and Provost Emeritus of the University, and anthropologist Robert F. Murphy. De Bary won the Trilling Award for "Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy and the Learning of the Mind and Heart" (Columbia 1981), and Murphy won it for "The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled" (Holt 1987).

This year's awards ceremony was held May 6 in the President's Room of Faculty House.

Published: May 08, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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