David Laitin receives the 2021 Skytte Prize in Political Science

DAVID LAITIN, the James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science in the School of Humanities and Sciences and co-director of the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford, has received the 2021 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for his “original and objective exploration of how culture shapes political strategies in heterogenous societies.”

David Laitin (Image credit: Linda A. Cicero)

The prize is compared to the Nobel Prize for political scientists and is awarded by the Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University in Sweden for remarkable achievements within the field of political science.

The prize recognizes Laitin’s influential research on how culture, especially language and religion, guides political behavior.

When seeking to understand why newly independent African countries continued to rely on European languages for education and administration, Laitin moved to Somalia, where he learned to speak Somali and conduct randomized field experiments.

Laitin said this came at a time when “the political science world had not yet invented the term ‘field experiment.’”

Later, in Catalonia, Laitin’s efforts to understand why Catalans “were exerting so much effort promoting the Catalan language, which would increase their communicative range by zero,” led to his learning game theory. At that time, it was a “newly introduced methodological tool” in the subfield of comparative politics.

Laitin is the third Stanford scholar in the last decade to receive the Skytte Prize. MARGARET LEVI, the Sara Miller McCune Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and professor of political science at Stanford, received the prize in 2019. FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, the Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and the Olivier & Nomellini Senior Fellow in International Studies at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, was the recipient in 2015.

A virtual prize award ceremony will take place on Oct. 1.

Read the full article on the H&S website.