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Castells Honored With Prestigious Holberg Prize

By Gretchen Parker
April 2, 2012

USC University Professor Manuel Castells is a scholar of sociology and communication. Photo by Maggie Smith.

USC University Professor Manuel Castells is a scholar of sociology and communication. Photo by Maggie Smith.

Manuel Castells, a USC University Professor and the most cited communication scholar in the world, has been awarded Norway’s 2012 Holberg International Memorial Prize, a $775,000 accolade that recognizes outstanding scholarly work in arts and humanities, social science, law and theology.

Castells, a professor of communication and sociology who holds the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, was recognized by the Holberg Prize Academic Committee as “the leading sociologist of the city and new information and media technologies.”

The prize committee said of Castells: “His ideas and writings have shaped our understanding of the political dynamics of urban and global economies in the network society. He has illuminated the underlying power structures of the great technological revolutions of our time and their consequences.”

USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett said, "The USC academic community is enriched and strengthened when our faculty are honored for extraordinary achievements in research and scholarship.

"In receiving the prestigious Holberg Prize for his multidisciplinary work illuminating the transformative power of new communication technologies with respect to political and economic institutions, University Professor Castells clearly demonstrates why he has long occupied a preeminent position among his field’s most distinguished scholars."

Castells is the author of 22 academic books and editor or co-author of 21 additional books, as well as more than 100 articles in academic journals. His latest work, Communication Power (Oxford University Press: 2009), a detailed treatment of power and the structure and dynamics of communications in the modern world, was lauded by the prize committee: “Castells has taken thinking about 'the political' to an entirely new level through his prescient account of the emergence of and interaction between new forms of power in the age of the network society.”

Asked about the award's significance, Castells said, "that my research, which is my passion in life, is appreciated by my colleagues around the world. And the esteem of my colleagues and my students is for me the most important reward for all the work I put in my teaching and research."

The scholar added that he will continue to "work hard" because there is "no time to party."
He currently is finishing Networks of Outrage and Hope. Social Movements in the Internet Age, a new book to be published in September.

At USC, Castells is one of a small and distinguished group of scholars designated as a University Professor, an honor awarded on the basis of multidisciplinary interests and significant accomplishments in several fields. He holds appointments in USC Dornsife's sociology department, the USC School of International Relations and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, in addition to his primary appointment at USC Annenberg.

“Manuel Castells is the preeminent example of a scholar who is a committed teacher, devoted mentor, faculty leader and researcher who provides a deep and comprehensive understanding of how new communication breakthroughs impact our increasingly networked society,” said USC Annenberg dean Ernest J. Wilson III. “We are honored to have professor Castells as a colleague and celebrate with him the recognition he so greatly deserves as the world’s leading communication scholar.”

Castells also is a research professor at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a professor of city and regional planning, and of sociology, from 1979 to 2003 before joining USC.

Castells was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2004 to 2009; Distinguished Visiting Professor of Technology and Society at Santa Clara University from 2006 to 2010; and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Internet Studies at Oxford University from 2006 to 2010. He has lectured in more than 300 academic institutions in 46 countries, has been awarded 14 honorary doctorates from universities in 11 countries and has won medals of honor from five governments.

Castells, a native of Spain, grew up in Valencia and Barcelona. He studied law and economics at the universities of Barcelona and Paris and received a doctorate in sociology and a doctorate in human sciences from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He moved to the United States in 1979.

Castells’ expertise in communications has earned him, among other distinguished awards, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Spain’s National Prize of Sociology and Political Science, the Erasmus Medal from the Academia Europaea, the Robert and Helen Lynd Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association for his contribution to community and urban sociology, and the Oxford Internet Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Holberg Prize was established by the Norwegian parliament in 2003. Along with the Nils Klim Prize, it is awarded annually by the Board of the Ludvig Holberg Memorial Fund. The main purpose of the prizes is to raise the status of the arts and humanities, social sciences, law and theology.