We are very happy to award the 2023 Early-Career Prize to Dr Camila Vergara, who is currently Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Dr Vergara is originally from Chile, where she established a successful career in journalism before pursuing academic political theory further, undertaking postgraduate degrees at New York University (MA), New School for Social Research (MA), and Columbia University (PhD).
In 2020, shortly after completing her PhD, Dr Vergara’s first book, Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Republic was published by Princeton University Press. In this book, Dr Vergara offers a genealogy of political corruption and theorizes the contemporary crisis in democracy in structural terms. She argues that representative governments suffer decay because of constitutional deficits, analyses the absence of properly popular institutions to ensure democratic accountability, and reveals the unfettered oligarchies of power that emerge as a result. Dr Vergara draws on insights from Niccolò Machiavelli, Nicolas de Condorcet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hannah Arendt to advance her critique and put forward her own understanding of plebian republicanism. Systemic Corruption has been subject to much scholarly discussion – such that it can be said already to have made a genuine imprint on political theory – while her other research has appeared in international journals that reflect the breadth of its reach, including History of Political Thought and Journal of Political Philosophy.
Dr Vergara has demonstrated as impressive a global commitment to teaching, having delivered lectures on four different continents on a variety of topics that show the breadth of her expertise. Her international outreach is evident not only her teaching and research, but also in her prominent work in political advocacy and activism, which exemplifies a unity of theory and practice often discussed and aspired to but rarely achieved by academic political theorists.
In addition to her many professional achievements, the BIAPT judges were especially struck by the significant energy and time Dr Vergara has invested in contributing to, and organising, events that include and engage junior and emerging scholars. That she has been able to make such an impact on the community of political theorists in Britain, Ireland, and beyond, while engaging in path-breaking policy work prior to the securement of a permanent university appointment, is particularly remarkable and commendable.
Dr Vergara said: “In a world in which recognition is denied to so many, it is a privilege to be seen and valued by those you admire. I am grateful to the members of the Executive Committee for taking the time to read my work and for their appreciation of my efforts to develop political theory ‘from below’ in times of crisis. I am truly honoured by this award.”