Winners announced for Michael Baptista Essay Prizes

The winners of the 2003 Michael Baptista Essay Prize have been announced by the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). Jillian Di Nallo has been awarded the undergraduate-level prize and Aaron K. Kamugisha has been awarded the graduate-level prize for their papers of relevance to the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Di Nallo is in her final year of a Specialized BA Honours in English and hopes to enter teacher’s college next fall. Kamugisha is a second-year PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought

Papers were nominated by professors and evaluated by a selection of CERLAC fellows (mostly York faculty) who considered all of the nominated essays prize-worthy and congratulated all of the students for their work.

Jillian Di Nallo’s paper, entitled A ‘Great Mistake to Go By Looks’: Overcoming Stereotypes in Caribbean Literature was described by nominator Diana Cooper-Clark, professor of English in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, as using “anamorphic perspective in the visual arts, applied to literature” in a way that is “imaginatively and analytically quite brilliant.” Cooper-Clark added that the paper “is a wonderful tool to open up interpretations of Caribbean literature and move the discussion beyond the binaries of Western discourse.”

Using Claire Harris’ poem, And So…Home, Jamaica Kincaid’s My Mother and Jean Rhys’, Wide Sargasso Sea, Di Nallo documented emotionally strained female relationships acting as an anamorphic device that she says “redefines the Caribbean literary tradition as an inclusive practice that gives voice to the female characters who have been silenced by the negative power of binaries and stereotypes.”

One of the evaluators called Di Nallo’s paper “an extremely well-written essay on an interesting topic that is very readable and thought-provoking even for a reader not familiar with the research approach and subject.”

Aaron K. Kamugisha’s Reading Said and Wynter on Liberation and the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition received the graduate level prize. The paper was nominated by Aijaz Ahmad, professor of political science. Ahmad described Kamugisha’s “criticism of Said’s rather misplaced commentary on C.L.R. James, Cesaire, Gerveyism and the Rastafarian cultural dynamic is well-placed and original. His reconstruction of Sylvia Wynter’s thought is again erudite and perceptive, and he convincingly argues that her powerful critique of post-Renaissance European humanism is more substantive and offers more concrete pathways for the epistemological and political reconstruction of a more ample universalism appropriate for postcolonial thought.”

The Michael Baptista Essay Prize was established by the friends of Michael Baptista and the Royal Bank of Canada. The $500 Prize is awarded annually to both a graduate and an undergraduate student at York University in recognition of an outstanding scholarly essay of relevance to the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, from the humanities, social science, business or legal perspective.

The Michael Baptista Essay Prize and Lecture are named in honour of Michael Baptista (right), in recognition of the areas central to his spirit and success: the importance of his Guyanese/Caribbean roots, his dedication to and outstanding achievement at the Royal Bank of Canada, and his continued and unqualified drive and love of learning.

This year’s winners will be honoured at an award luncheon in mid-January.