CERLAC awards Baptista essay prizes for 2004

York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) has announced the winners of the 2004 Michael Baptista Essay Prize for outstanding scholarly papers on topics of relevance to the area of Latin American & Caribbean studies. Kathryn Grimbly, a fourth-year student in humanities, won at the undergraduate level and Jennifer Costanza, graduate student in political science, took the graduate-level prize.

baptista awardsThe essays were nominated by York professors and evaluated by a selection of CERLAC Fellows who noted the excellent quality of the papers and congratulated all of the students for their work. The two winning essays were, evaluators agreed, especially prize-worthy.

Left:  Far left, Sharon Baptista, widow of the prize’s namesake, and Kathryn Grimbly, undergraduate recipient of the 2004 prize

Grimbly’s essay, “Caribbean Visual Arts in the Era of Post-Modernism”, is, in the words of Patrick Taylor, the professor who nominated the paper, “a very balanced and insightful assessment of some of the ways in which contemporary Caribbean visual arts…have been misrepresented by international critics and tourist consumers and neglected or mishandled by local Caribbean businesses and governments.” Taylor, humanities professor in the Faculty of Arts and director of CERLAC’s Caribbean Project, went on to say that the paper “breaks new ground by combining art criticism with arts management policy in the Caribbean context.”

One of the evaluators commented that Grimbly’s essay is “engaged and engaging”, combining “a certain flair for art criticism, as well as an imaginative grasp of these works of the imagination”. Another evaluator praised the essay for displaying great “maturity of thought and lucidity of expression”. “The author,” said the evaluator, “is obviously very well informed about Caribbean art and was able to marshal her evidence in a compelling and highly convincing manner.”

Jennifer Costanza’s essay, “Elusive Hegemony: A Critical Analysis of United States Policy towards Haiti”, garnered similarly high praise from her nominating professor and evaluators. Matt Davies, the Fellow and adjunct professor who nominated the paper, says that Costanza’s “research has produced important documentation for some of the most contentious questions, notably the role of the USAID-funded and Republican Party-linked International Republican Institute’s role in organizing both the Haitian opposition to Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government and in influencing US policy. Her analysis,” he continued, “returns to a thorny question for international relations in the Caribbean region, namely, why the US would bother to intervene in a small country, and she makes good use of Gramscian analytical tools to address this question.”

An evaluator commented that Costanza “invokes facts to make relevant and interesting points rather than just to relay them, and her description of the events and their principal actors is vivid and suggests her comfort with the material.” Another evaluator called the essay “a first-class piece of work.”

The Michael Baptista Essay Prize was established by the friends of Michael Baptista and RBC Financial Group 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 RBC and his continued and unqualified drive and love of learning. This $500 Prize is awarded annually to both a graduate and an undergraduate student at York 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.

Kathryn Grimbly completed an honours BA in humanities and is currently in the masters program in humanities. Jennifer Costanza completed her MA in political science and will be entering a PhD program next fall. This pair will be honoured at an award luncheon this month.

This story was submitted by Shana Shubs, administrative assistant with CERLAC.