Four graduate students win 2009 YCAR awards

Four graduate students are winners of one of three 2009 York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) awards for their research on Asia or the Asian diaspora at York.

Naoko Ikeda (MA ’05), a fourth-year doctoral candidate in York’s School of Women’s Studies, is the second recipient of the Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award. The award is named for Canadian Senator Vivienne Poy and is meant to assist a graduate student in fulfilling the fieldwork requirement for the Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies (GDAS). Ikeda’s research interests include a gender analysis of militarization and war politics in the East Asian regions, primarily Okinawa in Japan, and focuses on local women’s peace-building practices. The funds from the award will assist Ikeda in her summer 2009 fieldwork in Okinawa.

Left: Naoko Ikeda

Her doctoral project investigates a history of women’s peace-building in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, which has hosted 70 per cent of the American military facilities and bases in Japan since the end of the Second World War. She looks at the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV, 1995 to today), a non-governmental women’s group advocating gender justice as an important part of demilitarization and peace-building. Focusing on the historical development of the OWAAMV and examining their intersectional approach to patriarchy, militarism and nationalism in the United States’ militarization of Okinawa, Ikeda’s study examines an important example of gender-sensitive feminist security/peace politics in current Japan-US security relations.

She is also working as a research assistant, interpreter and co-author for a Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust-funded research project titled “Feminisms, Socialisms and Pacifisms in Movements against War and for Peace: From Common Goals to Coherent Actions” with feminist researcher and writer Cynthia Cockburn, which is forthcoming in 2009.

Ikeda was the recipient of the 2007 and 2008 Doris Anderson Research Fellowship from the Graduate Program in Women’s Studies, and of the 2008 Martin Cohnstaedt Graduate Research Award for Non-Violent Research from the York Centre for International and Security Studies. 

The Vivienne Poy award is open to local and international students who have a grade average of at least B+ and can demonstrate how fieldwork in Asia will contribute to the completion of their program and to an understanding of Asia. Financial need is also considered. Priority is given to students who apply to do research in fulfillment of the fieldwork requirement of the DGAS.

Two students, Colin McGuire (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01, MA ’03) (right) and Brianna Mersey, are this year’s recipients of the YCAR Language Award. McGuire, a doctoral candidate in ethnomusiciology, will study Cantonese and Mersey will use the award funding to study Hindi for her summer 2009 master in environmental studies fieldwork in India. 

As a current member of Toronto’s Hong Luck Kung Fu Club and their Lion Dance Team, McGuire is building the foundation for his dissertation research on lion dancing in Chinese-Canadian kung fu clubs. His work seeks to explain the lion dance’s continued cultural significance for diasporic Chinese communities as well as to investigate the martial value for practitioners. McGuire has over 12 years of experience in Chinese martial arts and a master of arts in music composition.

Mersey is a globetrotter at heart, with South Asia being one of her favourite spots. Through her travels, she developed a love for South Asian landscapes and culture, which led to her academic pursuits in international development at York with the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Left: Brianna Mersey

Her current research project focuses on the effects of microfinance as a financial linking strategy connecting rural populations with financial institutes in India. Traditionally, Indian banks have not offered poorer patrons access to credit due to various limiting circumstances, including the lack of assets and the small amounts. The poor typically have had to rely on moneylenders, who often charge high interest rates. Microfinance programs help small groups set up intra-savings programs within their communities to provide funds for loans.  

Mersey’s study will analyze household income growth, including savings and assets, of beneficiaries of a microcredit/self-help program who have participated for a six-month period. The study will reflect on the limitations and challenges faced by the poor whilst trying to access credit as well as the efficacy of the microfinance group. Her new language skills will be valuable in conducting her research in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – four southern Indian states.

The YCAR Language Award was created to support graduate students in fulfilling the language requirement for the GDAS and to facilitate awardees master’s or doctoral-level research.

The award is open to local and international students who are enrolled in the GDAS at York, have a grade point average of at least 6.0 and have a demonstrated need to learn a specific Asian language to appreciate and better understand the context and perspectives relating to their area of research study. 

Jennifer Payton (right), a first-year master’s candidate in the Geography Department at York, is the 2009 recipient of the Albert C.W. Chan Foundation Fellowship. Her research interests are centred on female migration and boom crop production in Southeast Asia, specifically focusing on labour hierarchies and gendered divisions of labour on plantations. She will explore how unskilled female migrant women are being utilized as pesticide workers on oil-palm plantations surrounding Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The award funding will support Payton during her fieldwork in Malaysia this summer, where she will be affiliated with KANITA, the Women’s Development Research Centre, at the Universiti Santi Malaysia in Penang.

The Albert C.W. Chan Foundation Fellowship was established by the Albert C.W. Chan Foundation to encourage and assist York University graduate students to conduct field research in East and/or Southeast Asia.

For more information, visit the YCAR Web site.