YCAR announces winner of 2017 Undergraduate Essay Award

Recent York University graduate Wardah Behzad (politics) was named the winner of the 2017 York Centre for Asian Research Undergraduate Essay Award.

Shobna Nijhawan (Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) nominated Behzad’s essay “A Spell to Empower Women: Religion, Culture and Domestic Violence in Pakistan” for its analysis of experiences of women’s oppression and agency.

Wardah Behzad
Wardah Behzad

“Wardah Behzad’s essay is a wonderful example of the kind of critical analysis in Asian studies being done by York undergraduate students,” said York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) Director Abidin Kusno.

YCAR launched its Undergraduate Asia & Asian Diaspora Essay Awards for students enrolled in any undergraduate program at York University. Course directors and teaching assistants nominate student papers and the award recipients are chosen by a committee of YCAR faculty associates.

The award-winning papers undergo an editorial process as they are prepared for publication in YCAR’s special annual series New Voices in Asian Research. The series is available online and on YorkSpace. The publication is a platform to showcase undergraduate talent in research on Asia and Asian diasporas across a range of disciplines at York.

In this year’s prize-winning essay, Behzad analyzes themes of gender, violence and nationalism in Rukhsana Ahmad’s short story The Spell and the Ever-Changing Moon. The story is about a Pakistani woman, Nisa, who turns to black magic in an attempt to escape from an abusive relationship. Behzad traces the underlying commentary on women’s empowerment in the context of religio-political nationalism in Pakistan as it relates to gender roles and violence against women.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Behzad recently graduated summa cum laude in political science from York University and has a keen interest in South Asian religions, culture and politics. A political junkie and history buff, you can find her watching cricket and enjoying good food when not arguing about Pakistani politics or writing. Read her award-winning paper online.

Nominations for the 2018 YCAR Undergraduate Asia & Asian Diaspora Essay Awards are accepted on an ongoing basis until April 30, 2018. Fall instructors are encouraged to submit their nominations by the end of the term. For more information about the awards, visit the YCAR website.