Retired York professors establish graduate award for Southeast Asian studies

retired York professors, Penny and John Van Esterik
retired York professors, Penny and John Van Esterik

The York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) has announced that a new award is available for graduate students planning research in Southeast Asia.

The Penny and John Van Esterik Award for Graduate Research on Southeast Asia, established by recently retired York professors, Penny and John Van Esterik, gives preference to graduate students who want to travel to Southeast Asia to conduct their research.

retired York professors, Penny and John Van Esterik
Retired York professors Penny and John Van Esterik

“We wanted to give York students the same opportunity that we were given when we were students,” said Penny Van Esterik. “When John and I were studying for our PhDs in anthropology at the University of Illinois, we received small grants that helped us begin fieldwork in Thailand, which led to our lifelong engagement in Southeast Asian Studies.”

Penny Van Esterik is a feminist anthropologist and one of the world’s leading breastfeeding activists. She began her career with a focus on Southeast Asian studies as a result of the increasing demand for knowledge about Southeast Asia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Her work spans material culture production, medical anthropology and food and nutrition studies through cases from Thailand, and Lao PDR. She retired from York’s Department of Anthropology in 2014.

John Van Esterik taught a survey course on Southeast Asia at York for more than 20 years. His research focuses on Thai Buddhist practice and Lao refugees in North America. He has published articles on refugee issues, Theravada Buddhism, and gender and development in Thailand. He taught social science and anthropology courses at York until his retirement in 2008.

“We wanted to give something back to the York community in appreciation for all the support we got over the years, particularly from the Departments of Anthropology and Social Science. We also wanted to acknowledge all the wonderful scholars we met through the York Centre for Asian Research and contribute to their efforts in creating a vibrant research community,” said John Van Esterik.

The award will be offered annually to support graduate research activities, including travel. Preference will be given to doctoral students carrying out historical, cultural or artistic projects in the region (if no such candidates are available, masters students will be considered). Canadian Citizens, permanent residents, protected persons and international students are all eligible to apply.

“This award is being established at a great time in Southeast Asian Studies at York,” said Abidin Kusno, YCAR director and former president of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS). “The community of Southeast Asian scholars at York is lucky to have champions like Penny and John Van Esterik and I am certain that this award will be a welcome support for some of the excellent graduate research happening here.”

Applications for the award will be adjudicated by YCAR based on: 1) academic quality of the proposed research; 2) the applicant’s grades; and, 3) online reference form submissions from two references. Financial needs (as determined through York’s Student Financial Profile) may also be considered when selecting recipients.

The deadline for applications for the inaugural award is Monday, April 30 before 4pm, with the successful applicant being notified within one month.

For more information, visit the website.