Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies announces recipients of Barbara Godard and Odessa awards

Image announcing Awards

Every year, the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies awards the Barbara Godard and Odessa Prizes for the best graduate dissertation and undergraduate paper in a fourth-year course for outstanding works that advance our knowledge of Canada. For the 2019-20 academic year, the awards went to M’Chigeeng historian and researcher Alan Ojiig Corbiere (Department of History) for his dissertation titled Anishinaabe Treaty-Making in the 18th- and 19th-Century Northern Great Lakes: From Shared Meanings to Epistemological Chasms, and to Natalia Santilli for her paper “The Abject Horror of the Spanish Influenza in Canadian Theatre.”

Alan Ojiig Corbiere
Alan Ojiig Corbiere

Corbiere has since been transitioned from student to professor. In the fall 2019 term, he joined the faculty at York University as an assistant professor in the Department of History. His dissertation was unanimously chosen from a pool of eight nominated works for the Barbara Godard Prize. The adjudication committee thought his writing to have “stood out on all the criteria for the prize: advancing knowledge of Canada, transcending disciplinary boundaries and demonstrating innovation in thought and/or methodology.”

Corbiere’s work sought to recover the Anishinaabe historical perspective and used material culture, spiritual beliefs, a wealth of archival sources, as well as the Anishinaabe language and culture itself, to examine the evolution of their treaty-making process. His goal was to produce a more nuanced interpretation of Anishinaabe governance structures and their role in treaty procedures. This work shed new perspectives on treaty relationships and has already had some impact in recent case law interpreting 19th-century treaties in British North America.

Santilli will be completing her specialized honours BA in English and certificate in technical and professional communication this fall. Her paper was nominated for the Odessa Prize by Glendon English Professor Lee Frew for “Canadian Literature and the Great War (GL/EN 4642)” at Glendon Campus. “I really owe my interest in Canadian Studies to Lee Frew [and] I’m incredibly grateful to Irvin Studin for establishing the Odessa Prize,” says Santilli, “I couldn’t imagine a better way to wrap up my degree.”

Natalia Santilli
Natalia Santilli

She began work on the paper in March as the COVID-19 crisis was intensifying around the world. Today, she continues to reflect “on the various ways in which people (or characters) cope with horrific circumstances, for better for worse … fear may be unpleasant, but it can absolutely be harnessed for productive means.” Her paper was the unanimous choice by the selection committee to receive the Odessa Prize. In their decision they write that Santilli “demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection, as well as insightful readings of the plays Dancock’s Dance by Guy Vanderhaeghe (2005) and Unity (1918) by Kevin Kerr (2014) in light of Kristeva’s thinking. … This analysis demonstrates an exceptional understanding of both the theory and the plays: frankly, the essay is outstanding, graduate student-level work.”

Both works have been nominated by the Robarts Centre for the Canadian Studies Network – Réseau d’études canadiennes prizes for the Best PhD Dissertation and Best Undergraduate Essay Prize in Canadian Studies.

The Barbara Godard Prize for the Best York University Dissertation in Canadian Studies was created in memory of the Robarts Centre’s late, distinguished colleague. Godard held the Avie Bennett Historica Chair of Canadian Literature and was Professor of English, French, Social and Political Thought and Women’s Studies at York University.

The Odessa Prize for the Study of Canada was established through the generosity of York alumnus Irvin Studin and is dedicated to Studin’s parents who hail from the famous port city of Odessa.