Competition Description

The LA&PS Writing Prizes are open to all kinds of writing from students enrolled in LA&PS courses, including case studies, administrative/executive reports, reviews of all kinds, non-fiction prose and formal essays (creative writing excepted). There are five categories: first through fourth year and also Major Research Project (MRP)/Undergraduate Thesis (if applicable).

Any Course Director in LA&PS was eligible to nominate a paper (one per course) in the appropriate category. Students’ papers were nominated using the year level of the course they were written for. For example, a 4th year student writing in WRIT 2004 was nominated in the 2nd year category. Eligible papers came from courses offered between May 2015 and April 2016.

Winners received a cash prize, a transcript notation, the opportunity to have their papers published online, and were invited to a Fall Ceremony celebrating their accomplishments.

This contest was co-ordinated by Jon Sufrin, with much assistance from LA&PS staff and LA&PS Associate Dean Peter Avery. Special thanks go to the Writing Department for their efforts in reviewing the competition’s submissions.

Papers are linked with the permission of the authors.

Selection Process

Small juries composed of full-time Writing Department faculty were each assigned the papers from a single year level. Care was taken to avoid conflicts of interest in the adjudication process. Jurors considered the submission in context of its assignment, as well as the piece’s readability, style, depth of analysis and professionalism.

Jury Members

Stephanie Bell, Kerry Doyle, Geoffrey Huck, Kim Michasiw, Dominique O’Neill, Ron Sheese, John Spencer, Jon Sufrin.

First Year Comments

1st Year Honourable Mention – Mariah Marcutti, “Deaf Children and Youth." From HUMA 1970, “Worlds of Childhood” taught by Peter Cumming.

Skillfully written and carefully argued, Mariah Marcutti’s submission, “Deaf Children and Youth” underlines that encouraging hearing-impaired youth to accept and understand their own culture and identity is the best path to happy, productive citizens in adulthood. As Marcutti notes, given support and the chance to form peer relationships, Deaf Children (the uppercase D “connotes a cultural identity”) will rapidly adopt and find solace in their own “separate and distinct culture.” Learning sign language is of particular import, and Marcutti does very well to unpack how the ability to express oneself and be understood by others is of central importance to Deaf children and youth,

Throughout, the author makes careful use of evidence and includes many resonant examples to make her case, and it is particularly compelling to have included the words of Deaf children themselves. Few readers would fail to be convinced by the end of the essay. But what makes the work particularly stand out is how it will teach the average user something: to consider deafness not as “a disability which requires treatment,” but instead to think of “the beauty of the culture,” and see it as legitimate in its own right. The best essays make the reader see the world differently, and Marcutti’s paper succeeds brilliantly at this. It does so by portraying the Deaf child as a person, and not as an Other—as a part of society, but on their own terms and with their own agency.

1st Year Winner: Keshra Hines, “Precarious Migrants: the Effect of Globalization and Neoliberalism.” From SOSC 1190, “International Migration,” taught by Alina Marquez.

This paper illuminates the exploitative nature of Canadian immigration policy through an analysis of the Caregiver Program, under which migrant women become live-in domestic workers for Canadian families. The paper stands out for the thorough critical analysis of the Migrant Caregiver Program and for the connections made to the forces of globalization and neoliberal ideals that underpin it. Exhaustively researched and carefully argued, Hines’ essay convincingly demonstrates that despite some changes to the liv-in program, the workers invited to Canada face many unjust challenges if they try to win permanent residence here.

What is most telling in this skilfully unpacked argument, is how Hines observes that the state’s official thanks for “the contributions caregivers make” underlines what is valued here: the economic impact of these Caregivers, and not the Caregivers themselves. Neoliberal economics needs low-wage earners, each as replaceable as the other, and the precarity of the Caregiver’s employment is exceptionally well-documented in this paper. Every essay needs to answer the so what question, and Hines’ conclusion is telling: we [Canada] are a “nation that furnishes itself with precarious and disposable labour.” No one can truly integrate under such conditions, and Hines’ does well to challenge the prevailing paradigm of Canada’s successful incorporation of immigrants.

2nd Year Comments

2nd Year Honourable Mention: Dayna M. Bernard, “Developing an Anti-discriminatory Approach to the Treatment of Injection Drug Users.” from SOWK 2050A 6.0, “Identity, Diversity and Anti-Discriminatory Practice” taught by Anne McConnell.

The paper is maturely written and makes effective use of the author’s extensive experience of working with drug users in her workplace. The paper articulates well the challenges facing any attempt to bring the theory and practice of social justice activism into the prevailing biomedical discourse as that discourse is reified and institutionalized in the form of the contemporary hospital. The paper is amply researched and the sources are admirably current. The readers’ admired the paper’s passion and its focused commitment to the development of anti-discriminatory practices in the specific case of injection drug users.

2nd Year Winner: Samir Janmohamed, "Ethiopia and Policy". From SOSC 2800 “Development in Comparative and Historical Perspective,” taught by Merouan Mekouar.

The paper is a response to an assignment that asks students to present an analytical description of the current economic, political and social conditions in a selected developing country, and then the present a series of policy prescriptions that address the challenges posed by those conditions. Mr. Janmohamed’s paper offers a highly effective and detailed exposition of current conditions in Ethiopia and presents well-argued recommendations for changes to current policies. The paper is well-researched and offers telling comparisons with the successes and failures of policies in other, roughly analogous developing countries. The readers were particularly impressed by the paper’s discussion of the limitations of Ethiopia’s currently successful emphasis on industrial development at the expense of agriculture. Mr. Janmohamed’s self-invocation on this point is a particularly telling rhetorical strategy.

3rd Year Comments

3rd Honourable Mention: Nicolas Hore, “Roman Bodies as Bodies of Romans: Corporeal Symbolism in Lucan's Pharsalia.” From HUMA 3107 6.00 Roman Republican Literature,” taught by Sarah Blake.

In his compelling paper, Roman Bodies as Bodies of Romans: Corporeal Symbolism in Lucan’s “Pharsalia”, author Nicolas Hore cogently analyses Lucan’s ten book poem focusing on the poet’s use of the human body in all its forms as a symbol of Rome itself. Hore provides an in-depth yet surprisingly concise examination of this theme relying on a few well-chosen examples from this rather lengthy poem. Combined with its elegant and refined prose, this succinctness carries the reader forward effortlessly and with great pleasure. The essay is certainly most worthy of winning runner-up for third year writing in the Faculty of LA&PS. The author should be truly proud of his efforts here.

3rd – Winner – Val Muzik, “Stasis, Flow and the Political Production of Mental Disorders.” From POLS 3070, “Psychology and Politics,” taught by Shannon Bell.

This thoughtful, coherent, and eloquent essay investigates the creation of mental disorders as stemming from an individual’s multiple relationships with the shifting ecological, biological, social, and political environments with which s/he constantly interacts, and argues that their source can be traced to the resulting fixity or blockage of productive flow in the unconscious. It first examines Freud’s understanding of the unconscious, then contrasts it with Deleuze’s and Guattari’s notion of an unconscious that “constantly produces and reproduces itself”, to arrive at the “temporal, behavioral, and relational stasis” that produces mental illness. Finally, it focuses on how social-political structures foster these mechanisms, relying on the works of Fanon and Said to demonstrate that colonialism, for example, is inherent to the patriarchal and Euro-centric Oedipus complex.

4th Year Comments

4th Year Runner up, Camila Acosta Varela, “Decolonizing the Nation-State: Indigenous Autonomy, Extractivism, and Consultation in Contemporary Bolivia.” From SOSC 4607 “Indigeneity and International Development” taught by Miguel Gonzalez.

In a first-rate paper, Varela examines the slow development of meaningful indigenous sovereignty in Bolivia. The author notes how even when this process is supported at the ballot box, indigenous communities applying for local autonomy face a high bar for state recognition. She also observes how the Bolivian government retains control over natural resources, leading to tensions between a central government dependent on resource royalties to balance its budget, the corporations involved in extraction, and an indigenous respect for the environment and its sustainable development. Promises of consultation are marked by “imbalances of power” that “disadvantage” local interests against those of government and neo-liberal businesses looking only for short-term profit. This well-written and researched paper raises many concerns that other countries with large indigenous communities (i.e. Canada) would do well to consider as they grapple with their own approaches to decolonization and First Nations sovereignty.

4th Winner, Val Muzik, “Do Words Speak Louder than Actions? Sovereignty Theatre in Canadian Arctic Policy.” From POLS 4101, “Canada and the Arctic” taught by Gabrielle Slowey

In this exemplary paper, the author examines communications by the Harper government regarding its Arctic policy and demonstrates a striking disconnect between what those communications had promised and the actual consequences of the government’s actions. Drawing on the idea of “security theatre” (government activities designed to reassure the public that they are being protected when in fact those activities are likely to be ineffectual), she finds that the government mounted a “sovereignty theatre” in respect of perceived threats to Canada’s ability to control its sovereign territory in the Arctic. Focusing in particular on the Harper government’s feeble commitments to Indigenous Arctic peoples, she shows that its words spoke louder than its actions.

Recent Submissions