Graduate Student Presentation Prize – 2023

Arshad Said Khan (University of Alberta) wins the 2023 CAPS Graduate Student Presentation Prize for the paper “The Other Mother India: Re-Imagining Motherhood and Nationalism through the Subaltern Figure of the Hijra”

Adjudication Committee Statement: Graduate Student Presentation Prize 2023

The Graduate Student Prize for the 2023 CAPS Conference @ Congress goes to Arshad Said Khan for his paper, “The Other Mother India: Re-Imagining Motherhood and Nationalism through the Subaltern Figure of the Hijra”. The Adjudication Committee takes this opportunity to commend the excellent papers by our other panelists: in order of presentation, Katherine MacDonald and Ramisha Rafique. The calibre of work from each has added appreciably to the spirit of our conference and, more broadly, to the intellectual life CAPS seeks to foster. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to absorb the many insights of all three papers, in the process relating them to our respective and collective research areas and interests.

These opening remarks indicate the challenge faced by the Committee to choose one paper out of three sophisticated, theoretically engaged contributions, each making timely assessments of specific social and historical contexts, representational politics, and visual and textual cultures. The presentations were thought-provoking, and panellists fielded post-presentation questions capably. Moreover, the Committee agree that all three papers are very well-placed for development into future publications.

Arshad’s paper demonstrated a sophisticated, analytically well-defined, reading of visual culture – in this instance, Yogesh Bharadwaj’s film Shabnam Mausi (2005) – as it engages gendered dimensions of Indian national history, political iconography, and the subversive liminality of “hijra maternal subjectivity” in relation to cisheteropatriarchal, upper-caste/Hindutva imaginaries and postcolonial state-formation in India. The different sections of Arshad’s paper flowed seamlessly from a judiciously crafted outline of the theoretical and historical foundations to the plotting of contextual coordinates anchoring well-honed close readings of cinematic text. The analysis of representational shifts from Shabnam “Mausi” Bano’s factual biography to Bharadwaj’s biopic of Shabnam Mausi was one of the core strength of this presentation. Arshad’s post-presentation responses amply demonstrated the breadth of his knowledge in the field, and his skills as a communicator kept the weaving strands of his analysis to a well-integrated pattern throughout.

Katherine’s presentation showcased a wide range of insightful, fascinating ideas. The paper developed an innovative argument on Merlinda Bobis’s Locust Girl: A Lovesong, bringing together complex critical theory and proposing a compelling assemblage model of ecological thinking. The concise yet informative overview of biopower enabled the audience to grasp the key concepts easily. Furthermore, Katherine’s ability to make the idea of the ‘governing body’ literal was a creative and effective way to illustrate the theoretical concepts. The way the paper concluded by connecting it to Haraway’s theory of becoming was a thought-provoking choice. It added another layer of complexity to the discussion and showcased her ability to draw connections across different theories.

Ramisha’s paper on the postcolonial flaneuse presented a very well-networked set of theoretical concepts and textual material to produce a more expansive understanding of Muslim women’s subjectivities and agential capaciousness through processes of urban navigation, generating new postcolonial mappings of subjects in spaces sedimented by Orientalism and Islamophobia. By further developing a subversion of normative aesthetic, ethical, and moral values attached to notions of “visibility” and “invisibility,” Ramisha’s work makes timely interventions. The project signals exciting new directions that will generate insights into how the theorizations of the postcolonial flaneuse relate to adjacent spatial theories. Ramisha’s work will supplement existing theories of activism, an area of the most exciting potentiality.

Please join the Committee in extending warm congratulations to all our panelists, and to Arshad for his significant contribution to the 2023 CAPS Conference.