Twenty-one students receive YCAR graduate awards for research on Asia and Asian diaspora

The York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) awarded funding to 21 graduate students to support research on Asia and Asian diasporas. The recipients were selected through a competitive application process and they represent multiple disciplines and areas of research including imperialism, environmental justice, immigrant and refugee experiences, art history, humanitarian aid, housing, disaster response, information technology, and labour movements.

“Our graduate student awards serve as an acknowledgement of student accomplishments as well as an acknowledgement of what students need to continue doing the excellent work that they do in furthering research on Asia and Asian diasporas,” said YCAR Director Abidin Kusno (Environmental Studies). “Graduate students are an important part of the YCAR research community and we aim to support their scholarly pursuits with the right institutional supports.”

Students use their awards to support a range of research activities including fieldwork travel and language training. YCAR is pleased to introduce our award recipients to the York community:

Golaleh Pashmforoosh (History) was awarded the Nirvan Bhavan Graduate Fellowship to support her research examining Portuguese overseas expansion in the Indian Ocean with an emphasis on the exchange and sale of enslaved peoples between South Asia and the East African coast. With the support of the fellowship, she will conduct research in the Historical Archives of Goa (HAG), located in Panjim, Goa, India during 2018 and 2019.

The recipient of the Albert C.W. Chan Foundation Award, Carly Thomas (Environmental Studies) is conducting comparative research on sustainable choices amongst Canadian and Chinese students. Her research includes interviews and focus groups with students in southern China, near Guangzhou.

Sheila Htoo (Environmental Studies) is the recipient of the inaugural Penny & John Van Esterik Award for Graduate Research on Southeast Asia. A Karen refugee, Sheila has been working with immigrant and refugee populations in Toronto as a medical interpreter, outreach worker, peer researcher and knowledge exchange leader.

The recipient of the David Wurfel Award in Philippines Studies, Colleen Curran (Environmental Studies), is researching disaster vulnerability and disaster risk in the Philippines.

Min Ah Park (English) received the Dr. Sangdeok Woo and Mrs. Kwisoon Lim Woo Memorial Graduate Award to support her research on community archives of Korean-Canadian diasporic literature in Canada and in South Korea.

Andrew Gayed (Art History and Visual Culture) received the Young‐Rahn Woo Memorial Graduate Award for his work on international art fairs on the Asia-Africa border, in Arab regions and within Asia. His research investigates Asian, Middle Eastern and diasporic artists in North America who are creating political work surrounding queer identity.

This year, there were 10 recipients of the Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award, which assists graduate students with the costs of fieldwork in Asia: Katherine Cheng (Development Studies), Hazel Dizon (Geography), Chaya Ocampo Go (Geography), Lianrui Jia (Communication and Culture), Ayyaz Mallick (Environmental Studies), Jaspreet Ranauta (Environmental Studies), Aisha Siddika (Development Studies), Tasnuva Tanzim (Development Studies), Jie Wu (Communication and Culture) and Jing Xu (Humanities).

Cheng conducted fieldwork in Kathmandu this summer, collaborating with the Nepal Development Research Institute to document China’s health and humanitarian aid to Nepal. Dizon’s fieldwork will focus on the take-over of government-built housing occupied by the homeless and informal settlers in the Philippines. Go used her award to conduct fieldwork in the Philippines to map out the ecosystem of ‘disaster’ NGOs, and learn about the lives of disaster response workers. Jia is examining the political economy of Chinese internet development through fieldwork in Zhongguancun in Beijing – the ‘Silicon Valley’ of China – where many internet companies and start-ups are incubated. Mallick is currently in Karachi for his fieldwork where he is studying trade union and labour movement archives, interviewing labour organizers and trade unionists and conducting ethnographic participant observation with labourers in different sectors across the “formal-informal” divide”. Ranauta’s fieldwork in Punjab and British Columbia focuses on environmental justice in Punjab, community mobilizations, and diasporic oral histories related to the Green Revolution. Siddika’s fieldwork is on how the agricultural market in Bangladesh reflects and shapes gender relations, norms and practices, and how it impacts women’s land ownership and participation in agricultural production and marketing. Tanzim is studying the effects of information communications (ICT) on rural development in Bangladesh. Wu is conducting his fieldwork with community activists at the Talimi Haq School in Howrah, India to explore alternative radical pedagogy and creative practices of storytelling and participatory action research. Xu’s dissertation research examines how cultural memories of Russian, Japanese and Chinese legacies are incorporated into city development in Harbin, a city located in Northeast China.

YCAR also awarded five Language Awards to help students acquire language skills that will assist them in conducting their research: Katherine Cheng (Development Studies), David Cribb (Politics), Joseph Fiumara (Cinema and Media Studies), Jillian Fulton (Social Anthropology) and Elena Lopez (Human Geography). The Language Awards were created to help to fulfill the language requirement for the Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies.

Cheng is continuing her language training in Mandarin in support of her research on Chinese aid. Cribb is using his award to advance his Japanese language skills to complete field work for his Master’s thesis on Japanese security, nationalism and constitutional change as they relate to the upcoming referendum in Japan on article 9. Fiumara is also using his award for Japanese in support of his research on diverse representation, globalization, and fair labour practices in the anime industry, with a focus on the anime studio, Kyoto Animation. Fulton is continuing her Arabic studies. Fulton’s research examines the countercultural music scene, nu-tarab, which fuses deep house and techno music with Middle Eastern instruments and used the award funds to support language studies this summer in Morocco. Lopez will improve on her Tagalog language skills to support her research on mobilization and organization of Filipino labour migrants.

Congratulations to all the YCAR award winners!

The deadline for the 2018–2019 competition for the YCAR Awards is 11 February 2019. For more information about YCAR awards and recipients, visit