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Congratulations to the 2017 Marleigh Grayer Ryan student paper prize winners!


Congratulation to the winners of the 2017 Marleigh Grayer Ryan College Student Writing Prizes!

Submissions for next year’s prizes will be due on June 1, 2018.


The NYCAS Board is grateful to Professor Tiantian Zheng of SUNY Cortland for her work chairing the paper prize committee!

Undergraduate Paper Prize:

“The Gold Medal Rush: Machine-body Racializations of Chinese Labor at the Olympics and Beyond”

Kristin Xinming Chang, Literature, Sarah Lawrence College

Faculty Adviser: Una Chung

Through a critical analysis of the visual emphasis on Chinese athletes’ “robotic” synchronicity in World Olympics, this paper argues that the visual associations of Chinese athletes with the “robot” or the “machine” reveals the racialization of Chinese Olympic athletes as the physical embodiment of industrial mechanized labor as inorganic, interchangeable, and unnaturally efficient bodies.  Such rationalization of Chinese bodies to mark the “exclusion” of Asian laborers, as the paper contends, is a product of Western anxiety about the threat of Asian industrialization to European technological and economic dominance.

Undergraduate Honorable Mention:

“In Search of “Spaces”: The Ezra Opium Case of 1925, Extraterritoriality, and Analyzing Semicolonial China”

Niall Chithelen, History, Cornell University

Faculty Adviser: Ernesto Bassi

Through a historical analysis of the Ezra opium case, this paper argues that this case pinpoints the importance of China’s semicolonial status in its legal system and in the nature of smuggling in China.  As this paper contends, semicolonial spaces could act as a focal point of analysis, where the opening and closing of spaces would illuminate trends in the interests of foreign powers in China, while tracing the vicissitude of the semicolonial system itself. Through finding and analyzing the shifting gaps in a multifaceted, and at times, confused, system, we will be able to identify continuities as well as changes in a country that was embroiled in the legacies of semicolonialism during the last century.

Graduate Paper Prize:

“Jesuit Understandings of Abnormal Behavior in Early Modern Chinese Medicine”

Emily Bowlus-Peck, History, University at Buffalo

Faculty Adviser: Kristin Stapleton

Through a critical analysis of the accounts of Jesuit missionaries and European scholars in understanding Chinese mental “abnormalities,” this paper argues that these translations were problematic as some Jesuits never went to China or immersed themselves in Chinese culture.  On the one hand, Jesuit medical texts did recognize Chinese medicine theory that postulates wind’s penetration to the xin or heart-mind and inexorable links between thought and emotions, a theory that did not conform to European or Galenic theories. On the other hand, inaccuracies arose in their explanations of the comparison of qi and spirits, qiemo and pulse taking, and the usage of animal spirits to explain brain activity in Chinese medicine.  They also employed Western descriptions of behavior and maladies, referred to Western medical terminology, and oversimplified medical terms such as qi when comparing it to the Western spirits. It is to be determined whether this was done for European audiences or whether the Jesuits used Western terminology to help them navigate and understand abnormal behavior in China.

Graduate Honorable Mention:

“Re-imagining the Ku Klux Klan in Chinese Media, 1950-1959”

Patrick Nash, University at Buffalo, History

Faculty Adviser: Kristin Stapleton

Based on an examination of Chinese mass education materials and periodicals from the 1950s, this paper argues that the People’s Republic of China appropriated the image of the Ku Klux Klan and imbued the Klan with new meanings as part of their ideological mission.  Using the KKK, Chinese propaganda artists depicted the intersections of racism, social unrest, corruption, and capitalism.  Through consistent criticism of American societal failures such as racism and militarism, the Chinese Communist Party intended to shore up the correctness of the communist path.  The juxtaposition of racial violence in the United States and aggressive imperialism in Asia served not only to validate Communist Party leadership at home, but also to mobilize support for North Korea during the Campaign to resist the US and aid Korea and bolster China’s position in a post-war world order from which the PRC had been officially excluded.