The GAPS Dissertation Award recognizes outstanding dissertations on new anglophone literatures and cultures as well as varieties of English. It is awarded once every two years. More details about the award, including our latest call for nominations can be accessed here.
Recipient of the 2022 GAPS Dissertation Award is Magdalena Pfalzgraf.
She received the prize for her outstanding thesis “Crossing Borders, Transcending Boundaries: Dynamics of Mobility in post-2000 Zimbabwean Literature”, which was submitted at the University of Frankfurt and published by Routledge in 2021. Her study explores mobility in Zimbabwean works of fiction published between 2000, the year of Zimbabwe’s controversial Land Reform, and 2017, the end of Mugabe’s rule, demonstrating how the texts critically engage with the spatial orders imposed by the Mugabe regime. Four dynamics of mobility frame the analyses: intra-urban movement and rural-urban movement in Zimbabwe, transnational migration within Africa and transcontinental migration. The concept of mobility, rather than migration, allows her to conceptualize movement in a broader and more inclusive sense, including social and economic mobility. Magdalena Pfalzgraf’s study not only offers an in-depth survey and an innovative reading of contemporary Zimbabwean fiction that moves beyond the received discourse on Zimbabwean migration in terms of exodus and escape. It also shows how the texts discussed critically respond to authority and the boundaries of Afrocentric nationalism by self-reflexively placing themselves within both a specific national literary tradition (“writing back to self”) and tapping into transnational literary traditions.
Joint recipients of the fourth GAPS Dissertation Award are Mirka Honkanen and Johanna Pundt.
Mirka Honkanen’s PhD excellent PhD thesis “‘Like my homeboy will say, THIS NA REALLY NAIJA’: African-American and Nigerian resources in U.S.Nigerians’ digital communication”, which was submitted at the University of Freiburg, works in the field of variation linguistics, and is located at the intersections of sociolinguistics of globalization and diaspora studies. Mirka Honkanen investigates the behavior of American Nigerians in social media and in so doing, she connects to current debates of linguistic globalisation and how mobility, both physically and medially, enables linguistic transformations. The thesis works with a rich and well-founded empirical data set. In particular, it is exceptional how substantially and perceptively Honkanen processes the data material Nairaland 2 – which is based on a previous corpus created at the University of Freiburg – and which was extended to an overall scope of 800 million words and annotated widely by her. Moreover, Honkanen discusses the (overt and covert) linguistic prestige of Nigerian pidgin, AAVE and other varieties (e.g. Jamaican Patois), stressing their importance for enabling people to connect and belong to the U.S. black community. Her 350-page thesis is well-written, innovative, and exceptional in its academic quality. Undoubtedly, it will be internationally recognized upon publication.
Johanna Pundt’s outstanding PhD thesis “Speculative India: Genre and Aesthetics in Contemporary Indian Anglophone Literature and Popular Culture”, submitted at the University of Augsburg, investigates a broad range of speculative works across anglophone Indian literature and popular culture. The thesis is conceptionally innovative and establishes its own impressive corpus of Indian texts which have largely been neglected in previous analyses of speculative fiction. One of its key achievements is the extension of speculative fiction as a concept: Johanna Pundt questions the binary, and often highly simplified distinction between mimetic and non-mimetic/antirealist forms of representation and develops her own concept, which she terms para-realism. Pundt describes para-realism as a mode that is inherent to those texts “that centre previously marginalized worldviews, sometimes expressing perceptions that surpass the knowable and scientifically verifiable,” working toward a “representational practice of plurality” in terms of varying epistemologies and ways of experiencing realities. What is more, Johanna Pundt connects her findings to Pheng Cheah’s concept of “worlding literature”: Indian speculative fiction, she argues, “is worlded through its rootedness in extratextual epistemological and ontological systems and is at the same time worlding in the sense of musing about different forms of existence.”
Recipient of the third GAPS Dissertation Award is Geoffrey Rodoreda. He received the prize for his outstanding dissertation entitled “The Mabo Turn in Contemporary Australian Fiction”, which was submitted at the University of Stuttgart.
Based on an in-depth study of Australian fiction writing from the last quarter of a century, Geoffrey Rodoreda’s thesis proposes a re-assessment of Australian literary historiography to account for what he describes as the ‘Mabo turn’ in contemporary Australian fiction. Central to this assessment is the observation that in the quarter of a century since the Australian High Court’s historic Mabo decision of 1992, novels examining Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations have attained unprecedented prominence in Australian literary discourse.
Recipient of the second GAPS Dissertation Award is James Ogone. He received the prize for his outstanding dissertation entitled “Domesticating Modernity in Africa: Local Epistemologies, Foreign Technologies and Dynamics of Mediation”, which was submitted at the University of Potsdam.
James Ogone’s work examines the impact of new media technologies – from the radio to the mobile phone – on African cultures. It explores the ways in which local African epistemologies and knowledge cultures disrupt, challenge and re-configure global media technologies that have borne the stamp of Western modernity. The dissertation analyzes the intricate relationship between media technologies and African (particularly Kenyan) oral traditions as well as the histories of film, video and audio recordings in African societies. Ogone’s considerations render his dissertation a truly innovative contribution to current scholarship in the field of Postcolonial Studies that grapples with the push and pull of global and local modernities.
Recipient of the first GAPS Dissertation Award is Doreen Strauhs. She received the prize for her outstanding dissertation entitled “African Literary NGOs: Power, Politics, and Participation”, which was submitted at Goethe University (Frankfurt) in 2012 and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
Doreen Strauhs’ work is marked by an innovative approach to literary NGOs in Africa and their involvement in the Anglophone literary production on the continent. Her historiographic analyses offer fresh insights into how influential institutionally organized and sponsored socio-political literary activities have been since the late 1950s. Her concept of LINGO, designating the literary NGO, provides a theoretical framework with which she scrutinizes the social, political and literary networks in which these organizations are embedded. The writers are placed in the contexts of local politics, academic goals and curricula, as well as development aid. Thus, Doreen Strauhs conclusively shows what LINGOs can and cannot achieve, how they function as support network, as interlocutor and control mechanism for writers and readers in Africa and beyond. She provides an innovative literary historiography that sheds new light on African literary production, distribution and reception in a postcolonial and globalized Anglophone world.