Undergraduate Essay Prize

Call for submissions: 2024 Undergraduate Essay Prize

This prize recognizes the most outstanding essay written in English in Slavic, East European or Eurasian women’s and gender studies by an undergraduate student based at any tertiary institution worldwide. This is a new award as of 2020 and we are currently accepting submissions via email for the second annual award competition until 11:59 p.m. GMT on September 1, 2024

For consideration, essays must:

  • relate to Slavic, East European, or Eurasian women’s or gender studies
  • have been written while the author was a degree-seeking undergraduate at a tertiary institution
  • have been submitted and assessed for an undergraduate class between 1 August 2022 and 31 August 2023
  • be in English
  • be 3,000-5,000 words long (Email chair if submission is longer)

Submission may be from any discipline including, but not limited to, History, Slavic Languages and Literature, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, and Gender Studies.

Submissions must be accompanied by a nominating letter from the professor who taught the course for which the essay was written. Nominating faculty must be current members of AWSS. Please include the permanent mailing address and email contact information for the student. Please send an electronic copy of the essay and the letter of nomination (as two separate documents-either WORD or PDF) to EACH of the following three members of the prize committee by 11:59 p.m. GMT on September, 1, 2024 via e-mail. The essay file should be named (NOMINEE’S NAME_Essay). The letter of nomination file should be named (NOMINEE’S NAME_Letter). Contact details, including current e-mail addresses, for the committee members appear below.

Dr. Melissa Bokovoy, Chair, Department of History, University of New Mexico mbokovoy@unm.edu
Dr. Yelena Furman, Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian, Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles, yfurman@humnet.ucla.edu
Dr. Jessica Zychowicz, Director, Fulbright Ukraine & Institute of International Education, Kyiv Office, Jzychowicz@iie.org

If you have any questions, please contact the committee chair:  mbokovoy@unm.edu

Graduate Essay Prize

Call for Submissions: 2023 AWSS Graduate Essay Prize
AWSS invites submissions for the 2023 Graduate Essay Prize. The prize is awarded to the author of a chapter or article-length essay on any topic in any field or area of Slavic/East European/Central Asian Studies written by a scholar who identifies as a woman, or on a topic in Slavic/East European/Central Asian Women's/Gender Studies written by a scholar of any gender. This competition is open to current doctoral students and to those who defended a doctoral dissertation in 2022-2023.  If the essay is a seminar paper, it must have been written during the academic year 2022-2023.  If the essay is a dissertation chapter, it should be accompanied by the dissertation abstract and table of contents.  Previous submissions and published materials are ineligible. Essays should be no longer than 50 double-spaced pages, including reference matter, and in English (quoted text in any other language should be translated).

Completed submissions must be received by September 1, 2023. Please send a copy of the essay and an updated CV to each of the three members of the Prize Committee as email attachments. 

If you have any questions, please contact the committee chair:  Dr. Melissa Bokovoy, mbokovoy@unm.edu

Chair: Dr. Melissa Bokovoy, Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of New Mexico, mbokovoy@unm.edu

Dr. Barbara Allen, Department of History, LaSalle University, allenb@lasalle.edu

Dr. Yelena Furman, Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian, Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles, yfurman@humnet.ucla.edu

2023 Essay Winner

The AWSS Graduate Essay Prize Committee is pleased to announce that its 2023 winner is Tabitha Cochran (PhD Student in History, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) for her seminar paper, “Ukrainians To Their Very Soul: Discourses on Motherhood and Revolutionary Reproduction in Interwar Ukraine (1932-1936).” The author utilizes articles from Svit molodi [World of Youth], Zhinocha dolia [Women’s Destiny], The Ukrainian Weekly, and writings of diasporic Ukrainian women to argue that Ukrainian nationalist women (and occasionally men) employed the discourse of motherhood to create and enforce the boundaries of a Ukrainian nation. This work is commended not only for its focus on the interwar period but also for its conclusion that ties the historical discussion to the current moment in Ukraine and to show how this discourse has been altered yet persists today. Hearty congratulations!

2023 Graduate Essay Prize Committee: Dr. Melissa Bokovoy, Dr. Barbara Allen, Dr. Yelena Furman.

2022 Essay Winner

The AWSS Graduate Essay Prize Committee is pleased to announce its 2022 winner is McKenna Elizabeth Marko (University of Michigan) for her dissertation chapter “Mediating Gendered Landscapes of Pain and Trauma: Women’s Testimonies from Goli otok and Sveti Grgur.” This chapter well captures her dissertation’s broader theorizing of spatial memory as a dynamic process produced via complex and multimodal processes of mediation involving sites of memory, mnemonic actors, and media of all genres: literature, testimony, graphic novel, documentary and feature films, poetry, and autobiography. This rich and varied source base is effectively mobilized in this chapter for her analysis of two corrective labor camps in Yugoslavia in the immediate wake of the Tito-Stalin split (1949-56). Grounding varied mediums of narrative in the bodies and spaces that produced them, Marko’s analysis foregrounds the ways that gender and the experience of the Holocaust inflect this political violence. This work is to be commended not only for recentering women’s voices in this history, but for bringing an exceptionally sophisticated theoretical lens to bear on her analysis. Hearty congratulations!

2021 Essay Winners

Graduate Essay Prize
Winner: Anna Dobrowolska (Oxford University), “Coca-Cola and Socialist Morality. Nude Activism in Late State Socialism”

The committee was unanimous in its enthusiasm for its selection since Dobrowolska wrote an innovative, engaging chapter, which demonstrates methodological innovation and theoretical sophistication. They were especially impressed by how effectively she embedded the Polish case into a transnational context and by how persuasively you drew out the significance of your analysis. Hearty congratulations!

2020 Essay Winners

Graduate Essay Prize
Winner: Marta Aleksandra Zboralska, PhD, History of Art, University College London, “The Matter of Chatter”
Marta Aleksandra Zboralska’s lively and stimulating dissertation chapter “The Matter of Chatter,” from her recently defended dissertation “The Art of Being Together: Inside the Studio of Henryk Stazewski and Edward Krasinski,” focuses on Krasinski’s fragmentary and almost juvenile short poetry. Making an original argument for the interdependence of artistic production through dialogue and exchange, Zboralska productively situates Krasinski’s poetry at the border between linguistic and visual art and offers a nuanced picture of the embodied experience of gender in his poetry. This study carries important implications as much for Eastern European art history as for the history of conceptualism across national boundaries, the workings of gender in conceptualist art, and theories of signification and dialogue.

Honorable Mention
Kamila Kociałkowska, PhD, History of Art, University of Cambridge, “Early Avant-Garde Book Design and Imperial Censorship”

Undergraduate Essay Prize
Winner: Frankie Tulley, University of Bristol, “‘The Performative Power of Discourse”: What role does state-released visual culture play in the construction of Putin’s masculinity?”
This outstanding essay masterfully traces representations of Putin’s masculinity through the medium of state-issued photographs. Tulley’s work is firmly grounded in scholarly literature on masculinities and Russian visual culture, but her close analysis of her source base pushes scholarship forward by making a unique intervention into the field. This essay offers a panoramic view of representations of Putin’s masculinity as militarised, sexualised, paternal, and imbued with religious significance, while also drawing important comparisons with other historical figures and geographical contexts. This is a most impressive piece of scholarship and we are looking forward to seeing this work in print. Tulley was nominated by Dr Connor Doak and her work was submitted as part of the module “Gender in Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Russia” at the University of Bristol.

2019 Essay Winner

Alena Aniskiewicz, “Playing Authentic: Masłowska’s Critique of Genre and National Convention”

Part of her dissertation entitled “Cultural Remix: Polish Hip-Hop and the Sampling of Heritage,” Alena Aniskiewicz’s fascinating chapter looks at the writing and music videos of Polish artist Dorota Masłowska. Using close readings of Masłowska’s texts, Aniskiewicz examines her “sampling” of Polish traditions and literature, using language and images to build stories that appear to be authentically Polish. This is in keeping with a contemporary popular culture that seeks to cross the boundaries between artist and audience and create a “real” connection. The stories, however, ultimately critique this authenticity in multiple ways, using parody and artificiality to expose the constructed nature of Polish history, literature, and contemporary society. Such authenticity, Masłowska argues, is a façade that must be deconstructed.

Aniskiewicz examines the playfulness and subversiveness of Masłowska’s work as she challenges the gendered order of hip-hop culture and uses humor to render everyday life in Poland both familiar and strange. The ambiguity of Masłowska’s message leads the viewer to question the true meaning of art or of nation. Ultimately, however, her work is an attack on extreme nationalism and conservative politics, sampling the imagery and words of public actors to demonstrate their absurdity. In this clever, incisive essay Aniskiewicz shows how one artist takes available cultural tools and uses them to create a complex picture, while insisting on the multiple meanings and interpretations embedded in them.

2018 Essay Winner

The Graduate Essay Prize Committee is delighted to award the graduate essay prize to Victoria Fomina, a Ph.D. student in Sociology and Social Anthropology at Central European University.  In a beautifully written, well-researched, ethnographic essay, Fomina investigates the intersection of Russian Orthodox Christianity with athletic and paramilitary youth groups among contemporary Russian men. Instead of characterizing these militant patriotic and religious young men as skin-heads, Putin's thugs, or brainwashed by the church, she takes seriously their desires for dignity and moral self-expression framed in a vocabulary of faith, self-sacrifice and community. Whereas an anti-government and radical ethnic nationalism animated many male youth movements and subcultures in the first decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fomina finds that this is no longer the case. The carefully cultivated state-supported nationalist politics under Putin in the late 2000s, the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine and seizure of Crimea in 2014, and the regime’s increasingly anti-global and anti-Western rhetoric has allowed many men in recent years to reassess the Russian government and see a convergence of interests. Meanwhile, the masculinization of Orthodox Christianity in the post-Soviet years, combined with young men’s search for spiritual development and their demand for conservative morality in a rapidly changing world, has led to religion’s greater appeal among members of these male athletic and paramilitary groups. In Fomina’s view, the attraction of brotherhood and communalism in the face of individualism and commercialization is also a factor in the growth of these organizations and their anti-Western and patriotic attitudes. Ultimately, Fomina’s nuanced essay helps us to better understand contemporary radical conservative national movements in Russia, Russian grassroots responses to the crisis in Ukraine, and men’s insecurities beyond the Russian context.

2017 Award

Ania Aizman, "The Considerable Anarchism of the Present Moment: Post-Soviet Russian Philosophy in Search of a New (Old?) Avant-Garde," Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature, Harvard University.

This beautifully written essay forms the first chapter of her recently submitted dissertation, Every Step a New Movement: Anarchism in the Stalinist-era Literature of the Absurd and its Post-Soviet Adaptations. Aizman introduces the reader to complicated philosophical concepts and spheres of influence in a clear, cohesive, accessible piece of scholarship. While she incorporates sophisticated analysis into her essay, her writing is refreshingly jargon free. This well-researched piece serves as a nuanced and intricate examination of the continuities and disjunctures in philosophical interpretations of early Soviet absurdist literature in the 1990s and more recently, and how geo-political developments in the post-Soviet period have informed these leftist philosophers. She concludes the chapter with a fascinating discussion of the Chto Delat' movement, demonstrating the continuing relevance of the legacy of the absurd in contemporary Russia. The committee hopes that Ms. Aizman will publish her dissertation in the near future so that it can receive the wide audience it deserves. For now, we are pleased to award her the AWSS Graduate Essay Prize.