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AILASA Prize for the Best Honours Dissertation in the field of Iberian and Latin American Studies

We are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2019 AILASA is Natalie Seif (University of Queensland) for her thesis titled "El translenguaje en The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) de Junot Díaz: una lectura decolonial", supervised by Dr Sol Rojas-Lizana.

Of her project, Natalie says “I chose to study Oscar Wao because, despite the many pre-existing insightful analyses of the novel, I sensed that there remained something significant to be said about its unique voice on contemporary diasporic experience, and that this could be achieved by using the intellectual frameworks of translanguaging and decoloniality. Díaz's work is one of widely recognised literary value, but it is also one of cognitive justice.”

The judges agreed, noting that the thesis was an “outstanding” and “original contribution to the existing scholarship” that often fulfilled “the expectations of a Masters or, at times, a PhD thesis.” The examiners also encouraged publication. See below for the judges’ complete comments.

Natalie is currently enrolled in a PhD project at UQ. Her new project examines “a bilingual written corpus documenting the oral literature of the Indigenous Kawésqar people from Chilean Patagonia.” She says “I have carried my passion and appreciation for translingual texts and decolonial thought over to this, in the confidence that all I learnt from analysis of Oscar Wao will prove instrumental to my study of these texts too. Nevertheless, I hope to continue studying Díaz' work into the future, as I believe there are aspects of the book (such as its many decolonial metaphors) that could lead to further interesting research.”

If travel restrictions are eased, we hope to award Natalie the prize in person at the upcoming ECR and postgraduate workshops that will be held at Griffith University later in 2020 or in early 2021.

Stewart King

AILASA President

Judges’ comments

This is indeed an outstanding dissertation that shows that the author is ready to move onto postgraduate studies. In fact, quite often the dissertation fulfils the expectations of a Masters or, at times, a PhD thesis. The author should be congratulated for the excellent theoretical grounding of their analysis, a truly comprehensive literary review, and a very clear and logical research design. I especially commend the author’s writing style, which enables him/her to engage with theory and text in a productive and engaging way. I encourage the author to consider submitting a revised version of the text for publication in a peer-reviewed specialised journal.

The student has produced an original contribution to the existing scholarship on Junot Díaz’s novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — a significant feat in an honours project. The student offers a measured and comprehensive survey of the pre-existing literature on language and decolonial theory in relation to the novel, before positioning their own thesis as an examination of how these two themes mutually interact. Of particular note are the clarity of writing style and confident expression, and the depth of research apparent behind the student’s close reading of the text. I commend this thesis for its quality and rigour, which exceed the expectations of an honours project, and recommend that the student considers adapting the work and extending the textual analysis with a view to publication.

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