Students win Women's Studies essay contest

The Canadian Women’s Studies Association has awarded two UVic students the top prizes in its annual Women’s Studies Undergraduate Essay Contest, which honours outstanding work produced in WS courses. First place went to an essay by Sinead Charbonneau entitled “Space, Power, and Difference: The Murder of Ariana May Simpson,” and second place was awarded to Tara Paterson for her essay  “Choice by Any Other Name: The Abortion Controversy and the Limits of Liberalism.”

The judges remarked on the “breadth and depth of research, sophisticated analysis, and imaginative and beautiful writing.” This is the third time in five years that a UVic WS student has won first prize.

In their citation, the judges wrote, “Charbonneau’s essay offers a critical, feminist, decolonizing, spatial analysis of the events surrounding the murder of Ariana May Simpson, as well as of some of the media representations that conveyed the story of Simpson’s murder to a wider public. Simpson was a young woman whom Charbonneau had personally known and loved. She was, Charbonneau tells us, an Indigenous woman, and her murder took place in an inner-city neighbourhood in Victoria, BC, that is problematically cast as a space of “degeneracy,” a space that is racialized in the present through a long history of colonial violence. Charbonneau deftly debunks the troubling representation of Simpson’s murder as an accident caused by an innocent white man from a ‘good’ neighbourhood and background, clearly demonstrating how the violent encounter between this man and Simpson in this particular space at the time of her murder was anything but accidental. Building on the important work of scholars like Sherene Razack, Jean Barman, and Andrea Smith, Charbonneau’s analysis is thoughtful, provocative, and courageous. She succinctly combines a difficult, personal narrative of loss with a formidable intellectual critique of the social dimensions of Simpson’s murder. Her critique is urgent, and her essay ought to be required reading for anyone making home in today’s ‘Canada.’”

The citation for Paterson’s essay reads, “Paterson’s essay takes an original and deeply thoughtful approach to this long-standing feminist topic and develops a distinct theoretical grounding for the debate. In elegant composition, she summarizes the discussion to date, engages in a critique of liberal approaches to freedom and rights, and advances provocative counter-arguments. We were greatly impressed by the depth of scholarship, critical insight and creative analysis that Paterson employed in her essay.”

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