2013 CSSR/SCÉR Undergraduate and Graduate Essay Contest winners

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2013 CSSR/SCÉR Undergraduate and Graduate Essay Contest winners are listed below. Congratulations!

Graduate Award

1st Prize $700.00
Booker Thomas Alston, PhD Program, University of Cape Town
“The Politics of Colonial Comparative Religion: The Ghost Dance of 1890 and Mormonism”

This paper focuses on the work of nineteenth century colonialist scholars engaged in the comparative study of religion for the broader purpose of highlighting the political dimensions of such activity. Drawing on David Chidester’s study of colonial comparative religious studies in South Africa, Booker T. Alston successfully applies the same critical analytical framework to the American western frontier where two religious groups were neighbours: Mormons and native American Ghost Dancers. He makes an effective case by combining his reading of nineteenth century sources with recent critical scholarship to shed light on a narrative of containment that was created and justified through classification and comparison in ways that are shown to be both inaccurate and politically expedient. The result is an engaging glimpse into a moment of American religious history and its politically charged construction for the broader purpose of making a well-stated cautionary statement about method in the study of religions.

2nd Prize $300.00
Craig Skrumedi, PhD Program, University of Ottawa
“The Peoples’ Temple/Jonestown: A Case Study in Religious Violence”

Focusing on The People’s Temple as a case study, Craig Skrumedi successfully applies findings in a wide range of secondary sources on social identity theory and research on charisma, with consideration of particular exogenous and endogenous factors to better understand the circumstances culminating in the tragic outcome of the 1978 mass suicide in Guyana. In doing so Skrumedi presents a compelling argument against popular simplistic accounts of New Religious Movements as cults populated by brainwashed members bent on destructive and violent behaviour. He provides a clearly stated and theoretically well-situated account of the particular and dynamically interrelated factors which became the perfect storm compelling so many in the group to end their lives.

Undergraduate Award

1st Prize $300.00
Jonathan Harper, BA Program, University of Calgary
“Scholastic Defiance: Paul Mus’s Life’s Work Reconsidered”

This paper on the life and academic positioning of Paul Mus is an example of mature writing that clearly indicates an understanding of the intersections of the historical, the philosophical, and the sociological context and contribution of Mus. The writer skillfully balances and transitions between several threads of information and locations of analyses. There is a confidence in the correction of earlier approaches to Mus’ work without any hint of condescension on the part of the writer; on the contrary, the suggestions for further research to be conducted suggests a keen willingness to “get the man right” rather than to “be right” and suggests a sensitivity to the man but also to the accuracy of academia. The ability to synthesize numerous strands of data and analyses within such a short paper makes for a delightful read worthy of publication.

2nd Prize $100.00
Roxanne Korpan, BA Program, University of Regina
“I say this…to promote seemliness: Sex and Ethics in Rom 1:18-2:16, 1 Cor 7 , 1 Cor 11:2-16″

This paper, arguing that Paul’s writings reveal a “masculinising agenda” at the same time as envisioning the ideal as the primal androgyne, is sophisticated in its quality of writing and shows the writer’s confidence in her/his material and depth of analysis. Paul’s writings indicate a man quite concerned with the natural order of heaven and earth, which nicely positions the writer to argue that his proclamations about women’s and men’s roles in society and church were guided by an aversion to men being effeminised and women masculinized, in effect performing outside the natural order. Refreshingly, the writer does not use this position to either demonise or sanctify Paul, but rather simply chooses to let the data speak for itself, i.e., that Paul both reflected and promoted the hierarchical and masculinized social structure of his times.

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