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York Centre for Asian Research honours five grad students

York Centre for Asian Research honours five grad students

Five students were honoured recently for their research on Asia or the Asian diaspora by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For York PhD candidate Conely de Leon in the School of Women’s Studies, the money that came with the award will help her fund her dissertation fieldwork in Manila, Philippines, during the upcoming academic year.

The recipient of the 2011 Vivienne Poy Asian Research Award, de Leon received her master's degree in sociology & equity studies in education, and women & gender studies at the University of Toronto, and her honours bachelor degree in women’s studies and English language & literature from Queen’s University, before coming to York. Her research interests focus on critical race theory, transnational feminist praxis, gender and migration and the development of critical Filipino studies in Canada.

Left: Conely de Leon

Her research explores whether long-term family separation, for example as an outcome of Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program, results in enduring and pervasive adverse effects on the socioeconomic, cultural and political engagement of children of Filipina migrant domestic workers as adults. Specifically, de Leon’s research in Manila will focus on the relationships that adult children now in Canada have to extended kin, often identified as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and close family friends, who acted as their “primary” caregivers in the Philippines, while separated from their mothers.

By exploring these relationship dynamics through one-on-one, in-depth interviews, de Leon hopes to offer some insight into the complexities of long-term family separation.

The award is named for the Honourable Vivienne Poy and assists a graduate student in fulfilling the fieldwork requirement for the Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies. YCAR is grateful for Senator Poy's support for this award.

Colin McGuire (right) and Chad Walasek are the 2011 recipients of the YCAR Language Award. McGuire, a doctoral candidate in music, will continue to study languages and advance his abilities in Cantonese during a year in Hong Kong as an exchange student. Walasek, a master's candidate in dance at York, will use the award funding to build on his Urdu language skills in a fall 2011 course in India.   

McGuire plans to study at the Yale-China Chinese Language Centre for two semesters starting in September 2011. His research is on the music of the martial arts and his doctoral dissertation will focus on the percussion repertoire performed by Chinese-Canadian kung fu clubs. His approach is interdisciplinary and draws from ethnomusicology, hoplology, phenomenology, semiotics and Asian studies.

Of particular importance to the intersection of music and martial arts are the processes of transmission, identity formation, creation of space, claiming of place and construction of meaning. McGuire is currently performing ethnographic fieldwork through participant observation at the Hong Luck Kung Fu Club in Toronto’s Spadina/Dundas Chinatown.

Before entering the PhD program, McGuire earned an MA in composition in 2003 from York, was a course director for York’s computer music classes and received transmission of the complete Sum Nung Wing Chun Kuen system of Chinese kung fu under Lo Kuen-Hung Sifu. His music has been featured on the award-winning TV show "Departures" and also in the Little Pear Garden Collective’s production of The Four Beauties of China. He is the recipient of a 2010 Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Award.

Left: Chad Walasek

Walasek is both a professional kathak dancer and a graduate student. After participation in an exchange program with India and subsequent work in Pakistan as part of a BSc in international development studies at the University of Toronto, he began training in the Hindustani performing arts (dance, percussion and vocal). 

He has studied tabla for the last several years and made his debut with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble in 2007. A senior kathak student of Joanna de Souza and disciple of Pandit Chitresh Das, Walasek tours internationally with Chhandam Dance Company and regularly participates in independent productions. He performed his first formal full-length classical solo in March 2008.

A recipient of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, Walasek's current research focuses on the development of kathak dance in post-Partition Pakistan and the ambivalent relationship between kathak dance and Pakistani identity.

The main phase of his fieldwork was conducted in Lahore, Pakistan, in February and March 2011. A combination of research methods were employed, including participant observation, oral history collection, English and Urdu language archival material collection and a series of semi-structured interviews conducted in both English and Urdu with local dancers, dance students, musicians and members of the performing arts community. 

From September through December 2011, building on his knowledge of intermediate-level Urdu, Walasek will participate in an intensive immersion-based Urdu language program in Lucknow, India, through the American Institute of India Studies. Following this program, follow-up research in Lahore will be conducted if necessary and Urdu language materials will be analyzed in detail.

The YCAR Language Award was created to support graduate students in fulfilling the language requirement for the Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies (GDAS) and to facilitate awardees master's or doctoral-level research.

Veronica Javier (left) graduated from York with a master’s degree in social work from the School of Social Work during the 2011 Spring Convocation ceremonies. She also holds an honours bachelor degree with a major in sociology and minor in religious studies.

Javier is currently a research assistant for the Filipino Youth Transitions in Canada research project with Professor Philip Kelly. In addition, she is also a writer for the first Filipino-Canadian family and lifestyle magazine, TAHANAN, and has a regular section, titled “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives; featuring astonishing and inspiring stories of everyday heroes”.

Her practise research paper (PRP) brought to light the lived-experiences of Filipino-Canadian youth in Canada. Her research demonstrated how youth are challenging ideas around the role of religion in the construction of their “ethnic” identity within a Eurocentric and neoliberal Canadian context. The youth see themselves as active agents in negotiating how they could continue to fit in while being a proactive Catholic in contrast to the secular Canadian norm.

During their process of re-negotiation, the youth’s Filipino identity moved to the background and their Canadian and Catholic identity became more important. Their repositioning of their “ethnic” and religious identity is reflective of the ways in which the youth’s subject position intersects within the whiteness that operates in Canadian society. For these youth, their renegotiation utilizes a personal and experiential language that individualizes experiences and therefore also enables them to negotiate the imperfections within Catholicism.

Javier hopes that her research will contribute to the creation and implementation of more culturally sensitive social services programs that will better assist and take into consideration the lived, post-settlement experiences of Filipino-Canadians.

Her PRP was supported by the David Wurfel Award, which enabled her to bring to light not just the voices of the youth, but also a fuller picture of their lives. The financial assistance allowed her to travel to various Filipino youth events within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as well as to meet her research participants in different points in the GTA. 

Javier's research gave her a better understanding of the environments of which the youth were a part. She was also able to give an honorarium for their participation and cover any expenses that her research participants incurred during the interview, such as meals and transportation. Finally, the award gave her freedom to network within the Filipino-Canadian community through community events, symposiums and conferences in order to better understand the issues the Filipino community is facing, especially the youth, and how she can ultimately be of service to them in the near future.

The award was established in 2006 by Senior YCAR Research Associate Dr. David Wurfel. He wanted to contribute to the emergence of a new generation of Filipino leadership that is grounded in the country’s history, culture and public affairs. Dr. Wurfel is a Philippine specialist who received his PhD from Cornell University's Southeast Asia Program.

Sara L. Jackson (right) is the 2011 recipient of the Albert C.W. Chan Foundation Fellowship. She has a BA in international studies from the University of Washington and an MA in geography from the University of British Columbia. She began her PhD at York in geography in 2009, after lecturing at the Metropolitan State College of Denver and the National University of Mongolia. Last summer, she was a language fellow at the American Center for Mongolian Studies in Ulaanbaatar.

Her dissertation research looks at the political and cultural impacts of mining-related infrastructure development in Mongolia’s South Gobi province. She will conduct ethnographic research in Ulaanbaatar and the regions surrounding the Oyu Tolgoi gold-copper mine beginning this coming fall.

Jackson is also working on a graphic novel with an illustrator that draws from her research experiences. It will be translated and distributed in Mongolia. The working title of her dissertation is Building a Gold Rush: Imagining New Territory in Mongolia’s South Gobi.

The Albert C.W. Chan Foundation Fellowship was established by the Albert C.W. Chan Foundation to encourage and assist York University graduate students to conduct field research in East and/or Southeast Asia. YCAR would like to thank the Albert C. W. Chan family for their support of York graduate students.

For more information on any of the awards, visit the YCAR website.

Republished courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.