PG Essay Prize

PSA/Journal of Postcolonial Writing Postgraduate Essay Competition 2020

It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce the winners and runners up of this year’s PSA/JPW PG Essay Prize. This year, the competition was particularly strong, showcasing a very high standard of work, resulting in two winners and two runners up.

This year’s winners are Alexander Bell (University of East Anglia) and Maya Caspari (University of Leeds)

Alexander Bell won for his essay “Redistributing the Prosodic Sensorium: Zong! and postcolonial aesthetics”

This essay constitutes a highly articulate exploration of conditions of the unspeakable and the voiceless in the context of suppressed acts of colonial violence. … It is not only very timely, but offers new ways of thinking about its topic that others would find stimulating and beneficial to draw on. Finally, it presents the best account of NourbeSe Philip’s poetics (in terms of aesthetic dissensus) that I have encountered.

Maya Caspari won for her essay “Moving Archives, Touch and World Literary Melancholy in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian

This is a highly original piece that situates Han’s The Vegetarian within the context of the complex postcoloniality of Korea. It draws productively on the concept of melancholia to analyse both domestic and national politics and also considers the limitations of world literary theory as a context within which to consider the critical reception of the novel. … this is an impressively ambitious piece.

The runners up are Sreya Mallika Datta (University of Leeds) and Sana Riaz (University of York)

Sreya Mallika Datta was highly commended for her essay “‘We were fishermen’: Reimagining Community in the Postnation in Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen

This reading of Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen as ‘a postnational reimagination of community’ is highly original, drawing deftly on relevant theories focused around nationalism and the postcolonial. The author offers elegant close readings of the primary text that open out onto wider historical and theoretical matters and builds to a compelling conclusion.

Sana Riaz was highly commended for her essay “Sa’adat Hasan Manto and the Mad Muselmann

This is a brilliant essay on the aesthetic and political significance of marginal and peripheral figures and the significance of fragments and body parts in Manto’s work. We gain a profound understanding of ‘the random, the brutal, the excessive, and the absurd dimensions of violence’ in Manto’s work … a profound, superbly executed, richly rewarding reading of a crucial writer who merits this kind of detailed, theoretically informed attention in postcolonial studies

The judges this year were Helen Cousins, Ziad Elmarsafy, Michelle Keown, Madhu Krishnan, Lindsey Moore, Pablo Mukherjee, James Procter, Caroline Rooney, and Bill Schwarz. We would like to thank the judges for their excellent and time-consuming work. The editors of JPW, Anastasia Valassopoulos and Sarah Lawson Welsh, would like to congratulate both the winners and runners up for their excellent contributions, and to thank the judges for their astute and careful readings of all the submissions.


The PSA/Journal of Postcolonial Writing Postgraduate Essay Competition provides a great opportunity for postgraduate scholars to showcase their work in a leading postcolonial academic journal and to earn some really useful research funding. The winners and runners-up constantly remind us of the innovative and timely contributions that postgraduate scholars make to postcolonial studies. The competition is a journal of postcolonial writingmeans of duly recognising their work and of furthering their careers as postcolonialists.

The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2021. 

Applicants are invited to submit an essay on any topic relating to postcolonial studies. We welcome essays from all disciplines, including cultural studies, geography, politics, theology, history, anthropology, literature, film, or development studies. The competition is open to any postgraduate student who is registered at any institution anywhere in the world, by, or within three months of, the submission deadline.All essays are subject to an anonymous peer review by a panel of established experts in postcolonial studies. The winning essay will, subject to editorial approval, be published in The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, a journal that has a long tradition of publishing innovative work in the field and which has had an ongoing partnership with the PSA.The winner will be awarded £250, and, should they not already be a member, will receive a complimentary year-long membership to the PSA. The runner-up will also have their work notably mentioned.

Guidelines for applicants:

  1. Essays should be no longer than 7,500 words and no shorter than 7,000 (including bibliography and any notes). Any essays that are too long or too short will be automatically disqualified, so please ensure your word count meets this requirement.
  2. Essays must conform to the MLA referencing style.
  3. The author’s identity must not be identifiable in any way from the essay (electronic tags, such as those on Microsoft word, should be removed).
  4. Only one submission per person is allowed. Candidates who have previously entered the competition are welcome to enter again, but must submit a different piece of work.
  5. No essay will be considered that has been published in any form elsewhere, whether in print form or online.
  6. No essay, in whole or part, should be submitted for consideration for publication elsewhere before the winner is announced.
  7. Entries must be submitted between November 2020 and 15 April 2021.
  8. The judges’ and the JPW’s editors’ decisions are final.

Some useful tips!

  1. Make sure the essay stands proudly on its own. If it is part of your MA dissertation or PhD thesis, ensure that the article frames your argument cogently. There’s nothing our judges like less than reading an entry that is directly drawn from an un-adapted source.
  2. How is your work contributing to the ongoing expansion and revision of postcolonial studies? Don’t be afraid of commenting on the contribution to your field. If you don’t mention the word ‘postcolonial’ at some point, then something must be going wrong!
  3. Share your work with your peers and supervisor(s) for preliminary feedback, or undertake changes suggested by markers’ comments. Their suggestions will provide useful ways of revising your article before submission and will really make a difference.

If you are an ambitious and hardworking postgraduate, we encourage you to submit an essay. If you are an established academic, please spread the word to your own students or to any postgraduates whose innovative work you think is in need of public recognition. Thank you, and good luck!

Submit your essay

Maximum upload size: 52.43MB