ASAA President Prof. Kate McGregor announces the 2021 John Legge Prize for Best Thesis in Asian Studies

ASAA President Prof. Kate McGregor announces the 2021 John Legge Prize for Best Thesis in Asian Studies

2021 John Legge Prize for Best Thesis in Asian Studies

I am delighted as President of the ASAA to announce that the 2022 John Legge Prize for the best thesis in Asian studies in Australia in 2021 has been awarded to Dr Kaira Zoe Alburo Cañete a graduate from the University of New South Wales for the thesis titled “Becoming Resilient: Disaster Recovery in Post-Yolanda Philippines through Women’s Eyes.”

The judges have also awarded a runners-up prize, to a second outstanding thesis this year. The thesis on Indonesia titled “The Precarious Past: Historical Practices in Indic Java” was written by Dr Jarrah Sastrawan from the University of Sydney.

The ASAA would like to congratulate the two winners on these outstanding theses and thank all who also entered their work for consideration this round. We had a very strong field this year which is wonderful to see.

The John Legge Prize is one of seven prize/grant schemes offered by the ASAA. This prize recognizes cutting edge research performed by postgraduates across our broad field of research.

Below is a citation for the winning thesis by Kaira Zoe Alburo Cañete prepared by our three judges Associate Professor James Leibold (Latrobe University), Dr Sophie Chao (Sydney University) and Dr Kayoko Hashimoto (The University of Queensland). The ASAA would also like to sincerely thank the judges for their time and service to Asian studies.

Citation for Kaira Zoe Alburo Cañete’s thesis “Becoming Resilient: Disaster Recovery in Post-Yolanda Philippines through Women’s Eyes,” UNSW Sydney, July 2021.

Dr Cañete’s thesis is an exceptional piece of original, innovative, and ambitious scholarship. It is written with a confidence and maturity that is rarely encountered in PhD theses. Focusing on the everyday experiences of Filipino women in the recovery from typhoon Yolanda (2013) in Tacloban City, the Philippines, Dr Cañete pioneers a new form of “disaster study from below” and convincingly argues for epistemic diversity in how communities – especially women – respond to disasters. She deconstructs the Filipino state’s “build back better” discourse, foregrounding how its concepts of “care” and “resilience” seek to disciple and render its subjects governable, and then carefully and critically interrogates how her interlocutors negotiate, re-appropriate and contest the state’s discourse while exploring alternative pathways to recovery.

The thesis combines extensive ethnographic fieldwork (2017-19), which was conducted utilising her knowledge of the local languages (Tagalog, Cebuano and Waray), with a series of thoughtful theoretical interventions. The author moves seamlessly between the empirical and the theoretical, compellingly layering her insights across the chapters. Her argument is nuanced yet lucidly presented, demonstrating a sophisticated and in-depth engagement with the theoretical literature in feminist, development and disaster studies. Dr Cañete’s writing is evocative, and at times deeply moving, taking readers deep into the precarity and insecurity of these women’s daily lives, but also their lived resilience.

Dr Cañete further develops a unique photo-based methodology from visual anthropology and feminist stand-point theory, called PhotoKwento or “photo stories.” By providing her participants with digital cameras and allowing them to take photographs, assemble them into a photo album and then narrative their emotions, she de-centres the research-participant power structure and allows for the co-construction of knowledge.

The ASAA wishes both winners success with their future careers.

Professor Kate McGregor

ASAA President

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