We are excited to announce the results of the Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial (CPD) Working Group’s second annual Early-Career Researcher Paper Prize.
The winner is Christopher Choong Weng Wai (currently based at the University of Warwick), whose paper is titled “Racial/Gender Capitalism in Malaysia: Contested Scripts, Muted Repertoires”. There are also two honourable mentions for Sara Abdel Ghany (currently based at the University of Warwick), for “A Pilgrimage back to the Self: A Methodological Journey” and George Ygarza (currently based at Pitzer College, Claremont California), “Theorizing Peru Profundo: Postcolonial Geographies and Technologies of Order in the Peruvian Hinterland”.
Christopher, Sara and George will all participate in the BISA 2023 conference and a Review of International Studies (RIS) roundtable. RIS has kindly offered to mentor all three scholars as well as giving a generous funding package for them to attend the conference, including transport and accommodation fees. Following mentoring, RIS will also waive desk rejection for Christopher.
The CPD Working Group Conveners said:
“Collectively, the pool of submissions was of an incredibly high quality - we learned so much from reading and engaging with each one (and there were a lot this year!). There is clearly an inspiring intellectual project evolving from these emerging scholars and we hope they and others continue to find space within CPD, for sharing their thinking, research and writing.”
Read on to find out more about each scholar and their paper, including how each will contribute to and help evolve CPD’s work.
Winner: Christopher Choong Weng Wai (University of Warwick)
Racial/Gender Capitalism in Malaysia: Contested Scripts, Muted Repertoires
Motivated by the need to overcome transhistorical accounts of global capitalism while maintaining a critical posture towards Eurocentrism, this paper is a meditation on a postcolonial racial and gendered capitalist project in Malaysia—conceptualised as Bumiputera capitalism—to reclaim the historical specificity of capitalist development in the Global South as a central theoretical concern of global capitalism. By historicising Malaysia’s experience, I provide a reading of racial capitalism that situates this concept within the Malaysian developmental state project that navigated the geopolitics of British colonialism and Japanese imperialism. Highlighting the mutually constitutive dynamics of racial capitalism and gendered political economy, I centre my analysis of the international/national dynamics of the developmental state project on the household—presenting the household as a key site of gendered and racialized capitalist transformation. By foregrounding the standpoint of a national capitalist project from the Global South, I show how a decolonisation project in Southeast Asia is shaped by contending racial scripts of multiple empires, and draw attention to hegemonic elements embedded in this particular formulation of decolonisation. The paper also shifts away from extant male elite bias in the literature, enacting the scaffolding for future research centred on more gendered understandings of racial capitalism. Finally, I bring a multi-scalar perspective to racial/gender capitalism, theorising international/national/household scales as processes that simultaneously constitute a racial/gendered capitalist project, pointing to how the contested, multiple scripts surrounding decolonisation can be rescaled to the everyday.
I am a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick and a recipient of the Chancellor’s International Scholarship. I am a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to my PhD, I have worked as Deputy Director of Research at Khazanah Research Institute in Malaysia (on study leave) and Economist/Programme Manager for the UNDP Country Office in Malaysia. I hold an MSc Inequalities and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London (Distinction); MSc in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Distinction); and a BSc in Economics from the University of Malaya (Distinction). I was awarded the 2021 Atkinson Prize for best overall performance in the MSc Inequalities and Social Science.
Sara Abdel Ghany Abdelmotaleb (University of Warwick)
A Pilgrimage back to the Self: A Methodological Journey
In the paper, the author recounts the methodological journey she undertook when examining the political positionality of individuals in the Arab-majority world during, and after, the contentious episodes in the last decade. After an unconventional, and exceptionally eye-opening fieldwork experience, the author questions the “fictiveness of distance” between the self and the political. The distance is particularly fictive when the self and the other are merged, when politics are not observed but embodied, when the writing is a personal and collective testament for things no longer spoken. By embracing an autoethnographic account, in writing the personal as political, and the political as personal, the author aims to bring back the muted voices in international relations, including her own. In challenging the framework of international relations, the author offers an alternative path for political scientists, away from IR’s colonial framework of research, its deafening ‘truth’, uncluttered data, argumentative certitude, and unhuman temporal logic. A path to create stories of life, with multitude of realities, in places where truth is never constant, but always shifting just like it’s sand. An opportunity to create research to people about people, authentically, truthfully, and ethically, by writing with them, and to them.
Sara is a researcher, activist and human rights defender. She is currently a PhD Candidate at Politics and International Studies at Warwick University. Her PhD research project is an autoethnographic project on the politics of memory and trauma. Sara’s regional specialization is the Arab-majority region. She is also the founder of the Global South Initiative. The Global South Initiative is a call, and a movement, for solidarity, collaboration, empathy, and above all resistance for colonial structures of academia and the discrimination and marginalization that come with it. Before coming to Warwick, Sara worked in human rights and gender equality in Egypt, for more than 10 years, for local, regional and international organizations.
George Ygarza (Pitzer College, Claremont California)
Theorizing Peru Profundo: Postcolonial Geographies and Technologies of Order in the Peruvian Hinterland
For centuries, the territory known as Peru has been defined by its position as a critical node of the global extractivist geography. The logics that enact these geographies tend to be obscured by national discourses of development, ending at various borders, in geopolitical domain as well as the epistemological. Contributing to the growing transdisciplinary, post-/de-/settler-colonial approaches to studying the Latin American condition, this paper takes up a critical analysis of Peru’s historical hinterland in relation to the making of national and global geographies of extractivism. It appropriates the historical reading of the underdeveloped interior—Peru Profundo—and displaces it in order to pull out the colonial continuities in the contemporary nation-state. In particular, it examines the relocation of Andean communities as a technology of order that is conducted under the same logics of the reductions that were carried out during the vice regency of Peru. It suggests that the recent moves for reclamation and recovery of the lands that were given up for mining by Andean communities reflect an ontological break from these technologies of order. More so, this paper opens the door for a more expansive and subversive appropriation of Profundidad or depth for its adaption as a kind of method.
George Ygarza is a first-generation organic scholar, educator, accomplice and researcher. From OCCUPY to #BlackLivesMatter and immigrant rights, his work on the ground has influenced his global perspective and vice versa. The solidarity networks George has built over the years has taken him abroad to participate at international gatherings and take part in social movement delegations. Most notably, George took part in the World Social Forum in Montreal and was part of the Alliance for Global Justice delegation with Dr. Jill Stein at the People’s Climate summit in Lima, Peru, where he conducted “undisciplined” research on extractivist mining in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes. Taking pedagogy seriously, George's scholarly research and social activism come to bear in his teaching, serving as a facilitator for deeply engaged and relational praxis of teaching. Today he grounds this work “back home,” recommitting himself to grassroot and transformative research.
 “Fictive Distance” is the term and concept introduced by George Devereux. George Devereux, From Anxiety to Method in the Behavioral Sciences. Vol. 3 (The Hague: Mouton, 1967), 6-7.