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Announcing the 2022 Wasafiri Essay Prize Winner

Wasafiri is excited to announce that the 2022 Wasafiri Essay Prize has been awarded to Rachel Bolle-Debessay for her rigorous, engaging, and important essay 'Dub Poetry and Theatre in Conversation: The Development of a Performance-Driven Aesthetic'.

The Prize aims to discover, encourage, and award innovative critical essays and articles of an exemplary standard, which constitute the most exciting academic work happening today from anywhere in the world and across international contemporary literature. The winning essay's focus on bringing dub poetry and theatre in conversation, the close reading of Michael Smith's work, 'Trainer', and intelligent coinage of new categories and ways of thinking particularly impressed our judging panel. With an interdisciplinary approach between music, literature and performance studies, her essay, extracted from her PhD dissertation, ‘Dub poetry: A study beyond predefined interpretations’, examines artistic characteristics that have made dub poetry an innovative form. As it offers new frameworks to analyse the aesthetic of dub poetry, it also opens doors for studying other types of poetry influenced by, and performed with, music.

Rachel Bolle-Debessay is a musician, school teacher, and intercultural mediator working with migrants and refugees. In 2020, she received a PhD from King’s University, London. Using a research-creation approach, her current work focuses on artistic socially engaged practice. In the echo of her PhD dissertation, her work continues to analyse how the global context of transnational and diasporic circulations gets reworked at ground level through processes of local recycling.

On winning the prize, she said: 'It is a very joyful and precious moment of recognition to receive this prize for my work on dub poetry. Being selected by this fantastic journal, I feel immense pleasure to offer innovative interpretations that, I hope, will contribute to the broader academic field of performed poetry. Thank you for this fantastic reward that comes as a surprise!'

Bolle-Debessay is awarded a £250 cash prize, a mentoring conversation with a member of Wasafiri’s world-class editorial board, a Wasafiri subscription, and publication. Her essay will be available to read in our forthcoming spring issue, Wasafiri 113.


The 2023 Wasafiri Essay Prize is open for submissions until 31 May 2023 and early career researchers, including PhD students, from around the world are invited to submit unpublished works. Read the full Terms & Conditions here.

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