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Congratulations to the 2023 Wasafiri Essay Prize Winner

The 2023 Wasafiri Essay Prize has been awarded to Karthik Shankar for his impressively argued and important essay, 'Spectral Trans Figures: The Ambiguous and Atemporal Hijra Body in Narcopolis'. Shankar’s essay won over our judging panel with its strong and sincere attempt to make marginalised perspectives and lives visible, particularly that of the hijra community. His winning essay will be published in our forthcoming spring issue, Wasafiri 117: The State of the Industry, alongside our usual mix of articles, interviews, creative pieces, and reviews.

The Wasafiri Essay 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.

Karthik Shankar is a PhD student in English at the University of Virginia. His PhD project focuses on queer theory and environmental humanities across South Asia and the Middle East. He was a Chevening scholar for the year 2020-2021 at SOAS University of London where he graduated with a Master’s in Comparative Literature. His dissertation looked at trans corporeality in Indian Anglophone fiction. Karthik has previously worked as a writing instructor and teaching assistant with the English department at Ashoka University, Delhi.

Shankar is awarded a £250 cash prize, a mentoring conversation with a member of Wasafiri’s world-class editorial board, a Wasafiri subscription, and publication in Wasafiri 117.

On winning the prize, Karthik said: ‘I'm thrilled to be recognised by Wasafiri, a journal that has featured so many writers and intellectuals whose work I deeply admire. I would also like to give a shout out to the brilliant Dr David Lunn and Pauline Westerbarkey, scholars and comrades, whose inputs helped me immensely.'

Wasafiri's Editor and Publishing Director Sana Goyal said: 'Karthik Shankar's winning essay, a significant intervention in queer and trans studies, is a masterclass in close reading. His assertive arguments, well-rounded research, and brilliant analysis impressed the judges through-and-through and marked him as a clear winner of this year's Wasafiri Essay Prize. We're particularly delighted that a PhD candidate has secured the prize in the year PhD students were eligible alongside early career researchers for the first time, and his win is truly testament to the groundbreaking, convention-smashing work the current generation of doctoral candidates are producing and pursuing. Many congratulations to Karthik.'

The 2024 Wasafiri Essay Prize is open for submissions until 31 May 2024. 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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