Tuesday, 13 May 2014

CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Award


Congratulations to Dr. Michael Kirkpatrick, winner of this year's Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Outstanding Dissertation Award!


Press release:

2014 CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner
The purpose of the CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Prize is to 
provide recognition to a young scholar who has significantly advanced our understanding of Latin America or the Caribbean.
The 2014 competition received 14 nominations, which were evaluated by three members of CALACS’ Boards of Directors. The selection committee and the CALACS Board of Directors would like to congratulate all of the nominees for the outstanding quality of their dissertations, and thank them and their nominators for participating in the competition.
It is with great pleasure that CALACS announces the recipient of the 2014 CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Award:
Michael D. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.
Optics and the Culture of Modernity in Guatemala City since the Liberal Reforms
University of Saskatchewan*
Supervisor: Dr. Jim Handy
Please join us in celebrating the award winner at special Awards Ceremony at the CALACS Congress’ Opening Reception on Friday, May 16th, 2014 at Laval University, in Quebec City. The award will be presented by Dr. Luc Mougeot, of the International Development Research Council (IDRC), which financed this year’s award.
We are delighted to also announce that Dr. Kirkpatrick accepted to discuss his work at the upcoming CALACS Congress and present the paper “Seeing Red and Black: Hidden Threats to the Liberal Order and Urban Cosmopolitanism in Guatemala City during the 1890s”, in the panel “Urban Space: History, Society, Environment”, on Saturday May 17 at 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Kirkpatrick’s dissertation examines the urban experience of modernity for the bourgeoisie in fin-de-siècle Guatemala City, between the Liberal Revolution of 1871 and the Presidency of Jorge Ubico in the 1930s, a period during which, Kirkpatrick argues, the promises of modernity and progress emerged, yet remained forever unattainable. It analyzes the tensions between the bourgeoisie’s visions of liberal utopia and the economic crises that curtail such visions, which results in a unique cultural phenomenon, what Dr. Kirkpatrick calls the  ‘cultura de esperar’ – the culture of expecting, hoping, and waiting. The study explores a wide diversity of topics, from bull fighting in cinema to the arrival of the northern railway to changes in architecture, topics that are woven together under the notion of “optics” of cultural interaction. Kirkpatrick imaginatively and thoughtfully describes how perception was altered with changing experiences of the city, influenced by moving pictures or increasing speed and height. The thesis provides a sophisticated and complex history of modernity, especially of the tensions between its many aspirations and the context of unsustainable economic industrialization.
This work is beautifully written, rich, imaginative, well researched, and theoretically ambitious: it draws on a wealth of archival and documentary sources, and links together a wide variety of theoretical approaches, ranging from Marx to Walter Benjamin, and from studies of representation to arts, urban spaces, architecture, economic history, spiritualism, literature, and Guatemalan cultural history.  The result is a unique and original work, which significantly contributes to understanding the tropes and ideals of modernity for an aspirational bourgeoisie haunted by the specter of its rural, indigenous population.  Ultimately, this piece is unlike any other scholarly work on Guatemala, and even on any Latin American city due to the richly textured examination of a neglected time period in Guatemalan historiography. Dr. Kirkpatrick’s dissertation is thus a model of innovative scholarly work that reveals much about the experiences of modernity in turn-of-the-century Guatemala and beyond. Congratulations to Dr. Kirkpatrick for this outstanding, original, complex, innovative work!
For more information on the CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Prize and a list of past winners, please visit
For more information on the CALACS Outstanding Dissertation Prize, please contact: calacs@yorku.ca
*The original press release read "University of Saskatoon" and has been changed. 

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