2019 Graduate Student Essay Prize
The 2018 Graduate Student Essay Prize was awarded to Elly Brinkley for “‘I Protest Wherever I Can’: The Belarus Free Theatre and CrossBorder Arts Activism” (New York U)
Brinkley’s essay offers a valuable case study of collaboration between artists and political activists under conditions of suppression of expression by an authoritarian regime.
The essay introduces readers to an important and possibly unfamiliar situation with a very accessible and timely narrative. The discussion shows effective integration of empirical and theoretical levels of analysis. She presents an intertwining argument about Belarusian culture, society, and politics. In clear, concise, and well-organized prose, Brinkley narrates the ongoing struggle of the Belarus Free Theater to foster artistic and political collaboration in the face of government repression of free speech. As she delves into the underground spaces in which the theater company performs, Brinkley gives voice to a fascinating case, as she writes, of “political art that brings real political action”
This is scholarly work that is significant, entertaining and understandable by a broad audience. It makes a contribution to understanding of conditions of cultural production and public engagement in the country that it studies, in the region more broadly, and in authoritarian environments more generally.