The New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) encourages the development of the skills of scholarly writing by awarding annual prizes for excellent student papers dealing with Asia. Two such prizes are awarded each year, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student. Runners-up are named in each category.

The prizes honor the outstanding service of Dr. Marleigh Grayer Ryan, former Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor of Japanese Literature, and Coordinator of Asian Studies at SUNY New Paltz; and longtime Executive Secretary of NYCAS


Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students at a college or university in New York State.

Field: East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Asia in diaspora, and Asian American studies.

Awards: The First Prize winners in the Undergraduate and Graduate categories each will receive a $100 prize.

The Graduate Paper Prize winner will receive a complimentary one-year membership to the Association for Asian Studies and will be eligible to participate on a panel sponsored by the AAS Council on Conferences at the AAS annual meeting.

The winning papers will be published on the NYCAS website and considered for presentation in a panel at a future NYCAS meeting.

Format of papers: Papers should include a cover page giving the title of the paper, the student’s name, category, institution, and contact information (including current email and permanent mailing address).

Submission of papers: A student may submit only one entry. Papers may be submitted by the student author or by a faculty member acting on behalf of a student. A faculty member may not provide any evaluative comments at the time of nomination.

Papers should be submitted by email attachment only. Include an abstract of up to 150 words. Undergraduate papers are limited to 40 pages. Graduate papers are limited to 60 pages.

A submitted paper should stand alone and not be a segment of a larger work, such as a Senior Thesis, Masters’ Thesis, or Doctoral Dissertation.

Please include a completed cover sheet with your application. Attach the pdf cover sheet along with your paper in your submission email.

Entry deadline: June 1, 2025

Notification of awards by July 15, 2025

Submit papers by email attachment to:

Professor Tiantian Zheng, Chair

NYCAS Marleigh Grayer Ryan Prize Committee

Application Form: MGRAppForm2025

NYCAS Congratulates the Winners of the 2024 Writing Prize Competition!

Graduate Prize Winner

Ka Shing So

Binghamton University

“Unveiling the Shadows: Vernacular Techniques of Gold Smuggling in Cold War Hong Kong”

Abstract: This article delves into the intricate dynamics of gold smuggling in Cold War Hong Kong, focusing on the intersection between everyday life, state regulations, and global geopolitical structures. It explores the motivations, methods, and socio-economic implications of individual smugglers engaged in gold smuggling. Employing a micro-history perspective, the study reveals vernacular techniques utilized by smugglers, including the modification of everyday objects, cabins, and the human body, showcasing their resourcefulness and resilience within a highly regulated environment. The article argues that these vernacular techniques were not only shaped by individual agency but were also influenced by interactions with other actors. This article, therefore, highlights the fluidity and ambiguity within the Cold War in Hong Kong. The adaptable nature of these smuggling operations underscores the complex web of interactions and negotiations in defining the format of vernacular techniques in the gold smuggling pattern. The multifaceted dynamics at within vernacular practices, illustrates the nuanced relationship between individual agency and broader socio-economic structures in Hong Kong. The pervasive influence of vernacular technology reveals the balance between evading detection and maximizing profits within a regulated environment, providing insights into the complex interplay between local technological ingenuity operations during this period.

Graduate Honorable Mention Winner

Asif Mehmood


“Geopolitics is aesthetic: CPEC, Space, and Signage”


Scholars focusing on the Chinese Belt-and-Road-Initiative (BRI) call for more ethnographic attention to this global geopolitical-economic programme in order to explore situated social practices on ground especially BRI’s political discourse. In this manuscript, I focus on BRI’s flagship programme, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to offer a case of its public discourse. I pay attention to the CPEC/CPEC enabled street signage (broadly understood) and explore how this signage unfolds in/influences the Pakistani public spaces. I argue that public signage as street level visual discourse promotes “social governability” of this initiative by aestheticizing its geopolitical objectives – manifesting China-Pakistan alliance; imagining the future with BRI; and crafting everyday aesthetics that enable Sinicization of the local space. Aestheticization is done by seeking to make the BRI-CPEC part of everyday public imagination and common sense. Second, through the BRI-CPEC signage, geopolitics becomes vernacular and Pakistani public space sutures the local, the Anglicized and the Sinicized visuality, on the one hand. On the other, the signage arranges aesthetic polemics of the geopolitics by making room for the Chinese political idiom on a non-Chinese land. Third, as the regional strategic scenario around BRI-CPEC is fast changing, I argue that the signage constitutes aesthetic capital that strengthens the “inevitable” China-Pakistan bilateral relations. In presenting street-level visual discourse, I seek to diversify and expand ethnographic exploration of the BRI-CPEC programme. My specific contribution attends to the political discourse studies of the BRI that remain understudied.

Undergraduate Prize Winner

Kavita Gawrinauth

Adelphi University

“Bound by Love: Uncovering Familial Love and Sisterhood among Chinese Comfort Women during World War II”

Abstract: Scholars have spent nearly a century examining the topic of comfort women, the system of sex-trafficking instituted by the Japanese from 1932 to 1945. However, Chinese comfort women have not been given their due attention until the 1990s. Since 1991, academics from all over Asia have sought to reconstruct the concealed history of the Imperial Japanese Army’s “comfort women” to shed light and recover the facts relating to this system of sexual slavery throughout East Asia by interviewing survivors and analyzing documentary records. Initially, the examination of monographs, testimonies, and documentaries revealed how Chinese comfort women were entirely excluded from the history of comfort women. Later in the 2000s, the scholarly oversight surrounding Chinese comfort women became apparent, causing significant chaos and prompting other historians to acknowledge them. Intellectuals have been able to piece together and identify the key themes influencing the tragedy while advancing the conversation so that it remains politically and socially relevant. The historiography of Chinese comfort women has been constructed by the works of Yoko Hayashi, Toshiyuki Tanaka, Peipei Qiu, Zhiliang Su,  Lifei Chen, Li Hongxi, Edward Wang, and Hata Ikuhiko, all of whom have shed tremendous light on the terror and violation experienced by countless Chinese women. This paper focuses on a valuable yet underutilized source: the letters of Minnie Vautrin. Historically, these letters have not received the attention they deserve in the context of the Chinese comfort women’s experiences. However, they fill a critical void and offer fresh insights. In addition to supporting existing scholarship, Minnie Vautrin’s letters reveal hitherto unexplored aspects of the lives and suffering of Chinese comfort women. These letters provide a unique perspective that encompasses the themes of familial love and sisterhood, offering a more holistic understanding of the hardships endured by these women during a dark chapter in history.

Undergraduate Honorable Mention Winner

Siyang Luo

University of Rochester

“Pandemic Echoes: Chinese Nationalism and Transnational Student’s Dilemma”

Abstract: In the wake of the initial COVID-19 pandemic panic, China witnessed a surge in national pride among its international students who initially took pride in their country’s effective crisis management. However, as discrepancies emerged between Chinese and Western portrayals of the pandemic, particularly during the 2022 Omicron wave, their views shifted critically toward China’s zero-COVID strategy and the credibility of its ruling party. This paper explores the dynamic shifts in Chinese nationalism generated by the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of Chinese international students. Through an analysis of nationalist historical narratives, political education, and current events, this paper examines the influence of China’s domestic policies and international experiences on these students’ perceptions. The research highlights how traditional state-centric nationalism is heavily promoted through educational policies and media, while the international experiences of Chinese students expose them to global perspectives. The findings challenge previous assumptions about the nationalism of international students, suggesting “flexible nationalism”—a fluidity of nationalism that emerges from the complex interplay of cultural identity, political indoctrination, and personal experiences in a globalized context.