ASAP is proud to announce that Hayley O’Malley (Ph.D. candidate, English, University of Michigan) is the winner of the Graduate Student Conference Paper Prize for ASAP10 New Orleans. This year’s competition was exceptionally difficult to judge with so many entries worthy of recognition. The committee thanks all those who took the time to nominate scholars and their work.

O’Malley’s paper, “Filming Everyday Freedom: The Black Feminist Praxis of Kathleen Collins’s Filmography,” focuses on the 1982 film, Losing Ground, which was written and directed by Kathleen Collins, one of the first African American women to direct a feature film. Given the ideological limits of Hollywood in the 1980s, the film’s insistence that an “ordinary” black woman’s daily life is a worthy subject for cinema was something of a radical claim. Unwilling to deliver the explicit “racial angle” that would make it intelligible for the popular market, Collins’s film was never picked up for theatrical release despite its success on the festival circuit. It was not until recently that interest in the film and in Collins as a figure was revived. Although certainly a welcome trend, O’Malley sees this renewed interest as limited, not appreciative as it might be about Collins’ broad range in what was actually a long career in the industry before she turned to directing, having worked on Blaxploitation films, documentaries, and Black Arts propaganda films. O’Malley argues that such immersive experiences enabled Collins’s acute sense of how formal film aesthetics might afford possibilities for creatively presenting not only the interiority of black women but black feminism in general. Committee members praised O’Malley’s paper for its attention to problem of particularity in such a project. Or, as O’Malley states the question: “How might one explore the collective identity of black women, while simultaneously accounting for the particularized experiences of individual subjects?” O’Malley’s paper is an indicator that the days of the dissolved subject being the mascot of contemporary criticism are over. Instead, she tunes in to a renewed sense of the political importance many fresh critical voices are finding in the idea that it is through the particularities of individual subjectivity that we put pressure on the accepted categories, concepts, and ways of thinking that we use to define broader public collectivity today.

The committee for ASAP10’s Graduate Student Conference Paper Prize was: Joseph Jeon (chair, University of California, Irvine), Elise Archias (University of Illinois, Chicago), and Tatiana Flores (Rutgers University, New Brunswick).

Join us at our membership luncheon at ASAP11 College Park to recognize and congratulate Hayley O’Malley on this achievement.