Georgetown Spanish associate professor Adam Lifshey won the annual Africa-Asia Book Prize from the International Convention of Asian Scholars for his book on Spanish literature in Southeast Asia and West Africa.
Lifshey received the prize for his 2012 book, “The Magellan Fallacy: Globalization and the Emergence of Asian and African Literature in Spanish.” The Africa-Asia Book Prize, which was established by ICAS in 2013, is awarded annually to an exceptional scholarly work published in English, French or Portuguese since 2009 on any topic linking Africa and Asia.
In a statement published on their website, ICAS praised Lifshey’s book for its analytic approach to its topic.
“Through an insightful analysis of two marginalized literary traditions (the Philippine and Equatorial Guinean ones), ‘The Magellan Fallacy’ challenges ideas and concepts we often take for granted,” the statement read. “This is a work masterfully rendered, witty, original in its central thesis and seminal in its scope. A classic in the making.”
Lifshey received the award in a presentation ceremony held in Ghana from Sept. 24 to 26.
Lifshey said that winning the award exposed him to a wider community of scholars in his field.
“It was really a lot of fun and very meaningful,” Lifshey said. “I am used to working in isolation. … Suddenly there were hundreds of people from around the world in this wonderful country who were congratulating me on the book.”
Lifshey also said that he enjoyed the experience of participating in the award ceremony in Ghana.
“Everyone in Ghana was extremely nice to me and I really appreciated that,” Lifshey said. “It was a good opportunity to meet scholars from Africa and Asia that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet in a Spanish [or] Portuguese department.”
According to Lifshey, he was inspired to write the book after noticing the lack of available knowledge on Spanish literature in the Philippines and West Africa.
The title of Lifshey’s book is a reference to European explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was killed in a battle with a native tribe in the Philippines during his mission to circumnavigate the globe for the Spanish Empire.
“I was always interested in things that my teachers didn’t tell me,” Lifshey said. “I realized … that there was some wonderful literature that I wanted to read and think about and write about.”
Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Gwen Kirkpatrick said that the department recognizes the significance of Lifshey’s work.
“The entire department was aware of the importance and originality of his research,” Kirkpatrick wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are very proud of his work and impressed with his success.”
Last year, Lifshey received a $266,000 grant from the Andrew W. Foundation for a study on literature in Taiwan and the Philippines.
Kirkpatrick said that Lifshey’s work explored a new field in Spanish post-colonialism.
“I am especially impressed by the work in the Philippines that is based on a great deal of archival research,” Kirkpatrick wrote.
According to Kirkpatrick, other fields of study at Georgetown could benefit from following Lifshey’s interdisciplinary approach in the future.
“It will bring attention to the presence of Spanish in parts of the world not usually associated with Spanish,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “It ties in the story of Spanish colonization to a worldwide system of commerce and exchange of goods and cultures through Asia to the Americas and then to Europe.”
Ross Karlan (GRD ’19), a student in Lifshey’s course, said the award was no surprise, given Lifshey’s enthusiastic and engaging nature as a professor.
“His passion for the subject matter was always apparent,” Karlan wrote in an email to The Hoya. “His research is very cutting-edge and new. … He is forging new paths for comparative literary studies that move beyond traditional canons. He has essentially become the master of a field that is relatively unstudied.”
Karlan said that he hopes this award will bring more attention to humanities at Georgetown.
“Adam’s award and research shows that we are a dynamic institution with faculty and students who break the norms and try new things,” Karlan wrote.
Lifshey said that the award has encouraged him to continue in this line of study. He will release another book on a similar topic in December.
“It is very exciting and I am very grateful that scholars of Africa and Asia appreciated the work that I tried to do in the book,” Lifshey said. “I hope that it leads to more work on literature in Spanish from Africa and Asia.”
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