ABOUT THE ISASR ESSAY COMPETITIONS
The Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR) runs two student essay prizes in the academic study of religions, one undergraduate and one postgraduate. There is the Sídh Prize (Postgraduate) and the Iress Prize (Undergraduate).
The respective competitions are open to any student registered (part-time or full-time) in an Irish third level institution for the academic year to which the competition relates and who would like to present for consideration an essay that has as its focus a topic in the field of the academic study of religions. The competition is open to the island of Ireland, i.e. the Republic and Northern Ireland. It is important to note that essays should be non-confessional in approach. Entries are welcome from students from all fields or disciplines engaged in the academic study of religions such as study of religions/religious studies, history, geography, sociology, anthropology, folklore, and historical or critical approaches to theology or scriptural studies. Previous winners of an ISASR Essay Prize cannot enter again.
How to Enter: A call for entries will be circulated each calendar year via the ISASR website, HEA-net members list, and social media.
For Sídh Prize Entries, entrants submit for consideration an essay of 4,000-8,000 words in length. The essay can be a published article or chapter or an unpublished thesis chapter or article. Each entry should be accompanied by a supervisor’s email confirming that the applicant is a current student. The submitted work should be emailed in Microsoft Word format to isasr.essay.prizes[at]gmail.com by the deadline specified in the call, stating ‘Sídh Prize’ in the subject line. Only one submission is allowed per entrant. The essays will be judged by a panel of experts appointed by the ISASR. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize will be a €100 book token and winners will be featured on the ISASR website and social media.
For Iress Prize Entries, entrants submit for consideration an essay which has been previously submitted and assessed in an undergraduate module during the academic year that relates to the call. The essay should have been awarded a grade of 2.1 (Second Class Honours Grade 1) or above, be word processed and be 1,500-4,000 words in length (please note that projects, dissertations or minor theses will not be considered). Each entry should be accompanied by a tutor’s/supervisor’s/lecturer’s email confirming that the applicant is a current student and also confirming the essay’s grade. The essay should be sent in Microsoft Word format to isasr.essay.prizes[at]gmail.com by the deadline specified in the call, stating ‘Iress Prize’ in the subject line. Only one submission is allowed per entrant. The essays will be judged by a panel of experts appointed by the ISASR. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize will be a €50 book token and winners will be featured on the ISASR website and social media.
~ Explanatory Note on Essay Prize Names ~
Explanatory note on the meaning of the term Sídh:
Sídh (Old Irish pronunciation akin to the English word ‘sheath’, Modern Irish pronunciation akin to the English pronoun ‘she’) overall can be taken to refer to a ‘location’, the ‘inhabitants’ of that location and the quality of existence pertaining among them there. As a location it means such features of the physical landscape (both natural and constructed) as hillocks and tumuli that were, and are, regarded as entrances to the otherworld – along with the ‘lios’ and the ‘ráth’ and the ‘dún’ of later usage. The inhabitants of the Sídh were regarded in early Christian tradition as the gods of the earth over whom the new incomer religion had triumphed and who are frequently featured in the early literature as the Túatha Dé Danann. Later tradition features them in story and legend as the fairy folk. Irish tradition, early and late, perceives the realm of the Sídh as associated with delight and harmony – Tír na n-Óg (eternal youth); Tír Tairngiri (Land of Promise); Mag Mell (Plains of Joy) etc. In sum, Sídh connotes an alternative reality, a realm beyond the senses, a numinous place. The term in modern Irish can be used to mean ‘peace’. The term thus has a variety of associations, both religious and secular.
The term Ires(s) in the Old Irish language means ‘religion’, ‘belief, ‘faith’.
The 2020 Sídh Prize Winner is FREYA DASGUPTA, a second year PhD student in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music at Dublin City University. Her thesis focuses on Jewish-Christian reconciliation in Yiddish author Sholem Asch’s fiction and its relevance to contemporary interfaith dialogue. Her broader research interests include interfaith interactions between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the importance of popular literature in promoting ideas of rapprochement, and the role of Yiddish in the formation of Jewish identity. She also hopes to contribute to the ongoing preservation and revival of the language.
The 2020 Iress Prize Winner is NIAMH WHITE, a final-year student studying World Religions and Theology at Trinity College Dublin. Prior to this, she did A-levels and was homeschooled, where she became engrossed in religion through what she was reading as well as lively discussion. Her areas of interest are varied, but they include the intersection of religion and politics, how they combine to shape people’s understanding of identity, culture and authority, and how it impacts how one relates to the wider world. She is also fascinated about how theology deals with the darker aspects of the gospels, such as Christ’s cry on the cross, and how this effects not only the doctrine of God but also epistemology.
The 2019 Sídh Prize Winner is ELIZABETH CHARASH, who will graduate with distinction from Queen’s University, Belfast with a MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and with Honors from the University of Connecticut in History and Human Rights. Her work on inequality in the gun violence prevention movement has been published in Everyday Society, Sociological Forum, Teen Vogue and US News and World Report. Her current research focuses on the intersection of gender, firearms, and citizenship within U.S. gun culture.
The 2018 Sídh Prize Winner is ALAN MCKINSTRY. Having recently graduated from Queens University Belfast with a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Alan is now a Frontline Youth Intervention Worker for a charity in East London. Alan works with young men and women who have been exploited by gang culture to help reduce harm and transform lifestyles. Given East London’s large Bengali community, he is particularly interested in the role Islam has to play in tackling youth violence within these communities. Alongside this, Alan continues to perform research on the relationship between trauma and recidivism amongst young people from deprived communities.
The 2018 Iress Prize Winner is ORLA EADY, a fourth-year World Religions and Theology student at Trinity College Dublin. Prior to this, she sat the French literary baccalaureate which kindled her interest in textual interpretation, philosophy and language. Orla’s areas of interest include the various interactions between religion and culture, including how religion is mediated. Orla is also fascinated by ethics and religious language and enjoys how broad the field of Religious Studies is as well as how it allows for a development of various areas of interest and to help one to better understand different cultures.
ISASR is delighted to announce the winner of the 2017 ISASR Iress Essay Prize, RAVI MUNGLANI, who is currently doing a BA in Joint Honours History and French at Queen’s University, Belfast. He is interested in Millennialism in religions and other groups and also enjoys studying American history and Early Modern Europe.
The winner of the 2016 Sídh Prize is OLIVIA WILKINSON, TCD for her essay on secular humanitarian engagement with religion following disasters, pictured here.
The winner of the 2016 Iress Prize is RHONA FLYNN, University College Cork, for her essay on the history of Catholicism in the Seychelles, pictured here (centre) with Dr Jenny Butler and Dr James Kapalo of ISASR.
The winner of the 2015 essay prize is RORY O’CONNOR, UCC (€75 book token). The runners up are KELLIE LEWIS, UCC (€25 book token) and ANGELA VIRCIU, TCD (€25 book token).
Kellie Lewis receiving book token from Dr James Kapaló
2013: The first ever ISASR Essay Prize Winner was MALCOLM KELLY (Study of Religions Department, UCC), which was the 1st Prize of a €75 book token for his essay on Sufism and Modernity. Malcolm studied Religion and Folklore at University College Cork, gaining a First Class Honours in 2013.
Malcolm Kelly on his graduation with Dr Marie-Annick Desplanques
The two runners up – each with a €25 book token – were Eimear O’Sullivan (Early and Medieval Irish, UCC) for her essay “The Irish Monks in Europe: An Analysis of their Influence on Christianity and Learning, 6th – 12th Century” and Chris Heinhold (Study of Religions Department, UCC) for his essay “Why might the figure of U Dhammaloka ‘The Irish Buddhist’ be of interest to Buddhist Studies?”