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2021 Petro-Canada-McMaster Young Innovator Award

Dilyana Mincheva is an Assistant Professor in Critical Media in the Department of Communication Studies and Media Arts at McMaster University, Canada. Her most recent research is engaged with the culturological study of Islamic feminism, and the politics of image in cinematic feminism and utopia. She is the bearer of two international awards for research excellence (2012 and 2015) granted by the Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society and the author of the monograph The Politics of Western Muslim Intellectual Discourse in the West: The Emergence of a Western-Islamic Public Sphere (Sussex, 2016). Mincheva is currently at work on a second monograph focused on socially and cinematically mediated forms of Islamic feminism. 

Project Title: The Academic Screenplay: Intersections of Creative Arts and Media Research 

Project Abstract:  

A recent and widely unexplored form of screenwriting has emerged in the last five years within creative or media arts programs in North America: “the academic screenplay.” Unlike the industrial-based practice of screenwriting, the academic screenplay is driven by academic research. This project will create a new lab environment, the CoMMa Script Frenzy Lab, in which McMaster undergraduate students will research, explore, and practice creative methods of translating and communicating scholarly knowledge through the development of their own research-based scripts. The case for the academic screenplay at the undergraduate level is that students will learn how to make use of the intellectual space offered by the academy – by exploring the theoretical scope of concepts central to research in the media arts, such as transnational cinema, arthouse cinema, orientalism, postcolonial critique, critical race theory, screen theory, feminism, agency and selfhood – to incubate and experiment with ideas while crafting an artefact of their own. This is important, first, for students’ understanding of humanities theory as a life form of thought and presence in the world. Second, this is important for students’ own formation as communication and media arts professionals who aspire to either continue this line of work in graduate school or to be commercially published and produced. Finally, the academic screenplay allows for reflective authenticity on the side of the writer, which stands for a deep self-examination of the positionings, and identification processes involved in the creative process. The academic screenplay is precisely the space where students negotiate and resist previously hegemonic modes of storytelling and representation, well documented in critical media studies: orientalist stereotypes, racist and xenophobic cliches, patriarchal, transphobic or misogynistic screen gazes. Work within the creative-critical nexus of screenwriting offers, among other things, fruitful possibilities for our students to develop portfolios for graduate studies in the field of film and television writing or to approach the creative industry directly. In pursuit of these objectives, the Petro-Canada McMaster Award will allow me to develop a model for mentorship, assessment and promotion of the academic screenplays written by my undergraduate students in four major steps: (1) a series of structured workshops, providing theoretical and practical content (modules on scriptwriting) and peer mentorship/collaboration for as many as 15 undergraduate students; (2) a mini-conference with presentations to the wider McMaster community of the students’ scriptwriting projects and reflections on the Lab project and process; (3) training of a student research assistant in methods of scriptwriting, workshop facilitation, peer mentorship, and evaluation; (4) conference presentations, a website, and a research article that share the project’s outcomes and model with broader academic and industry audiences.  

Adrianne Lickers Xavier is the acting Director of the Indigenous Studies Program. Her recently completed doctoral research focused in on Indigenous Food sovereignty and security in her home community of Six Nations. As the first McMaster Indigenous Research Institute ‘Indigenous In-Community Scholar’, Adrianne is working directly with her community in partnership with Six Nations Health Services to address the questions and needs around food sovereignty. Adrianne’s passion for community and food work is evident in her research.  

Project Title: Indigenous Research as Community

Project Abstract:  

This research will engage students to understand research as active participants in as many aspects of research as possible. All of this will be accomplished within an Indigenous research lens, including the participation of a 4th year seminar, growing a research project at McMaster and culminating in a research event. The project will be to participate, build and grow their own research; learning the skills to build community and build a dynamic research project.   

The aim of this project is to engage undergraduate students in the research process and activities. I hope to do that in ways that I am already doing and also expand. The goal ultimately is to enhance the education of my undergraduate students, promote and expose them to graduate level research and education and also find ways to engage students in ‘real world’ activities. This project will be a first step for myself and my students to create a project with students and engage in not only a wellness project for Indigenous students but also the Indigenous research and ways of knowing that I use myself.