The annual James Haire Memorial Prizes for the best dissertation and best essays on the MPhil in Reconciliation Studies (now the MPhil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation) were presented on Tuesday 1 February at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Belfast.
The prize for the best dissertation went to David Masters for his work titled ‘Send in the Clowns: Laughter, Hope and Failure in the Art of Making Peace.’ The dissertation was grounded in academic literature on trauma, violence and cross-cultural engagement, and included interviews with clowns working in conflict zones. While exploring the possibilities of clowning, Mr Masters also paid due attention to the criticisms levelled against clowning in conflict zones, such as: the need for lament, the prioritising of other issues, and questions about why the West should tell other people that they need cheering up.
Mr Masters was unable to attend the presentation, as he is now working for the World Student Christian Federation in Budapest. He wrote an email to current students on the MPhil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, saying: ‘My best wishes to all the current students as they start thinking about their dissertation. This time last year I still wasn’t sure what I’d be writing about! May you find as much joy in writing as I did, even amidst all the stress of deadlines.’
This year the essay prize was jointly awarded to Christopher Morris and Sierra Williams. Mr Morris, who lives in Belfast, was present to receive his award. Ms Williams has returned to the United States and sent her regrets.
The photograph shows Mr Morris being awarded the prize by Dr Gladys Ganiel, the programme coordinator for the Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation programme.