Argyro Nicolaou, a Cypriot writer and filmmaker, has been awarded one of Harvard University’s prestigious Bowdoin Prizes for her essay “‘Now That the World Has Become an Endless Hotel’: European Narratives of Displacement in the Middle East During the Second World War”.
The Bowdoin Prizes, some of Harvard’s oldest and most prestigious student awards, are designed to recognize essays of originality and high literary merit, written in a way that engages both specialists and non-specialists.
“It is a great honor to have received this very special prize, and to have my name join a list of writers that I have long studied and admired,” Ms. Nicolaou said.
Established in 1791, the Bowdoin Prizes have been awarded to many notable Harvard students, among them the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, the former Harvard presidents Charles Eliot and Nathan Pusey, and the novelist John Updike.
The award-winning essay brings to light the often forgotten first-person narratives of Europeans displaced to the Middle East during the Second World War. It uses historical and literary sources to highlight a dark part of Europe’s history that undermines current stereotypes of refugees and migrants that dominate contemporary European politics.
“I strongly believe that the stories we find in literature and other cultural works can be extremely powerful in shaping understanding of history, politics, and citizenship. Having my essay on refugee narratives recognized with this important award, in a moment of global political uncertainty, demonstrates how culture can and should have an active role in social and political debates.”
Ms. Nicolaou graduated from the University of Cambridge with a First Class degree in English in 2011. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Critical Media Practice at Harvard. Her dissertation examines the representation of modern Mediterranean migrations in literature, film and visual art. Ms. Nicolaou is the recipient of a Mahindra Humanities Center Graduate Fellowship and a 2018 Harvard Horizons Scholar.
The Bowdoin Prizes are funded by the income of the bequest of James Bowdoin, an American intellectual and political leader, who served as Governor of Massachusetts between 1785 and 1788. They include a $10,000 honorarium, a medal, and a certificate.