Acadia master’s student Diane Grant Top 25 Storytellers Challenge finalist

Acadia University master’s student Diane Grant is among the Top 25 finalists in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 2023 Storytellers Challenge.

The annual competition, now in its 10th edition, challenges postsecondary students across the country to inspire audiences with a research story—in up to 300 words or three minutes—of how SSHRC-funded research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

“This is a case study in how to challenge the colonialist enterprise,” begins the short video by Grant. Using autoethnography techniques, Grant offers a postcolonial analysis of a 1956 book about her father, an Afro-Chinese diamond seeker, in pre-independence British Guiana.

“My voice and my life interrupt this colonial text,” continues Grant in the video. “I use the tools that I’ve learnt from my studies in English Literature to uncover what appears to me to be a colonial enterprise parading as a travel book.”

She ends her video with this objective, “I want to untangle our stories, my father’s and mine, to understand the culture of the unique Caribbean diaspora still searching for relevance and meaning.”



Pursuing a dream

After retiring in 2020 from a long career as a television documentary producer and director at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Grant moved to Wolfville to fulfill her dream of studying English Literature.

“My first job with the CBC was in Halifax on the current affairs show Inquiry. I also worked on Street Cents and Land and Sea. I had fond memories of Nova Scotia, so I decided to make Wolfville my home and apply to Acadia,” says Grant.

She started her graduate studies at Acadia in 2022 under the supervision of Dr. Nandini Thiyagarajan. Grad program coordinator Dr. Kait Pinder encouraged her to select her thesis topic and apply for a SSHRC scholarship. Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Grant has lived in England, Guyana, Trinidad, and Canada.

When she discovered two half-sisters in Sweden through a genealogy site, one of them insisted she read a book about their father and his adventures in the South American jungle. A diamond trader, Grant’s father had lived with the Patamona, a remote Indigenous people, for five years.

“I read Beyond the High Savannahs by James Wickenden and was profoundly affected by it,” Grant says. “My mother also told me a story about how my father had wanted us to go and live with him in the jungle, and she refused and took me to England instead. This is why I decided to write my thesis entitled “A Diamond Seeker’s Legacy: Stolen Voices in Beyond the High Savannahs.”


Sharing her story nationally

The top 25 storytellers were selected from nearly 200 applicants representing 14 postsecondary institutions. Each finalist is awarded a cash prize and will compete for a top-five spot in this year’s showcase.

Finalists will present their stories at the Storytellers Showcase at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences on Monday, May 29, 2023, at 9 a.m. E.T. at York University. The final five winners will be chosen from among the 25 finalists and revealed at a Big Thinking event the same day.  




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