Undergraduate Dissertation Prize winners 2018

We are delighted to announce the results of our annual undergraduate dissertation prize. The judging panel (Anthony Ince, Paul Richardson, Nick Robinson and David Featherstone) received 12 superb submissions from around the UK, all of which were of an exceptionally high standard.

After some detailed deliberation, the panel came to a final decision, with one overall winner and three highly commended entries. Many congratulations to our winners!

Overall winner:

Harry Gibbs (Oxford): Connected concrete, vital communications & the radical openness of civil defence: Reimagining the Cold War bunker

secret bunkerHarry’s dissertation on the connectedness of Cold War bunkers in the UK was an impressive piece of work that makes substantial contributions to the sub-field of bunker studies within political geography. We were particularly impressed with how the dissertation effortlessly guides the reader through what are challenging engagements with complex theories and concepts, most notably assemblage theory. Harry rightfully suggests that studies in this area, until now, have been fixated on the material (concrete) and human (as spaces of survival) nature of the bunker. As the project highlights, rarely has such work accounted for the spaces and connections between bunkers, with their proliferating networks and communications infrastructures. The project was also methodologically strong and utilised an impressive number of site visits, interviews and archival research, with the latter really helping provide a rich historical context and extra edge to site visits and interviews. Overall, this is an exceptional piece of undergraduate scholarship, far beyond what is expected at this level, and something that we hope Harry will continue to develop through postgraduate research in the future.

Highly Commended:

Sophia Mason (Durham): Towards a European identity? Investigating pupils’ national and European affiliations in a European School

This dissertation is an accomplished piece of work that grapples with a range of complex issues related to the construction and performance of national identity in a very nuanced and thoughtful way. Sophia’s interviews and ethnography demonstrate a delicate yet insightful engagement with how transnational educational spaces relate to wider geopolitical relations within a fragile and contested European Union context. Despite her own educational/autho-ethnographic experiences, Sophia was able to maintain a nuanced, critical view on the European School system and European project on the whole, while also reflecting thoughtfully on how such experiences may impact the study overall. In an era where we face resurgent nationalisms across Europe, this study is a timely and fascinating investigation into the contemporary experience of national identity.

Fleur Spedding (Manchester): You can stand under my umbrella: A spatial analysis of the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong

In this dissertation, Fleur has created an empirically rich, detailed, and fascinating account of Hong Kong’s so-called ‘Umbrella Movement’. Gaining insights from those who were at the front lines of the movement, this piece of research brings the movement to life. This allowed the piece to explore not only the strengths of the movement but also its internal divisions and debates, rendering it not a singular mass of people in a nondescript place but a fluid collectivity whose differences and disagreements illustrate the specific local political landscape in Hong Kong. In addition, the panel were impressed by the way in which the dissertation handles two challenging thinkers – Michel Foucault on governmentality, and Henri Lefebvre’s tripartite division of space – to create a novel approach to analysing both the material and the digital forms of activism deployed. This is an excellent study, researched in incredible depth, with important things to say about the contemporary nature of social movements.

Nevin Emin (King’s College London): With the repeated rise and fall of hopes for dispute resolution, to what degree are there inter-generational differences in Turkish Cypriot attitudes towards peace negotiations?

Often overlooked in the geopolitics of islands, Cyprus is presented in this dissertation as a complex and fascinating case study. Nevin investigates the long-standing conflict and peace process not simply from an interethnic or intercultural perspective, but through the lens of different generational attitudes to peace and conflict. With meticulously detailed research into the peace process as a backdrop, the dissertation wrestles with big questions related to borderlands and the related processes of b/ordering that operate on an everyday, grassroots level. The author’s skill as a researcher was particularly evident in the interviews, with evocative accounts and multiple perspectives emerging from them. The research brings out a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of this community, with a particular emphasis on the fluidity and stasis of identity narratives, and the complexities of the border as a source of security and insecurity. There is also good awareness of the potential of this research to connect with a wider ambition of conflict resolution.

Many congratulations to our winning entries, and we look forward to inviting next year’s nominations in summer 2019!