The 2021 PolGRG Undergraduate Dissertation Prize – Results!

We’re delighted to announce the results of the annual undergraduate dissertation prize. It may have been a turbulent year, but it produced some outstanding undergraduate research projects and among the largest numbers of nominations in recent years. The judging panel (Anthony Ince, Cordelia Freeman and Daniel Hammett) received submissions from across the UK, on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Mediterranean geopolitics to psychosocial wellbeing and austerity.

Following some detailed deliberation and discussion, we can now announce the results:

Joint winners

‘Craics’ of the Walled City: Navigating Belfast’s Landscapes of Tension, Fracture and Conflict

by Eilidh Kee (University of Edinburgh)

This eloquently written piece with a deeply personal tone explores the diverse meanings of, and locals’ relationships with, the so-called ‘peace walls’ that separate neighbourhoods in the divided city of Belfast. Eilidh’s attention to careful analysis of empirics, and her articulation of the complex, and sometimes contradictory, feelings evoked by these symbols of geopolitical struggle was seen as exceptional by the panel. Thoughtful use of data derived from close family members was a distinctive part of the project, and Eilidh’s discussion of the methodological challenges and dilemmas of using close personal contacts was especially persuasive and insightful. Overall, the panel agreed that this was an impressively rich piece of work.

Navigating (Il)legal Art: Producing Street Art in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

by Tom Ward (Cambridge)

Driven by an innovative conceptual conversation between legal and political geographies, this detailed and engaging text brought to life the political, symbolic and discursive dynamics surrounding the (partial) legalisation of street art in East London. Tom’s attention to wider processes of urban development, displacement and gentrification pinpointed the political-economic dimensions of decriminalisation incisively, and his empirics dug deep into both documentary and interview sources to produce an impressive study of how law interfaces with community-scale urban politics through cultural expression. There was no doubt in the panel’s minds that this intellectually challenging and very well executed project would be a winner this year.

Highly Commended

Rancière, Resistance, and Repression: Scale as a Discursive Tactic of Politicisation and Depoliticisation in the Berlin Refugee Strike

by Lois Chandler (University of Manchester)

This ambitious work persuasively challenges Agamben’s ‘bare life’ thesis through the ideas of Jacques Rancière, Sandra Mezzadra and others, as a means of understanding the agentic qualities of discourse in political conflicts. Using struggles over refugees’ encampments in Berlin as a powerful case study, Lois delves into the discursive power of refugees’ voices and communications within a wider context of heightened debate around immigration in Germany. This study of how politicisation and depoliticization are mobilised and contested in political discourse, and the material impacts of these processes in struggles over the right to the city, is insightful, fresh and thought-provoking.

Huge congratulations to these students, who have produced some outstanding work in political geography!