21 July 2021
It is a great pleasure to announce that this year the Walter Rodney prize for undergraduate dissertations has been awarded to Amelia Storey (BA History) and Saffa Khalil (BA History and African Studies). The postgraduate dissertation prize for students who graduated in September 2020 went to Francesca Rechere (MSc Violence, Conflict and Development).
Amelia's dissertation on 'The Historical Pre-eminence of older Women in West African Societies' aims to redress the skewed historical record of the role of older women in pre-colonial West-African societies. Drawing on a vast range of historical and anthropological studies as well as published primary sources, it investigates the ways in which the changes in the reproductive cycles of West African women affected their status and image in society. Amelia shows how the pre-eminence of older women in different spheres of life was challenged by the changes that accompanied colonial rule and that these in part explains their susceptibility to witchcraft. Overall, this is a sensitively written piece of work that offers thorough research and nuanced analysis.
Saffa's dissertation entitled 'Can we hear the past: an Analysis of Sudanese history (1820-2019)' through music considering its influences shaping its past and present' explores the role of song and poetry in chronicling historical change in Sudan over the past century. It shows the huge potential of songs to reveal the experiences and aspirations of those who do not have a public voice. Particularly noteworthy is also the effort made to locate interviewees under the difficult circumstances of the pandemic, whose experiences are most valuable and help to tell a living story.
Francesca's dissertation - 'The Sounds of Resistance: How and to what extent do Afro-descendant or racialised communities across Latin America use material and popular culture as a form of resistance and pathway to empowerment? - offers genuine engagement with history in its broader context and its present day implications. It explores how cultural production, in particular musical traditions, supported political mobilisation and activism in historically marginalised communities in Mexico and Brazil. As an interdisciplinary enquiry it aims to 'demonstrate the transnational linkages between racism, subjection and inequality as a symptom of slavery’s historicity into the present.' Thus, Francesca's work deals with one of the central concerns of the Walter Rodney prize, the experiences and struggles of communities in the African diaspora. It is very well researched and achieves depth and incision. Despite the violence of the subject matter, the student deals sensitively and constructively with the data and has written a really exceptional piece.