SOAS University of London

Walter Rodney PG dissertation awards 2020-2021

6 December 2021

It is a great pleasure to announce the winners of this year’s Walter Rodney prize for outstanding postgraduate dissertations related to the History of Africa and the African Diaspora. The prize has been jointly awarded to Lucy Kernick (MA History) and Sophie Anne Mullen (MA History of Art and Archaeology).

Lucy’s dissertation on ‘“Apartheid in the Dark”: the Struggle over Live-in Domestic Work in Johannesburg, 1948-1973’ is genuinely original work based on newspapers, personal accounts and government documents. It upends commonly held assumptions about apartheid ideology. Lucy shows how the interests of black domestic servants and white employers converged in interesting ways, and at odds with state thinking. It is often said that the state inserted itself into black households, but the dissertation shows how it also inserted itself into white households. And finally, it shows how African women's struggles over accommodation were central to the wider story.

Sophie’s dissertation entitled 'Unpacking Displaced Voices of Migration: Personified Significations of the Ubiquitous Plaid Carry Bag in the Works of Two South African Artists’ stood out as original, insightful and powerfully argued. It examines the reconfigurations of the plaid mesh bag as a symbol of migration in the works of Nobkuho Nqaba and Dan Halter, bringing together political and theoretical questions around migration and belonging in South Africa. Engaging with the artwork as well as through interviews with the artists, Sophie finds that the bag signifies displacement and home at the same time and that the artwork creates space for conversations about the challenges faced by migrant communities.