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Sussex postgraduate wins national dissertation prize

Amy Clarke is the 2013 winner of the RGS's Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize.

A University of Sussex student has won a national prize from the Royal Geographical Society for her Masters dissertation.

Amy Clarke received £100 and a certificate for producing the UK’s best Masters dissertation of 2012 – written for her MA in Migration Studies - with a focus on population geography.

Amy is the 2013 winner of the Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize, named in memory of a population geographer at the University of Liverpool.

Her dissertation, supervised by Dr Ceri Oeppen, asked, ‘When is a migrant not a migrant?’ and explored ‘white middle-class perceptions of difference in a liberal British city’ (Brighton).

“My interviews revealed a normative link between ‘Britishness’ and ‘Whiteness’ underlying white middle-class perceptions of ‘the migrant’,” said Amy, “but I found that labels of difference associated with visible colour were countered by similarities of language and culture and outweighed by social proximity.”

Amy’s research also demonstrated the importance of including the white British middle classes in research on integration and ethnic diversity.

On hearing that she had won a prize for her research, Amy said: “It’s great to know that people can see the value in my work, because it’s something I’m extremely passionate about.”

She added: “It’s been a great confidence boost in the build-up to the Race, Migration and Citizenship conference in July in Birmingham, where I’ll be presenting my thesis. I’m really grateful for having been selected!”

And Amy, who is currently working in Brighton and Hove, will be back on campus in the autumn to start a PhD that will build on her MA research by continuing to explore the understandings of integration and belonging held by white, middle-class British adults.

Amy said: “The aim is to better understand public attitudes to immigration and highlight the central role that the established majority plays in processes of integration.”

Amy’s research - funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and supervised by Professor Ben Rogaly and Dr Katie Walsh - will also add to literature on ‘Britishness’ by considering whether understandings of who ‘belongs’ are consciously or unconsciously shaped by ‘race' and other markers of difference.

When Amy completes her doctorate, she will have a hat-trick of geography degrees from Sussex: her first degree was in Geography with Italian.

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Posted on behalf of: Geography
Last updated: Monday, 10 June 2013


Congrats to Amy! Although I must say that she was lucky to be supervised by Dr Ceri Oeppen. Dr. Oeppen is a very well-versed instructor and supervisor. 


From Nasrat Esmaty on 12 June 2013
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