We are delighted to announce that the dissertation prize panel recommended a joint award of the prize to two dissertations of exceptionally high quality. The joint winners of this year’s prize are Olivia Russell (University of Edinburgh) and Mitchell Wilson (University of Bristol).
Olivia Russel’s dissertation, Geography, Cartography and Military Intelligence: Gertrude Campbell’s Cartographic Work for the Royal Geographical Society in 1913 to 1918, is a study of archival material relating to the life and cartographic work of Gertrude Bell, focusing on her contributions to military intelligence in World War I through cartographic work in ‘Arabia’. The work presents a nuanced, multiple understanding of Bell and her activities. Empirical chapters are structured through three key themes (informed by a critical engagement with literature) and demonstrate keen attention to detail in the use of evidence and construction of arguments. Overall, the dissertation draws on a great range of primary source material from the archives of the RGS, using these to consider issues around both colonialism and the role of women in the production of geographical knowledge. It thus responds to very contemporary questions about structural issues within the discipline. This is a standout dissertation addressing the history of geography, which adds to calls for the inclusion of ‘all marginalised knowledges’ within a critical historiography of the discipline.
Mitchell Wilson’s dissertation, Expanding the Empirical Repertoire of Non-Representational Theory Through a Methodological Reflection on Creating a Documentary Film, presents a theoretically sophisticated discussion of Geography’s relation to film-making, and takes direction from a range of multi-disciplinary work (including non-representational theory and visual culture), making new connections between them. It then embarks on the production of a documentary film to demonstrate how film-making techniques can be used to engineer affect, thus moving beyond ‘critique’ to become productive. The documentary, which is very thoughtfully curated and presented, explores the art and subversive qualities of drag through the performances of Ty Jeffries. This is then used to explore the nature of ‘hope’ in the Anthropocene: a discussion which simultaneously seems somewhat tangential and yet in keeping with the “ephemerality and transitory nature” of the research. Overall the work is remarkable in its level of sophisticated and critical engagement with literature; in its care and attention to detail; and in its sensitivity. It forms an important contribution to discussions around videographic geographies, presenting astute readings of Spinoza to think hope as ‘unsteady joy’.