GFGRG 2016-17 Dissertation Prize

We are delighted to announce the winners of our 2016-17 dissertation prize:

First prize

The gendered working culture of Aberdeen’s oil and gas industry: A study of women’s experiences of the ‘downturn’. 

Georgia Emily Smith, University of Edinburgh

This dissertation explores the everyday experiences of women in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen in Scotland, during a time of economic crisis; an area which has received inadequate academic attention. Drawing on insights from in-depth interviews and attendance of corporate events, this research examines how a gendered working culture is (re)produced through the everyday practices and perceptions that circulate in the oil and gas sector. As a traditionally ‘technical’ industry dominated by men, the oil and gas industry is an interesting and important area through which to study gender dynamics at work. Guided by feminist geographies, this research will interrogate how the roles in oil and gas have become gendered (Faulkner, 2006), and how leadership positions in this industry have become associated with extrovert masculinity (Ko, Kotrba and Roebuck, 2015). Following on from this, the study will highlight the critical ways that women ’on the ground’ suggested gender inequalities should best be tackled. This research will all be situated and contextualised within the economic crisis, or ‘downturn’, that the oil and gas industry has faced for the last two and a half years (Oil and Gas UK, 2016). By using the downturn as a backdrop, my research will suggest that the economic crisis has crucially transformed the gendered working culture of oil and gas. I will suggest that the anxieties people have following the downturn have played out in varied ways, serving to strengthen the gendered working culture in some ways, while, counter-intuitively, breaking it down in others. This leads me to conclude that how people feel is crucially informed by the everyday realities of being a woman in the oil and gas industry during a period of economic crisis.

Second prize

A Bosnian girl: Understanding the female gender and nationality, in post-conflict, post-socialist Sarajevo.

Rebecca Collinson, Cardiff University

Whilst the nationalist driven war of Yugoslavia produced immense consequences felt by all Yugoslavs alike, suffering was not experienced in the same way or to the same degree between the sexes. Therefore, if feminist geographers seek to transform gender relations, the intersection between gender and other identities such as nationality and religion must be explored. Using qualitative interviews, this research investigates the hidden acts of multiple discrimination women in Sarajevo experience today, within the socio-political networks of a post-conflict and post-socialist city. Key findings of this research are presented through three themes. Firstly, nationalism and wartime rape of women. Secondly, the complex relationship between national identity and religious identity and finally, the role of the economic decline in producing and reproducing gendered identities. Overall, this research will explore the complexity of female identity construction, and how it is simultaneously bound with other identities through reflection of the self and ‘other’, within the urban context of Sarajevo.

Third prize

Women’s empowerment, development discourse and shifting subjectivities: Everyday performances of gender in rural Uganda.

Caragh Bennett, University of Oxford

This dissertation explores the gendered impacts of the introduction of a women’s empowerment programme by a development NGO in Uganda. Through a post-colonial feminist approach, this dissertation aims to uncover dominant discourses within the organisation and observe the impact of the presence of the women’s empowerment programme on gendered subjectivities. A case study approach is adopted using the example of Empower a Child in Zirobwe village. This research has engaged in qualitative data collection through ethnographic methods carried out over three weeks in the village of Zirobwe. This dissertation argues that expected gender performances are changing in Zirobwe as women on the programme can negotiate competing discourses to choose where to position themselves as subjects. The study finds that the discourse of the NGO contains gendered and racialised hierarchies and that ‘zones of contention’ have been created between competing and overlapping discourses from the NGO and the local norms. The study also finds that the women’s empowerment programme has still been largely unsuccessful in transforming local norms on a wider scale, and that impact in this way is at present limited to a younger group of individuals. This dissertation builds on and contributes to existing Gender and Development literature in Uganda such as Ochieng 2003, Guma 2015 and Wyrod 2008.

Congratulations to our winners.

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