Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2021 Announcement

The Carceral Geographies Working Group and Advisory Board are pleased to announce the winner of our inaugural Undergraduate Dissertation Prize:

Georgia White (University of Nottingham) for “ ‘There’s a particular thing about the pregnancy ought to be and how it is for some women’: The experience of pregnancy for refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK.” 

The selection panel was impressed with the dissertation’s nuanced methodological approach and theoretical sophistication, and especially with the originality of the topic and analysis. Not only did White complete an impressive dissertation during a difficult time, but they developed a careful, original approach to the carceral geographies of the UK asylum system that pushes current literature in novel directions. Congratulations, Georgia!

We wish to congratulate all nominees for producing excellent dissertations under very challenging circumstances. The selection panel was impressed by the depth and care with which these students treated their research, their engagement with carceral geography literatures, and the insights they drew from their rich empirical research. These dissertations presented us with the best of undergraduate research and the decision was a difficult one.

Dissertation abstract:

This paper looks at the challenges faced by pregnant refugee and asylum-seeking women in the UK, along with their ability to utilise social capital to build resilience to these. It discusses the findings of a qualitative study consisting of 17 interviews between 25 and 90 minutes with individuals who work with refugees and asylum-seekers in charitable organisations, which is supplemented with secondary data. The analysis discusses the challenges which participants identified among their clients along with the extent to which these can be resisted through vertical networks of charitable organisations and horizontal networks of friends and family. A theoretical framework is implemented with Bauman’s (2004) wasted lives used to understand the treatment of the state in terms of detention, dispersal and destitution. Galtung’s (1969) structural violence is then used to show how this implicates the health of individuals resulting in a pregnancy outcome whereby the actual realisation is far from the potential realisation. Finally, Putnam’s (1993) social capital is used to show the importance of charitable organisations along with strong kinship ties in improving access to antenatal care and experiences of pregnancy.

This concludes that research must more critically understand refugee and asylum-seeking experiences to appreciate their agency (Nguyen 2012). Whilst this research attempts to do this, there is a need to use creative methodologies which work alongside these individuals and form research outcomes that can educate healthcare providers, the general public and this group to have a significant effect on overcoming these challenges. Furthermore, although Putnam’s (1993) social capital is useful in enabling this agency to be recognised this framework does need some re-evaluation to recognise the negative implication that strong social capital can have on healthcare access.

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