In 2017, ten theses were send in for the competition of the MarjanRens/Lova thesis award for the best master thesis in feminist anthropology.
The quality was high and there was great diversity in and between the countries that were visited by the young researchers. We were reading about: Child marriage in Indonesia; Gender and space in a modern University in Delhi; Feminine beauty in Tehran and Martial Arts in Tehran; A safe place for lesbian women in Lebanon Gender and violence in post civil war Colombia; Being fat in Belgium and being gender fluid in the Netherlands. Furthermore we read a thesis about the representation of Female Jihad fighters in Dutch newspapers and about the Development policy “Girls not Brides “.
The third place
The third place is for an innovating research project: Gender Fluids in the Amsterdam squat scene. What if you feel yourself neither male nor female, nor homo or lesbian, nor transgender, nor bisexual, but all of it a bit, sometimes, or one day you feel different from the other? How do you experience your identity and how do you relate to the existing gender roles and gender identities? Afiah Vrijbrief mentions in her thesis that she already knew her research field, the Amsterdam squat scene, before doing research. She has written an excellent thesis: clear, open and informative. She proves able to master older as well as recent gender theory, from Anthony Giddens in the nineties “The presentation of Self in Everyday Life” to recent work of Judith Butler, from “Undoing Gender” to “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity”. Her treatment of difficult texts such as those of Judith Butler, is excellent. The jury was especially charmed by the choice of her research focus - as far as we know this study on gender fluids is the first study on this subject. Interesting, innovative, done with integrity, very intelligent, were among the words the members of the jury used in their comments. Congratulations!
The second place
The second place is for another excellent piece of work. Menal Ahmed did research in Tehran among women who are learning martial arts, like taekwondo, and karate. She describes herself as born in the Netherlands, with parents coming from Iraq and Iran. Being fluent in Parsi was very helpful while doing research. She took classes in martial arts, which she had never done before. She takes the reader by the hand and led her discover step by step what learning martial arts means for Tehran women. This thesis is well composed, well written. Reading it is like following a calm stream, everything is in equilibrium. But beneath the apparently calm surface the water is not as calm and unchanging as it seemed at first sight. The reader discovers the role played by shared physical exercises, letting the bodies speak for themselves. Next she discovers the role of solidarity and helpfulness between the higher and lower ranks of practitioners of the martial arts. Eventually Ahmad reveals the relationship between physical power and mental power, and finally she shows what this participation in martial arts means for women’s citizenship. A beautiful and balanced thesis. Congratulations!
The first place
Finally the first place. The jury was impressed and thrilled by the excellent work done by Bélen Giaquinta. Giaquinta analyses the worldwide policy directed to so-called “child marriages”, which are seen as a major development problem and a field for intervention. In her research she analyses the “Girls not Brides”’ policy, carried out by hundreds civil society organizations in more than seventy countries, mainly in the “Global South”. The argument that a girl should have education and that a child should not be a mother” seems at first sight morally and scientifically justified and Giaquinta is not doubting the rightness of this argument, but she is critical of the ways the problem is addressed in international discourses, which does have consequences for the framing of the problem, and therefore on local and international interventions. The excellence of her research lies in the brilliant way in which she presents her argumentation. Actually what she does is more than analyzing: with a kind of chirurgical precision and firmness she opens the statements and arguments of the policymakers and shows us the hidden notions that lie behind the surface. She shows the reader the implicit - western oriented - notions that are used to define the problem and to justify intervention. Giaquinta uses a lens - or should we say a “scalpel” - which is derived from post-development theory, post-colonial feminism and the new sociology of childhood. She analyses – sharp an lucid – seven different policy papers concerning GNB.
She introduces herself as someone, originally from the Global South, who has been involved in a Girl Not Brides program herself and has participated in many conferences and meetings on GNB. The question which asks herself is: Must we see child marriages as the problem, or must we see child marriages as a manifestation of deeper underlying problems such as perpetual inequality between the Global South and the Global North, and ongoing local and national struggles with the consequences of modernity. Moreover: what is a child, what is maturity? Being eighteen, starting menstruation, being initiated, marriage itself or becoming a mother? What is actually a Western concept and what is projection? How do Western concepts of free choice, autonomy and agency relate to local concepts of identity, family, choice and being a good daughter? Giaquinta lets the brains of the reader work hard. Her work is of outstanding quality, commitment and intelligence. After finishing reading one of the members of the jury said: “Every anthropology student should read this excellent piece of work!” Congratulations!
Dit is een verkorte versie van de speech van Marion den Uyl bij de uitreiking van de Marjan Rens/LOVA-scriptieprijs 2017