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We are the UK association for all those who research, study and teach global development issues

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What is Development Studies

What is development studies and decolonising development.

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We have around 1,000 members, made up of individuals and around 40 institutions

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The DSA Conference is an annual event which brings together the development studies community

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Our conference this year is themed "Social justice and development in a polarising world"

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A series of workshops exploring North-South interdisciplinary research with key messages and reports

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DSA Masters Dissertation Prize 2024 winners

Ana Palma Garcia from IDS is the winner of the DSA’s Masters Dissertation Prize 2024 and Mengjun Huang from ODID, at the University of Oxford was highly commended.

Ana Palma Garcia from the Institute of Development Studies has been announced the winner of the DSA’s Masters Dissertation Prize 2024 for her work entitled: “Co-constructing notions of inclusion with Deaf women in Colombia throughout cooperative inquiry“. Highly Commended was Mengjun Huang from ODID, at the University of Oxford for a dissertation entitled Pursuing ‘Freedom’ in Beijing’s Urban Waste Economy: Desire, becoming, and loss of rural migrant waste workers in China”

Since 2015 the DSA has awarded an annual dissertation prize to Masters’ students working in the field of international development, development studies and development economics. This annual prize is awarded to the best masters’ level dissertation in these fields of study.

Ana’s dissertation explores inclusion of Deaf women in Colombia, with a focus on alternative models that emphasise intersectionality and differing experiences of disability, gender, and Deafhood. It does so through a collaborative research approach with Deaf women, describing the dissertation as a synthesis of a cooperative inquiry.

The judges described Ana’s dissertation as an original and beautifully written dissertation, whose use of action research – entirely appropriate in this context – makes it highly distinctive. The co-inquiry process was clearly described and linked to validity criteria, showing how this built over time as it moved from building trust to collective analysis and feedback.”

“The researcher showed deep contextual knowledge, for example, in the rationale they gave for choosing their interpreter. This was also evident in their reflections on methodological limitations, including the challenges of inclusivity and moving from a pedagogical to a facilitatory role. While the findings are presented as primarily methodological, they were also substantive, around the redefinition of notions of inclusion. The final section pulls this together and relates it to Batiwala’s (2018) conception of power.”

“There is a particularly imaginative use of images in the dissertation – drawings of sign language used in the research process. What makes this impressive and important is the note at the start of the dissertation which explains why and situates this within a political and ethical approach to the research and engaging with the reader in better understanding Deafness and forms of communication.”

The judges concluded that: “Ana Palma-Garcia’s dissertation is an interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking read that is also one of the best examples of current methodological praxis in development studies. In nominating it as this year’s winner of the DSA Masters Dissertation Competition, we hope to give it the visibility it deserves.”

Speaking to IDS about the DSA Dissertation Prize and winning the IDS’s own dissertation awards Ana said: “The judges’ recognition of the value of action research methodologies as the future of development praxis fills me with hope; it is affirming that sustainable change is a collective effort, born out of dialogue, participation, and the commitment to foster meaningful transformation within our communities.”

Ana will receive £300, plus full funding to attend DSA2024 to present her research in person.

Highly commended

Mengjun Huang from ODID, at the University of Oxford was highly commended for a dissertation entitled Pursuing ‘Freedom’ in Beijing’s Urban Waste Economy: Desire, becoming, and loss of rural migrant waste workers in China” which the judges found to be “a very impressive piece of work, a valuable contribution to the field of development studies, and is really worthy of commendation in this year’s DSA Masters Dissertation Competition.”

The panel of judges found Menjung’s dissertation to be a highly original and engaging study. “It advances a highly original and interesting argument around the concepts of “freedom” and “desirable futures” in a context of shifting mobilities among waste workers in Beijing, China, and how these can both give individuals a sense of belonging and meaning as well as loss and detachment. The study is conceptually and analytically strong, drawing on original, ethnographic fieldwork in a challenging environment, across a range of sites to ensure that the different dimensions of the work (gender roles, different migratory experiences) are brought out. “

“The literature review is meticulous and nuanced, clearly unpacking key concepts, intelligently weaving together relevant literatures, and demonstrating where the gaps are and how the dissertation will fill them. It is located within a wider body of relevant literature, drawing on a careful scrutiny of Chinese and non-Chinese literature sources, situating this as part of a set of global issues as well as specific to the Chinese socio-political context. It offers helpful directions on where it builds on existing research, emphasising in particular the added angle of migration and respondents’ wider “worlds” beyond the city.”

“The discussion of ethnographic methods, ethics, and positionality is careful, reflective and comprehensive. The study is also very well structured and presented, supported very effectively by the inclusion of images, diagrams, and quotations/vignettes, which together bring the work to life and help the reader to situate some of the discussions, contexts and analysis. The study offers interesting conclusions and opportunities for further exploration, including developing a deeper understanding of how “freedom” can also lead to a sense of “loss” (of place, family connections, culture) and of being directionless. Such experiences may well transcend the immediate context of this study, offering insights and potential for further inquiry and research within other locales.”

About the prize

Every year, all Development Studies and Economics departments in the UK are invited to submit one MA or MSc dissertation each for consideration the DSA Masters Dissertation Prize. This year nominations were accepted in the autumn of 2023. The DSA asked all the Heads of Centres of DSA affiliated institutions in the UK to nominate the highest scoring masters’ dissertation (MA or MSc) awarded on their international development, or related subject, programmes in 2023. We were happy to accept nominations of extended essays but these needed to be of exceptional quality to win when compared to longer dissertations. The nominations were evaluated by an academic panel from the DSA. Decisions were made in early February 2024 and the winner and their department notified.

You can read more about the Masters Dissertation Prize and access the back catalogue of winning dissertations to the DSA Masters dissertation prize page.

The DSA is committed to supporting the development of students and early career researchers. Find out more about what the DSA offers students and early career researchers on our website.