Winners announcement: CBRL 2022 master’s dissertation prizes in Levantine studies

We are delighted to announce the winners of CBRL’s Master’s Dissertation Prizes – 2022!

Each year, CBRL invites UK based heads of departments and chairs of departmental examination boards to nominate one final year first-class dissertation in Levantine studies, ancient or contemporary.

The prize evaluating committee, made up of CBRL trustees, commented that the winning dissertations are outstanding, and fully deserving of the prizes. They also noted that the dissertations reflect genuine original work and have done justice to the topics under scrutiny. 

The winner of the Master’s Prize for Contemporary Levantine Studies is Judith Hoppermann from Glasgow University

Judith Hoppermann

Dissertation title: The Impact of Colonialism and Neoliberalism on Agriculture in the Occupied West Bank: A Sector Between Competing Visions of Palestine 

In this paper, I examine the reasons for the drastic decline of  agriculture – arguably the most political sector – in the occupied West Bank (oWB) from the Oslo Accords in 1993 to the onset of the Covid-Pandemic in 2020. Drawing on an extensive range of academic and non-academic sources (incl. policy strategy papers), I argue that two sets of actors – Israel and the Western donor community with the Palestinian National Authority – have deliberately de-developed the sector because it did not align with their political agendas and respective visions for the oWB.

Using a Marxist political economy framework, I demonstrate how top-down neoliberal development and Israel’s settler colonialism revolve around accumulation by dispossession, subsequently resulting in (1) small-holder farmers’ proletarianization; (2) the territory’s dependency on Israel and foreign aid for food imports; and (3) threatening Palestinian farmers’ rural communities and rural identity tied to farming the land. In showcasing the impact of this ‘colonialism-neoliberalism nexus’ on agriculture that has also been at play elsewhere, the paper challenges notions of Palestinian ‘exceptionalism’ often employed to justify Israel’s violence and ineffective development efforts in the oWB.”

This dissertation was written as part of Judith’s postgraduate degree at SOAS, University of London. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow.

The Masters Prize Winner for Levantine Archaeology or History is Richard Pearson from UCL Institute of Archaeology

Richard Pearson

Dissertation Title:  Identifying Pastoralism and Sedentarization through Sheep Isotope (87SR/86SR) Analysis at Late Bronze II-Iron I Transition Tall al-‘Umayri 

“One of the most dramatic changes from the Late Bronze to the Iron ages in the Southern Levant was a widespread process of pastoralist sedentarization. Whilst many assumptions have been made, archaeologists are yet to study this process in depth due to misconceptions that minimal data exists. To overcome this, my dissertation examines a single settlement exhibiting the hallmarks of a population undergoing sedentarization, Tall al-‘Umayri. Data on past mobility is collected through strontium isotopic analysis of sheep herded to ‘Umayri for a feasting event in the Late Bronze II/Iron I period. To compare mobility of these specimens, results are also obtained from the Early Bronze III, a period where the population demonstrate a primarily sedentary lifestyle.

My results indicate that biomolecular analyses can be used to study pastoralism and sedentarization. The data demonstrates far greater mobility in the Late Bronze II/ Iron I compared to the Early Bronze III. Further, my research suggests that pastoralists and sedentarists feasted together during the Late Bronze II/Iron I, and some pastoralists travelled a large distance (>100km) to reach the site. As there were other nearer and more practical sites for the pastoralists to feast at, this signals that ‘Umayri was part of a wider kinship group that predated sedentarization. This challenges the established idea that new cultures emerge at the point of sedentarization. It also highlights that a community would respond differently to the triggers causing sedentarization and the transitional stage whereby communities began to settle took far longer than has been previously assumed.”

A Commendation was awarded to Hannah Schutt, UCL, in the Contemporary Levantine Studies category.

Hannah Schutt

Dissertation title: Mapping movement, mapping resistance: A countermapping of the Mediterranean Sea through mobilities and mobilisations

“Human movement across the Mediterranean Sea is frequently thought of through narratives of exceptionalism, (il)legality, and deservingness which naturalises the lens of security and restriction. In my thesis I aim to think with movement and explore the creative-intellectual and emotional work it articulates.

I delve into the emotional and practiced geographies of the Mediterranean Sea by reading together three projects: The street performances of a clowning group in Egypt, the replica of the new clocktower in Homs, Syria, in Katsikas refugee camp, and the practice of burning one’s identity papers used by people in the Maghreb for migrating clandestinely. My analysis untangles liberation and futurities from the totalising logic of nation states and reads the Mediterranean Sea against the grain.”

Congratulations to our winners!