Prizes and reflections – MACYS Dissertations

As well as supporting research and bringing together academics from many disciplines CIRCY also nurtures synergies between research activity and the teaching curriculum.  This is done through an undergraduate course – the BA in Childhood and Youth: Theory and Practice, and a Masters course in Childhood and Youth Studies – both of which are now in their third year.  This is a very exciting post as it links to and celebrates the substantive work of two students on the MA in Childhood and Youth Studies (MACYS) 2013/14.

The MACYS course offers two annual prizes; The Barrie Thorne prize for best overall academic achievement and; the The Cathy Urwin prize for work with greatest impact on practice.  Each year these two dissertations, with permission from the students, are published online in our journal.  The MACYS students consistently produce original, insightful dissertations of high academic standard – this year was no exception.  For 2014 the Barrie Thorne prize was awarded to Kate Jenkinson for her dissertation entitled ‘An exploration of the motivation for change to cultural and community practices that conflict with safeguarding children law in the UK’.  The Cathy Urwin prize to Niharika Chopra for her dissertation ‘Vulnerability of the Girl Child to Rape in India: A Socio-Cultural Study’.  Abstracts and full dissertations from this year and last year can be found on the Journal page, and later in this blog Niharika will offer a thoughtful reflection on the process of writing her dissertation.


 To give some context to the prizes and the outstanding achievement of Kate and Niharika it may be helpful to explain who Cathy Urwin and Barrie Thorne were and are: 

Dr Cathy Urwin was a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and Research Fellow at the Tavistock Centre. She was an key figure within child development and pioneer in the use of psychoanalytic infant observation as a research method. Her contribution to research and practice was significant and wide ranging, including developmental psychology, the group dynamics of infants, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and clinician friendly ways of evaluating psychotherapeutic effectiveness. At the time of her death in 2012 she was involved in a project with the University of Sussex Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth exploring New Frontiers in Qualitative Longitudinal Research.

Barrie Thorne is Emerita Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley who played a key role in bringing the study of children and childhoods into the field of sociology, both through her own research and teaching, as an editor of Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research. She is the author of the highly influential book Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School (Rutgers, 1993) and a member of the international advisory board for the University of Sussex Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth.

Both Kate and Niharika put a lot of effort, and a lot of themselves into their work – they have both spoken passionately about their subjects and are currently looking for work where they can put the knowledge and insight they have gained from engaging in the MACYS course and research into practice.  Niharika has kindly written us a short reflective summary of her dissertation –  I hope that it sparks your interest enough to read both of these excellent dissertations.

Niharika Chopra- 


“Being a girl child in India is integral to my identity. And yet, the life I have led is so drastically different from those lived by millions of girls for whom a personal identity, autonomy and dignity are unknown luxuries. The very idea that young girls with whom I may have interacted with on a daily basis are silent survivors of the most heinous violation of rape is a terrifying one. The decision to write my thesis on the vulnerability of the girl child in India, thus rose from a place of anger and the strong will to direct this anger towards producing something which would take me closer to bringing about a change in the lives of millions of young girls in India who are survivors of sexual violence.

The process of writing this dissertation began from a very personal response to the issue. My wonderful supervisor Dr. Rachel Burr and my amazing group of peers helped me polish and streamline my thoughts and ideas. While conducting my research what struck me the most was how subtly the cultural and structural factors of society interact to place the girl child in a position of vulnerability. Furthermore, this interaction can be observed not only in instances of extreme violence but also in the manner in which the young girl lives her routine day, battling through daily struggles against control, prejudice and personal violations. It was particularly exciting to analyze the issue against the concept of structural violence. All that I read and understood to came together to demonstrate how structural and cultural factors interact to produce direct forms of violence, particularly rape. This brought me to my conclusive idea of how the issue of rape of the girl child cannot be addressed in a vacuum, but must be placed within her personal context from which she can derive exposure, awareness and empowerment towards the achievement of a better, safer world for herself.

Through the MACYS course and the inspiring sessions with my educators, I gained a sound academic knowledge about a range of childhood related issues, the invaluable ability to constantly question and critically analyze this knowledge, and the courage to constantly challenge myself. These are skills which I employed at every step through the writing of this dissertation and will continue to value as I take forward my endeavor to bring about a sustainable change in the lives of children in India.”


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