2012 IIAS National Master's Thesis Prize Winner
The 2012 IIAS National Master's Thesis Prize went to Rebecca Bego, who graduated from the University of Amsterdam in August 2012. Rebecca wrote here thesis in cultural anthropology entitled 'The Roots of the Skyline. Urban Activism and Cultural Heritage in Hong Kong'.
"the author succeeds in bringing heritage studies to another level because she convincingly shows how activists and local residents use ‘heritage’ as a powerful strategy to appropriate the discourse on their own urban destiny. In doing so heritage enters a wider field in which new definitions of community compete with grand impersonal schemes of urban planning. It is for this reason that we decided to award the IIAS Thesis Prize 2012 to Rebecca Bego".
During a festive ceremony at Leiden University's Faculty Club on 4 December, she was awarded a 3-month IIAS fellowship to write a PhD project proposal or a research article.
The other nominees were
Manya Koetse(Leiden University), The ‘Magic’ of Memory. Chinese and Japanese Re-Remembrances of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
Yinyin Liu (University of Wageningen), Dream with the Poetic Blue. The Poetic Aesthetics of Contemporary Chinese Landscape with Experiencing Water.
Read here what the jury had to say about the academic work of all three nominees.
'The Roots of the Skyline. Urban Activism and Cultural Heritage in Hong Kong', by Rebecca Bego,University of Amsterdam.
Rebecca Bego investigated heritage in the context of urban activism in Hongkong. In the shade of the impressive skyline that characterizes Hongkong with its hyper density – and which is at least for those in power the new heritage of the place – urban activists try to intervene in new large scale schemes of urban planning which are intended to transform the crowded town from a British postcolony into a Chinese future. The clashes between activists and local residents and authorities described and investigated in this thesis concerned the demolition or preservation of the central police station
And Wing Lee Street in the central business area of Hongkong. At first sight such a research on the preservation of tangible heritage sounds not extremely innovative. This would we misleading. Backed by a broad theoretical knowledge, based on very good fieldwork , the resulting thesis is very well written. Theory, case studies, illustrations and analysis are nicely integrated in a smooth and inviting. Narrative.
More important however is the fact that the author succeeds in bringing heritage studies to another level because she convincingly shows how activists and local residents use ‘heritage’ as a powerful strategy to appropriate the discourse on their own urban destiny. In doing so heritage enters a wider field in which new definitions of community compete with grand impersonal schemes of urban planning. It is for this reason that we decided to award the IIAS Thesis Prize 2012 to Rebecca Bego.
The ‘Magic’ of Memory. Chinese and Japanese Re-Remembrances of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), by Manya Koetse, Leiden University.
Manya Koetse’s thesis ventures into a sensitive area from an interesting angle. Looking at and comparing the way in which Chinese and Japanese museums portray the last Japanese-Chinese war generally and the Nanjing massacre in particular leads to new insights into the process of reconstructing a painful past. Koetse’s thesis pays attention to both the techniques of heritage construction, putting them in a global context, and the results they may or may not achieve. This sheds new light on the Vergangenheitsbewältigung in both countries and a deeper understanding of its influence on the current state of Chinese-Japanese relations.
Such a thesis can only result from research carried out in both China and Japan, carried out by someone who masters both languages, which in itself is already an impressive achievement.
Dream with the Poetic Blue. The Poetic Aesthetics of Contemporary Chinese Landscape with Experiencing Water, by Yinyin Liu, University of Wageningen.
Grappling with the roots of contemporary alienation brought in the realm of daily life by the massive transformation taking place in China as a consequence of the forces of today’s capitalist “globalization”, Yin Yin Liu revisits traditional Chinese philosophical and aesthetical conceptions with their emphasis on the power of emotions and ways to reach them through the notion of poetic landscape. She finds water and the experience of living with water -- an experience not just found in China but also in Europe, as in the case of the Netherlands -- an essential factor capable of fulfilling this quest for a poetic aesthetics and a solution to modern urban alienation in China. She applies this approach by using the case study of the island-scape of Chongming near Shanghai.
This is a promethean attempt which goes beyond the imposed exercise of an architecture master's thesis, endowing it with a deeply humanistic approach that recognizes the need for citizens of the twenty-first century to reconnect with nature and their aspiration to a truly sustainable living condition (i.e. for Liu, the term "sustainability" does’nt limit its reaches to ecological, technical and economic considerations, but also to the aesthetic and poetic dimension as well).