Leila Strelitz, Wan Yii Lee and Samuel McQuillen win 2021 MPhil prizes

21 September, 2021

Congratulations to Leila Strelitz, Wan Yii Lee and Samuel McQuillen who have won the 2021 prizes for their performance in the MPhil in Development Studies.

Leila Strelitz of Pembroke College received the Eugene Havas Memorial Prize, the prize for the best overall performance.

Leila's thesis analysed the legal case, Unemployed People’s Movement v Premier, Province of the Eastern Cape and Others, where a cross-class and cross-race coalition of social movements and civic organisations in a South African city sought to have their local municipality dissolved for its failure to deliver basic services. As an instantiation of lawfare and insurgent citizenship, this case was used both to interrogate these conceptual frames and explore the place and efficacy of law in advancing marginalised peoples’ struggles for social change in South Africa.

The case study revealed that law in South Africa exists as a multiplicity of understandings, symbols, sites, and tools, and cannot be reduced to a unifying conception of formal rules and dictates. Because of law’s multiplicity, lawfare does not operate in straightforward or intuitive ways that conform to its theorisation. While potentially maintaining larger relations of power, it also opens up spaces in which these relations may not only be contested, but also changed.

Leila will stay on at ODID to do the DPhil in International Development. 

Wan Yii Lee of St Edmund Hall received the Papiya Ghosh Prize, the prize for the best thesis.

Her thesis presented a history of state-driven modernisation in Singapore from the 1960s onwards, by following the life of an element in the built environment – a single commercial mixed-use building called People’s Park Complex. Constructed and opened soon after independence as part of the city’s urban renewal, the Complex was designed by a team of activist architects, developed by a maverick private developer, and frequented by a public responding in diverse ways to the rapid pace of modernisation.

It was conceived and managed at the nexus of multiple stakeholders and their visions of development, as a building that privately houses public space, introduced new modes of shopping, living, and nation-building, and continues to act as a site of contesting modernities to this day. This dissertation thus uses the Complex’s 50-year history (documented in archives, oral history records, and other public documents) as a unique analytical prism in the built environment that refracts various perspectives on national development, state-led modernisation, and reactions to modernisation at different points in time, in contrast to official narratives of development. 

Wan Yii has now started working in the Ministry of Transport in Singapore as a policy executive, to take her interest in the relationship between urban infrastructure, politics, and development further. 

Samuel McQuillen of Wolfson College received the Examiners’ Prize.

His thesis explored the relationship between developmental discourse, photography, and participatory documentary making within the context of the American War on Poverty in central Appalachia. He argued that popular discourse fundamentally shapes how visual representations of development recipients are topically and aesthetically composed, but also contends that the materiality of a context simultaneously influences imagery in intimate – yet largely unpredictable – ways.

Samuel will also return to ODID as a DPhil student, where he will expand his thesis into a doctoral project focusing on participatory poverty measurement in central Appalachia. 

Find out more about the MPhil in Development Studies.