Join us for a very special roundtable session featuring the recipients of our MA Prize 2021/22 accolades! Our speakers will share their award-winning and shortlisted research, featured in their MA Prize submissions. A wonderfully diverse range of topics will be discussed, from community-building among and by women in Black British Leeds to an examination of non-white artistic paradigms in the feminist Pan Yuliang’s art. Don’t miss out!
Wednesday, 23 November 2022, 12.30pm GMT
Sign up on Zoom here.
MA Prize 2021/22 Lunchtime Roundtable Celebration
Olivia Wyatt, MA Prize 21/22 Overall Winner: ‘Caribbean Women and The Protection of Community in Leeds’
Communities are inherently political because they are safe spaces that are constructed to the exclusion of others (those perceived as a threat to the interests of the local inhabitants); however, the politics of specific communities are often missed within research that deploys a nationwide approach to the study of women’s history and Black British history. By exploring the role of women in the protection of a community centred around a shared Caribbean heritage in the inner-city suburb of Chapeltown, this paper sheds light on an overlooked aspect of Black women’s activism while documenting the politics of protecting community: the disagreements among activists over the needs of the Caribbean population in Chapeltown. Additionally, it reveals the ways in which women often assumed an ‘uneasy’ position in the 1970s: many challenged racism within state institutions while needing to cooperate with the state to attain better community resources. Therefore, this paper charts the ways in which Black women – who were further marginalised by the state on the basis of their class and ethnicity – utilised multiple channels to address the requirements of the community that they sought to protect.
Olivia Wyatt is a PhD researcher at QMUL exploring the politics of complexion within twentieth-century Black Britain. She has written for BBC Radio 4, History Today and the History Matters journal, and her chapter on the community activism of African-Caribbean women in Chapeltown will feature in the second New Perspectives on Black British History, edited by Professor Hakim Adi and due to published by Pluto Press in June 2023.
Ruby Ekkel, MA Prize 21/22 Runner-Up: ‘Vegetarians, Vivisectors and Violationism: Gender and the Non-human Animal in Anna Kingsford’s Life and Writing’
Anna Kingsford (1846-1888) was an influential figure within the Victorian vegetarian movement, who argued that abstinence from meat laid the foundation for all physical, social, moral, and spiritual progress. Like many other vegetarian women of the later nineteenth century, she also actively opposed the practice of vivisection – operating on live animals for scientific or medical purposes – and was deeply engaged in the ‘woman question’ of her period. This paper addresses Kingsford’s ideas about non-human animals and gender and examines the complex relationships between them. It argues that Kingsford’s vegetarianism lay at the centre of her world view and profoundly shaped her engagement with antivivisectionism and feminism. Through an investigation of her intertwined commitments to animal and women’s causes, Kingsford’s multifaceted and deeply considered conceptualisation of animals is reconstructed: one which was founded on scientific research, spiritual beliefs, and personal experience. This conceptualisation closely interacted with, but was not merely an extension of, her ideas about femininity, gender, and women’s emancipation. In foregrounding Kingsford’s vegetarianism, a movement frequently overlooked in existing scholarship on Victorian reformism and politics, I challenge accounts which subsume the nuanced ideas of vegetarians and other animal protectionists within purportedly more significant causes.
Ruby Ekkel is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, where she is the recipient of the RSSS Director’s Award for Higher Degree Research. She completed a Masters degree in Global, Transnational and Spatial History at the University of St Andrews, studying the intersections of animal welfare and women’s movements in Victorian Britain. More widely, Ruby researches women’s history and environmental history, with award-winning published work on the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She also co-edits a podcast, The Bush Bash, about Australian environmental history.
Beth Price, MA Prize 21/22 Runner-Up: ‘How Far Can Pan Yuliang’s Nudes Be Considered “Feminist” Art?’
Pan Yuliang 潘玉良 (1895-1977) was a prolific and revolutionary Chinese artist, who lived through radical social and political change in China and Europe. Despite her thousands of works and her lifetime success, the majority of scholarship about her focuses on what happened to her rather than what she produced. When Pan’s work is used as a source, it is only analysed through comparing her work with European art. This paper seeks to address this imbalance and recentre Pan Yuliang as a radical artist and even feminist. Through analysing her caimo 彩墨 ink-and-watercolour paintings of naked women using visual analysis techniques, this paper considers the meaning behind the signs, symbolism, and compositional choices Pan painted. This paper addresses two key arguments: whether her works were “nudes” and whether her works were “Feminist” Art. These lines of enquiry lead to broader consideration of the nude as a form of art, the intersection of gender and nationality in art, and continued systemic Eurocentrism in the field of art history and even area studies.
Beth is a writer and researcher based in Edinburgh. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2021 with a master’s degree in Chinese Studies. Her research focus is twentieth-century visual media and the intersection of culture and gender identity in China, paying particular attention to the influence of urban media on wider society. She is also one of the blog editors for the WHN and is a co-founder of Breakdown Education, an interdisciplinary community education platform.
Anna Dearden, MA Prize 21/22 Highly Commended: ‘“Damned Sapphists”: The Experiences of Sexually Transgressive Women, c. 1740-1840’
Often, historiography concerning sexually transgressive women in the past has focused primarily on determining the nature of their sexual preferences. This is particularly the case in relation to historiography that considers prominent sexually transgressive women from the long eighteenth century, such as the Ladies of Llangollen. This paper argues that, as a result of our preoccupation with hiding or drawing out the exact sexual identities of women like the Ladies of Llangollen, we are sometimes guilty of neglecting the women themselves, their actions and experiences. Indeed, we are better able to understand these women’s lives when we move beyond the “were they or weren’t they” question which has sometimes “bogged down” analyses of sexually transgressive women in the past. This paper argues that the same-sex desires and intimacies of these women are abundantly clear and instead focuses on the lived experiences of a circle of sexually transgressive women who lived between 1740 and 1840. The paper looks specifically at the self-fashioning practises and identity constructions of these women, their responses to British society’s myriad public condemnations of female same-sex desire, and their attempts to deal with the lost and lacking same-sex lovers and connections in their lives. Ultimately, it argues that whilst their lived experiences were inhomogeneous in some senses, depending on a plethora of factors unique to the individual such as gender identity, social status, and personality, all the women considered expressed extraordinary amounts of agency. They lived transgressive lives in ways that extended far beyond their sexual activities and constructed resilient identities that simultaneously reflected the authentic queer self and appeared outwardly respectable to protect them from the attacks of a homophobic society.
Anna is a PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham. Having very much enjoyed her explorations into the histories of sexuality and lived experience during her Masters, she has sidestepped onto a different path for her doctoral research. Anna’s research now considers how British household networks (including nuclear and extended family units, close friends, and domestic servants etc.) travelling between Britain and South Asia in the employ of the East India Company from 1757-1833 experienced such mobility as well as life “abroad”. Anna sits on steering committees for the Birmingham Eighteenth Century Centre and the Midlands branch of the Women’s History Network and is funded by the Wolfson Foundation.