Population Geography Research Group
The Population Geography Research Group (PopGRG) aims to provide a forum for British population geographers to present and discuss the latest findings of research in the sub-discipline; to debate relevant theoretical, philosophical and methodological issues and to consider policy dimensions; and to promote the standing of population geography both within the United Kingdom and also on the international stage through its conference and publication activities.
The PopGRG maintains a busy programme of activities throughout the year, including a biennial population geography meeting designed to attract population geographers from all over the world. The conference moves around the world and is usually held in the summer.
At least one or two themed paper sessions are organised at the Annual Conference, sometimes in partnership with other Research Groups, and the Research Group has an active email list used to distribute information about news and events to members.
Read more about news and activities at the PopGRG website.
Winner of the Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize
The prize is named in honour of Professor Bob Woods, who passed away in 2011. Bob was an esteemed population geographer, with interests across the sub-discipline. He made an invaluable contribution to population geography for many decades. The 2012 prize was open to any taught postgraduate (Masters) dissertation with a population geography focus and the winner of the award receives £100.
The 2012 winner is Lauren Howes for her Masters Dissertation in the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield. Entitled Shifting and negotiating identities: the Shan in Northern Thailand the dissertation stood out for its rich and original empirical material. Based on 24 semi-structured interviews, it focused on how Shan refugees in Northern Thailand articulate, negotiate and experience their ethnic identities in exile.
The Shan have fled Burma for Thailand as a result of the ‘four cuts’ policy. Living in one location but harbouring a sense of belonging to somewhere else, the importance of language was underlined through the interviews and as part of this storytelling and collective memories featured prominently. Also significant in constructing a homeland in exile was the concentration of Shan within a relatively small area. Moreover, and related to these issues of language, memory and propinquity, there was clear evidence of the Shan passing on their ethnic identity to younger generations in exile.
Overall, the dissertation raised some fascinating issues around forced migration and identity, was grounded in a solid empirical base, and was seamlessly and eloquently written. It was certainly deserving of the inaugural Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize.
Winner of the Joanna Stilwell Prize for population geography dissertations
The winner of the first prize (£100) is Elena Giannouli of the University of Exeter for her dissertation entitled: Unequal access to higher education: what do young people from deprived socio-economic backgrounds think? This was a fascinating study that captured the reader’s attention. It was clearly written and structured around a very specific set of research questions. There was a strong policy awareness that demonstrated the contemporary relevance of the study, appropriate reference to theory, and a wide engagement with the broader literature. Ten in-depth interviews from young people living on an Essex council estate informed the study and there was extensive and clearly focused use of quotations throughout. The only problem with the thesis was that at times too many issues were raised without being followed up in depth.
The second placed dissertation (£50) was written by Jamie Dennis of the University of Southampton and entitled: Developing a geodemographic typology of attitudes to alcohol consumption in England. Jamie’s awareness of both the geodemographics methodological literature and that on topic of health and alcohol consumption was impressive. Most noteworthy, however, was the professional writing style of the thesis: which set it apart from the other entries. The data used was sound and sensible with a very interesting focus on four particular attitudes to alcohol consumption drawn from the Health Survey for England 2007. The only criticism would be that there was a lot of empirical description that at times was repetitive when more in-depth discussion, especially of policy issues and dilemmas, would have been interesting.
The third prize (£25) is awarded to Michelle Patterson of the University of Leeds who wrote a dissertation on: The Founding and Growth of Milton Keynes (new town): evidence of its change over time. Not least, Michelle achieved a feet I thought impossible: she made the subject of Milton Keynes fascinating. What stood out most was Michelle’s awareness of the historical planning policy process around the development of new towns. The dissertation was also well written with a well balanced methodology (combining observation with statistics).
The PopGRG sends its congratulations to all of this year’s winners.