DARG Undergraduate Dissertation Prize Winner

We are delighted to announce the winner of this years Undergraduate Dissertation Prize; Clara Ida Bartram Gurresø from the University of Edinburgh with the title ‘Why do People Volunteer? A Critical Study into the Motivations of International Volunteers’. Many congratulations Clara!


The DARG committee thought that Clara’s dissertation was insightful and innovative with excellent discussion of critical development issues. It was deemed to be an authoritative and professional dissertation that provides an excellent contribution to geographical knowledge on the morality of international voluntourism.

Clara’s winning dissertation can be read here.


We received many fantastic dissertations so we would like to acknowledge all of the hard work and enthusiasm from all the students whose dissertations were submitted.


The Developing Areas Research Group in conjunction with Routledge offers an annual prize for the most promising dissertation concerning ‘The Geography of Developing Areas’. The author of the winning dissertation receives £100 worth of Routledge books of their choice, and 20% discount on any further Routledge books ordered.


The prize is open to any student taking a first degree in Geography. Students taking joint degrees are eligible to enter for the prize, provided that at least half their course is in Geography. It is suggested that no Department of Geography submits more than one dissertation for this prize. Dissertations will be evaluated by three members of the DARG Committee.

DARG Postgraduate Travel Award Report- Belen Martinez

Empowering women through a non-traditional economic activity: A case study of a female operated trekking company in Ladakh


My research, based on a feminist approach, analyses how a group of women in Ladakh is navigating their gender relations in order to work in the trekking sector, a traditionally male dominated environment. By using a case study of the only all-female run travel company in Ladakh, the research addresses the impact that challenging stereotypes is having for these women. It also studies the impact that a project like this can have in contrast to an income generation program.

The idea came from a personal interest in the role of women in different cultures and how particular activities can shape women’s agency impacting individuals and wider society. Ladakh was chosen as an example of the impact of modernisation and the connection between sustainability and women. Ladakh remained almost totally isolated, until 1962 when a road was built by the Indian Army to link the region with the rest of the country. Then, in 1975, the region was opened up to foreign tourists, and the process of development began. Because this process has happened in a short period of time, it is easy to see the detrimental effect upon community and ecology that progress in Ladakh is having. In this context, women are the ones taking an active role in preserving their culture and looking for alternative incomes.


General overview

Although the importance of women’s empowerment in achieving sustainable development has been increasingly recognised, still most initiatives focus on income-generating projects for poor women in the assumption that the economic empowerment will also bring empowerment to other aspects of their lives. These initiatives are trying to respond to the need of poor women by making relatively small investments in income-generating projects. Often such projects fail because they are motivated by welfare and not development concerns, offering women temporary and part-time employment in traditionally female skills such as knitting and sewing which have limited markets. The question arises as to whether women would be more empowered if they had the option to leave traditionally female-dominated work roles and enter other economic sectors.


Research and fieldwork

Thanks to the DARG postgraduate travel award I could travel to Leh in September 2016 to conduct my research. Being there for a month and conducting face-to-face in-depth interviews to collect primary data was vital. It was important to carry out the interviews in situ so I could provide an appropriate space for participants to express themselves, as well as give examples of their everyday working lives.

The participants were all trekking guides currently working in the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC). The LWTC is a travel agency owned and operated by Ladakhi women. Local guide Thinlas Chorol founded the LWTC in 2009 to give women in Ladakh the opportunity to participate in the traditionally male-dominated areas of trekking and mountain climbing. The LWTC is the only all-female trekking agency in Ladakh, with women involved in organising and running treks, which also serves as a unique example to the rest of women in Ladakh.

In total, I conducted eleven audio-recorded interviews. These were conducted in English, which meant no translator was necessary, and therefore without anyone else present, ensuring the anonymity of participants.


Findings and Discussion

The results have shown different impacts in diverse areas and the complexity of how these women are negotiating their role between their public and private lives. By working in the mountaineering sector, they have achieved financial independence and have learnt about other cultures, improving their ability to communicate with others and bringing some self-efficacy. As well as gaining confidence from learning English and meeting foreigners, many participants seem to feel empowered by and proud of working in a role traditionally filled by men. However, in the private sphere, women are still expected to fulfil their role of carer and their household responsibilities, resulting in a double burden when they join the labour market. The research has also shown that these women are still not prepared to profoundly challenge the socio-cultural norms and expectations imposed upon them.

A high agency of decision-making was visible in their independence in controlling economic resources, which in turn shows a high level of economic empowerment. However, their participation in the village councils seems to be extremely low, which shows how unrepresented and unheard they are in the decision-making structures. These women have not yet gained the necessary confidence to insist on their voices being heard in the political sphere.

The findings demonstrate that projects focusing only on economic empowerment ignore other vital aspects of women’s empowerment, allowing social and patriarchal norms to go unchallenged and continue to limit women’s lives. Freeing women from these constraints and unlocking their potential should be considered a priority in future initiatives.


David W. Smith Essay Prize Winner 2017

The Developing Areas Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) annual essay competition is in memory of David W. Smith. David W Smith, who also published under the name of David Drakakis Smith, was an outstanding scholar committed to researching on Third World cities. He died in 1999.

The competition is open to A2 level students in England and Wales and Advanced Higher students in Scotland who are invited to write an essay of up to 1500 words to a title chosen by DARG. This year’s essay title was With reference to one city in the Global South, discuss the key opportunities and challenges that cities pose for sustainable development‘ . 

We at DARG are delighted to announce the winner of the David W. Smith Memorial Prize 2017, Anna McIntyre from Cheltenham College.  Anna’s essay offered a thorough treatment of sustainability in cities, assessing the key opportunities and challenges for sustainable development in Bamako. She wins £100 in book vouchers from Routledge Publishers.

We have also awarded a Special Commendation to Arthur Fooks, from Eton College, who wrote about Lagos, Nigeria.

Many thanks to all who submitted an essay. We hope you will continue with your work on development geography and your engagement with sustainability.

The 2018 competition will be announced in Autumn this year so please keep an eye out for details.

David W. Smith Memorial Prize

David W. Smith Memorial Prize, supported by Routledge Publishers

David W. Smith
David W. Smith

David W Smith, who also published under the name of David Drakakis Smith, was an outstanding scholar committed to researching on Third World cities. He died in 1999.

The Developing Areas Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) runs an annual essay competition in memory of David W. Smith. Our prize is £100 cheque from Routledge Publishers.

A2 level students in England and Wales and Advanced Higher students in Scotland are invited to write an essay of up to 1500 words on the following title:
With reference to one city in the Global South, discuss the key opportunities and challenges that cities pose for sustainable development.

  • Essays should be word processed, 1.5 spaced.
  • The word count does not include the reference list.

Essays must be received by Friday 10 March 2017. Please include your name, school and contact details with your essay. Your teacher must confirm that the essay is your own work.

If you would like to acknowledge receipt of your essay please indicate this in your submission email.

Submit an electronic copy to the email address below:

Dr Jessica Hope Jch84@cam.ac.uk

Any queries can be sent to Professor Nina Laurie (nina.laurie@st-andrews.ac.uk)

DARG Postgraduate Travel Prize Winner- Belen Martinez

Many congratulations to Belen Martinez who was awarded this years DARG Postgraduate travel prize. Belen is about to start her research project as part of her MSc in Sustainable Development at the University of the West of England.

The title of her research project is:

“Empowering Women through non-traditional economic activities. A case study of a female operated travel company in Ladakh”

Belen Martinez

 The research project aims to explore the involvement of women in non-traditional economic activities as a way to empower them and impact their communities. It intends to explore it by focussing on women working in a male-dominated environment such as mountaineering using the case of the Ladakhi Women Travel Company based in Leh, India.

Despite empowerment becoming a widely used term in the sustainability field, there is scant research into the empowering aspects of non-traditional work, especially in a male dominated environment. Trekking has always been a thoroughly male-dominated economic sector in Ladakh. By using the case study of the only all-female run travel company there, this research plans to address the impact of non-traditional work in relation to gender and development and how it can differ from an income generation program.

Ladakh was chosen as an example of the impact of modernisation and the connection between sustainability and women. The development in Ladakh is having a detrimental effect upon community and ecology, and women are taking an active role in preserving their culture and looking for alternative income.

This project will be framed around the ideas of Ecofeminism and the emphasis in the ways both nature and women are treated by patriarchal society. Ecofeminists agree that the domination of women and the domination of nature are fundamentally connected and that environmental efforts are therefore integral with work to overcome the oppression of women.


We wish Belen the best of luck with her research and are looking forward to her report on her return.

If you are interested in postgraduate funding from DARG the next closing date will be 1st May 2017. More information can be found on our funding page.


DARG Postgraduate Workshop- 25th May 2016

We are holding a one day event to explore the application of academic research and research skills to different sectors beyond academia. The event will be held at Senate House, London on 25th May 2016 and will include speakers from public, private and non-profit sectors.

The day will include panel discussions on the relevance of research for impact, policy and programming with a focus on how the skills you have learned during your PhD can be adapted to these areas.

Additionally, there will be the follwoing expert speakers presenting on how to effectively communicate your PhD research outside of academia.

  • Stacey Davies │ Managing Director at Practical Action Publishing
  • Jenny Cann │Head of Research, Migration & Borders Analysis at the Home Office (TBC)
  • Natalie Neil │ Senior Research & Impact Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation
  • Mark Henderson │Policy Officer – DG Trade European Commission
  • Tim Uwin │UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, and Emeritus Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also an Honorary Professor at Lanzhou Univeristy in China.
  • Dr Jay Mistry │ Reader at Royal Holloway, University of London │ Jay was the Coordinator of Project COBRA – Future Challenges, Local Solutions, an EU-funded project working with Indigenous groups in the Guiana Shield of South America.
  • Lydia Tanner │Consultant at Jigsaw Consult specialising in evaluation work relating to primary healthcare, education, community resilience and local responses to emergencies and conflict.
  • John King │Post Graduate Student at Royal Holloway researching the relationships between social science and public policy making, and how social scientists work to translate their ideas so that they can be used by policy makers.
  • Nelly Ali │Post Graduate Student at Birkberk conducting an ethnographic study with street girls and young street mothers in Cairo, Egypt. Nelly has a large blog and twitter following and will discuss the ethics of publishing PhD work online.

To book and to see updates on the confirmed speakers, please see our Eventbrite page here

Postgraduate Workshop 2016

DARG sponsored sessions at the RGS Annual Conference 2016

The RGS-IBG 2016 Annual International Conference is due to take place on Tuesday 30 August to Friday 2 September 2016 at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The conference will be chaired by Professor Peter Jackson (University of Sheffield)

The following calls for papers for DARG sponsored sessions are now live. Please see below for details and closing dates.

1. The Blue Growth Narrative and the Global South
– Celine Germond-Duret (Liverpool John Moores University,UK)
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 10-Feb-2016

2. Relational Approaches to Contemporary Indigenous Issues
– Cadey Korson (University of Oulu,Finland)
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 12-Feb-2016

3. Cities, Housing and Infrastructure: the politics of urban change

– Charlotte Lemanski (University of Cambridge, UK)
– Paula Meth (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 15-Feb-2016

4. Emergent urban spaces: A planetary perspective
– Paola Alfaro d’Alençon (Technical University Berlin, Germany)
– Ana Claudia Cardoso (Federal University of Para, Brazil)
– Philipp Horn (University of Manchester, UK)
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 12-Feb-2016

5. Economies of Care in the Postcolony
– Shari Daya, Department of Environmental & Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town
– Beth Oppenheim-Chan, Department of Environmental & Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 15-Jan-2016

6. Operations of capital: Studying the nexus of land, housing, and finance across the North-South divide
– Desiree Fields (University of Sheffield, UK)
– Stefan Ouma (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Abstract and further information
Deadline: 01-Feb-2016


Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop

The DARG Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop took place on Saturday 16th January 2016 at UCL, London and covered a range of topics to give geography undergraduates information and guidance on designing and implementing their dissertations. The day included talks on research design, the logistics of fieldwork and ethics and reflections on doing a development undergraduate dissertation. We also had methods sessions on participant observation and ethnography, using surveys, interviews and focus groups, and translation.


Thank you very much to all the students who came along and made the day such a success as well as to Jess Hope and Kate Maclean for organising.

For further events and funding opportunities from DARG please visit our website or follow us on twitter

Please select the below links to view the powerpoint lectures used on the day:

Ben Page: Research Design

Jess Hope: Logistics- Preparing for research, being in the field & leaving

Kate Maclean: Translation

Penny Vera-Sanso: Ethnography


For further information on the speakers and their contact details please see below:

Lottie Heales is a development geographer from King’s College London with a particular focus on rural livelihoods. Her research focuses on the use of agricultural microfinancing by smallholders in Malawi as well as examining the global microfinance phenomenon. She uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques in order to build more nuanced pictures of livelihoods in rural Malawi. She is a guest lecturer in the geography department of KCL and currently works as a researcher on global social innovation at the Young Foundation. Email: charlotte.heales@kcl.ac.uk 

Jessica Hope Jessica Hope is a lecturer in the Geography Department at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches political ecology and development geography. Her research contributes to political ecology by investigating the politics, power relations and conflicts that determine emerging environmental and development agendas. She is particularly interested in the politics of radical alternatives and the ways that transformative socio-environmental paths are voiced, supported or foreclosed. Her empirical focus is Bolivia. Email: jch84@cam.ac.uk

Kate Maclean is Lecturer in Social Geography at Birkbeck, University of London. She is a feminist geographer who has conducted research, as an academic and as a  development consultant, in Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Mali and Burkina Faso.  She has worked on microfinance, rural livelihoods, contraband and urban regeneration, mostly with a focus on Latin America.  She has published in various journals, including Antipode, Development and Change and Gender, Place and Culture, and has a new book out with Palgrave – ‘Social Urbanism and the politics of violence: the Medellín Miracle.’  Her latest project is entitled ‘El Alto Millionaires: Processes of displacement, identity and urban change in the Global South’and is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Email K.maclean@bbk.ac.uk

Ben Page is a development geographer with specific research and teaching interests in the relationship between international migration and international development. His expertise is primarily focused on Cameroon in Central/West Africa. Current research is examining the role of international migration in the process of of creating a new African middle class by looking at the house-building activities within Africa by members of the African diaspora. This has built on work that looked at the associational life of African diasporas and the impact of diaspora associations on development in Africa. Future work will continue to address class formation by looking at everyday activities around food.  Earlier research has analysed: (1) the history of community development in Cameroon and the role of community development in the provision of public services (2) the commodification of water in Cameroon and popular resistance to that process (3) water privatization in Cameroon (4) the history of water engineering in Cameroon and Nigeria (5) urban agriculture in Cameroon. Email:  b.page@ucl.ac.uk

Penny Vera Sanso lectures in Development Studies at Birkbeck and is Director of the Social Anthropology programme. She has a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Geography from University College London (1985) and a PhD in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths (1994). Alongside her academic career Penny has founded two housing co-operatives in north London.  Penny has published widely on later life and gender relations in India, particularly on the impact of liberalisation and the global economy on livelihoods and gender and generational relations in low-income households and, more recently, on ageism and age discrimination and the role of older people’s paid and unpaid work in supporting India’s economy.  Recently she has focused her interest in developing visual materials to make her research available to the general public.  The documentary ‘We’re Still Working’ can be seen on bit.ly/1qDR40Y (English version) and bit.ly/1n7TT9p (Hindi version).  Email p.vera-sanso@bbk.ac.uk

DARG Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop January 2016

The Developing Areas Research Group (DARG) Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop is perfect for undergraduate students who are commencing, preparing or thinking about doing a dissertation on development. The workshop will cover practical issues such as fieldwork and logistics, as well as in depth sessions on methodologies including participatory research methods, documentary analysis, visual methods, and interviews and focus groups. Sessions are held by experts in the field, and graduates in development will also be there to share their experiences.

Tickets are £10 for members, or £12 for non-members, which will include a year’s DARG membership.

Saturday, 16 January 2016 from 10:00 to 17:00 (GMT)

University College London – Gower Street London, Gt Lon WC1E 6BT GB

Tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/2016-darg-undergraduate-development-dissertation-workshop-tickets-19495211703?aff=ebrowse

darg u poster

DARG Event- Careers in Academia- June 2015

On the 5th June 2015 the annual postgraduate DARG careers workshop took place at the University of Manchester with a focus on pursuing a career in academia. It was a really fantastic and rewarding day with many inspirational and incredibly knowledgeable speakers. Here is what some of the attendees had to say about the event:

“I think one of the best things about the day was that you were able to ‘historically’ track the way the speakers were able to shape their own career direction, and the way they overcame the challenges facing anybody considering an academic job post PhD. The informal nature of the event also allowed for a deeper discussion about work-life balances and how to juggle the different types of roles you have to fulfil to progress in academia.”

“I think the workshop was really good. It got me thinking about the future… the openness of the speakers about the realities, struggles and success of the PhD process and life after was really good to hear. I think more workshops like these need to be organised.”

“I think it was an interesting workshop specially in the context that I got a first hand insight to the struggles/possibilities/flexibilities that an early career researcher can face and how to cope with them. First hand accounts are always immensely useful. Not many conferences talks about such personal journeys.”

We at DARG are really looking forward to organising next years event so please stay tuned if you would be interested in attending.