Chloe Dawson is the first winner of the Ronnie Frankenberg Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Dissertation in Sociology

Winning the Ronnie Frankenberg Prize for my dissertation was one of the proudest moments of my life.

It is an honour to be associated with such a figure who has shaped and challenged the way we study sociology today. This is also a notion I have always held when studying sociology at Keele, that we should always challenge the way we view people and their behaviour, never taking stereotypes or popular views as something not to be explored. Due to this, my dissertation focussed on the ways in which women were excluded from the renowned sociological narrative of urban city life in the nineteenth century. For instance, I explored the way the department store revolutionised women’s new-found access to the city; from the Victorian, middle class values that chained women to domestic life, towards the possibility of them experiencing the city as males have always done. 

My research also led me to examine the portrayal of women in nineteenth century impressionist art, especially their activity within the public sphere. This allowed me to uncover how they have been excluded from the sociological writing of great urban theorists such as Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Charles Baudelaire and David Harvey. Throughout, contemporary views were considered, such as Janet Wolff and Mica Nava’s, who tended to disagree on whether women were ignored within the nineteenth century city or that they simply were not very active during this time.
Interest in this topic has always been a part of my studies at Keele, as a History and Sociology dual honours student I have always enjoyed exploring the views and experiences of the past. The modules available to me have continuously allowed me to enhance this knowledge over my three-year degree; especially due to ‘Classical Sociology’, a first-year module, that introduced me to Georg Simmel and urban sociology thought. Meanwhile, history modules constantly expanded my understanding of the nineteenth century and the way women experienced life, they also deepened my skills of researching and writing about the past. Also, sociology at Keele aided my ability to view historical narrative with a critical eye, but also how these small individual accounts can help us to understand how society, as a whole, was experienced. 

These are a few of the skills I will continue to use during my next chapter at Keele for my Masters in Social Science Research Methods. I have decided to stay at Keele due to my incredible experience over the past three years, not only for the beautiful campus or the people I have met but also because of the fantastic support I have been given from the university staff. My lecturers and tutors have always been there to guide me and help me achieve what I have today, providing constant assistance and encouragement. 

When I left school 3 years ago, with average A-Level results, I never could have imagined being given such an award – Keele has taught me that with enough time, dedication, and support, you can work hard enough to achieve such things as the Ronnie Frankenberg Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Dissertation in Sociology. I think he would be very proud of Keele’s sociology department today.

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