Lionel Cliffe Prize 2021 for the Best Leeds Undergraduate Dissertation in African Studies goes to Shannon de’Vries

The Leeds University Centre for African Studies is delighted to announce the winner of the 2021 Lionel Cliffe Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation on a topic relevant to African Studies at the University of Leeds.

Having carefully considered eight nominated and excellent dissertations from five different Schools, the judges were left with a tough decision. The final call was in favour of Shannon de’Vries, for the dissertation titled Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Liberatory Capacity of Language and Education in Patriarchal and Colonial Contexts, with which she completed her degree in English Literature.

Engaging the longstanding debate about colonial education and its languages in postcolonial African societies, and carefully navigating the binary scheme of Eurocentrism versus Afrocentrism, de’Vries makes an original move in arguing for the empowering elements of English acquisition and education. Building on the classic work of Ngugi wa Thiongo, the more recent work of Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, and a range of other scholars, the dissertation brings philosophical and theoretical agendas deftly into a productive conversation with literary criticism. Developing an original yet unfashionable argument, the work shows critical and independent thinking on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the selected literary texts by Buchi Emecheta and Tsitsi Dangarembga.

Lionel R. Cliffe (1936–2013) was Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds, and a founding member of what became the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and of the journal Review of African Political Economy. A prolific and internationally recognised scholar, his work focused on the struggle for land rights and freedom in Africa. In 2002, the African Studies Association of the UK marked his career with the Distinguished Africanist award.

Congratulations to Shannon, and to her supervisor Dr Brendon Nicholls!