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Marie Münch and Wouter de Rijk win Political Science bachelor’s thesis prizes for 2020

For the first time in the history of the Van den Berg prize, there are two winners: the ‘traditional’ one for the best thesis by a student in the Dutch bachelor’s programmes in Political Science, and, as of 2020, one for a graduate from the International Relations and Organisations (IRO) specialisation. Wouter de Rijk’s work on social movements was the best final paper in ’Politicologie/Internationale Politiek’. Among the first cohort of IRO-graduates, Marie Münch stood out with a study of civil conflict in Africa.

Marie Münch, ‘The Impact of Agricultural Intensification on Civil Conflict in Africa’

Marie Münch was one of the six nominated students in the programme Political Science: International Relations and Organisations (IRO). In her thesis she investigates the link between agricultural intensification and civil conflict—two important phenomena whose relationship to each other has not been widely recognised.

‘The Impact of Agricultural Intensification on Civil Conflict in Africa’, which was written under the supervision of Babak Rezaee Daryakenari and second reader Frits Meijerink, develops a theoretical framework to understand how agricultural intensification can influence civilians’ grievances, and thus civil conflict. In the empirical section of the project, Marie Münch provides evidence that agricultural intensification can increase civil conflict while making clear that this relationship is conditional on whether the intensification increases agricultural productivity. These findings have implications for governance choices in many countries.

The jury, formed by Simon Chauchard and Daniel Thomas, praise Marie Münch’s thesis for its ‘theoretical innovation, scientific rigour, clear writing, nuanced conclusions, and relevance to societal issues.’ A well-deserved winner in the first of a hopefully long streak of accomplished IRO thesis authors.

Wouter de Rijk, ‘Collective Identity in Non-Hierarchical Social Movements. The Case of Extinction Rebellion’

As in the IRO category, there were six contenders for the best thesis by a student in the programme Politicologie and the specialisation Internationale politiek. Wouter de Rijk’s treatise, ‘Collective Identity in Non-Hierarchical Social Movements. The Case of Extinction Rebellion’, ultimately claimed the first spot.

Wouter de Rijk asks the question how non-hierarchical social movements manage to maintain a collective idenity and looks at the case of ‘Extinction Rebellion’, a ‘diverse group of people trying to attempt to halt the climate and ecological crisis through peaceful, creative and disruptive actions’. He uses the concepts of ‘framing’ and ‘narrative’ and engages in ‘participant observation’. The jury, consisting of Joop van den Berg, Hilde van Meegdenburg, Martijn Mos and Rex van der Kruit, was very impressed by this approach: ‘daring and original’. Wouter de Rijk, supervised by Petr Kopecký and second reader Frank de Zwart, further displayed a ‘thorough understanding of the literature and methodological soundness’.

Youtube ceremony

Normally, the Van den Berg Thesis Prize is awarded during the bachelor’s graduation ceremony. Marie Münch and Wouter de Rijk, however, did not receive their well-deserved prizes in person. Given the restrictions currently imposed by COVID-19 on all live events, the ceremony for the class of 2020 was a pre-recorded broadcast. It can be viewed here:

Youtube channel Leiden University Institute of Political Science

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