School of Geography and the Environment undergraduate student Eliza Norris (Keble College) has been awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Political Geography Research Group Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2020 for her work on subterranean hospitals in the Middle East.
Eliza's dissertation titled 'Rehabilitating the "artery of life": survival, resilience and medical care in the underground hospital' examines underground hospitals in Syria and Israel. Arising due to the deliberate targeting of medical infrastructure as a tactic of war, subterranean clinics aim to provide the continuation of medical care in the face of direct physical, chemical and biological attack.
Her research utilised a comparative methodology to examine facilities in both nations. Specifically, it sought to examine their materiality and functionality and how this varies with the state of conflict and socio-economic status of the nation, and the rhythms of inclusion and exclusion of the bodies that occupy them. Throughout these lines of enquiry the underground hospital is read as a biopolitical space.
The judging panel commented that Eliza's work "showed a sophistication in use of theory and an excellent, well thought out methodological design." Her gathering of primary data from Israel and Syria was also deemed very impressive.
Eliza said, "The highlight of my degree was definitely my dissertation. The opportunity to conduct independent research on a subject completely of your choosing was an incredibly challenging, yet fulfilling endeavour."
"I was initially attracted to study geography because of the breadth of the discipline. I'd always enjoyed both humanities and sciences, and geography provided a great synthesis of the two. I chose Oxford because I felt as though it would provide a unique university experience and I was drawn to the diversity of the course provided by the Options papers. Before you arrive at Oxford I think everyone is worried about being out of their depth academically and it can be quite intimidating. Whilst it can take a bit of adjusting in the first term you soon realise that all of the students are in the same boat and the tutors are there to support you and make you thrive academically, rather than catch you out."
She plans to embark on a Masters in International Relations and then pursue a career in political risk and security intelligence, or the diplomatic services.