It is a pleasure to announce this year’s winner of the Daniel Heinisus prize for the best master thesis in political science. The winner is… Laura Van Megen from Leiden University!
Laura wrote a thesis with the title: China’s #Ricebunnies localizing #MeToo: Norm localization of anti-sexual harassment sentiment: a PRC case study. In a nutshell: The thesis starts from the puzzling observation that the me-too-movement has quite successfully influenced policy-making in the People’s Republic of China, unlike other social movements which are visibly under attack in the country. Relying on a process-tracing analysis, Laura finds that that the movement has been successful in localizing the international norm on anti-sexual harassment—that is, in making the international norm congruent with local norms—and that this is why the movement has been able to successfully diffuse its message.
The jury believes that this thesis deserves the prize, foremost, because it is an ambitious piece of work. The Chinese case is very relevant but also rather inaccessible and hard to study. Still, Laura has managed to do a substantial number of interviews with activists, researchers and victims; and she has combined this with an analysis of policy documents. This is impressive for a master thesis.
The jury also praises the theoretical and methodological solidity of the thesis. Laura has found an interesting theoretical angle to look at her case, and her method is well-chosen. Process-tracing is sometimes applied in a superficial manner, but that is not the case here. The indicators of each phase of norm localization are clearly outlined and then systematically tested, making the results robust and persuasive.
Finally, the thesis is very well-written, and rich in information but also concise, which we believe is an asset too.
There can only be one winner, but this does not mean that there was only one good master thesis. Indeed, the competition was fierce this year. No less than 24 master theses were nominated: 14 from Flemish universities and 10 from Dutch universities. The jury was pleased by the diversity of topics and by the good work of many master students. In particular we want to congratulate Sem Duijndam (Maastricht University) and Maliene Kip (Radboud University), who were on the shortlist together with the winner. Well done!
Trineke Palm (Universiteit Utrecht)
Lisanne de Blok (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Simon Otjes (Universiteit Leiden)
Katja Biedenkopf (KU Leuven)
Julie Sevenans (Universiteit Antwerpen)