The Finnish Anthropological Society’s reward for the best anthropological Master’s thesis in 2019 was presented on June 1, 2020. The award was rewarded to Johanna Saviniemi from the University of Helsinki for her Master’s thesis Diversity without Legitimacy: Gender, Discourse and Recognition of Transwomen in Malaysia. Professor Laura Stark from the University of Jyväskylä chose the winner. According to Stark, all of the nominated Master’s theses were of high quality. Nonetheless, Saviniemi’s thesis best fulfilled the evaluation criteria. Stark further elaborates on these criteria in the video below.

Stark based her choice especially on the nuanced use of theory and the successful balance and interaction between research question, empirical material and theory. Additionally, Saviniemi’s research findings are relevant both for the field site and for broader theoretical questions. In Stark’s own words:

“The topic of Johanna Saviniemi’s thesis was transgender women in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her thesis asked and explicitly answered questions related to how a socially heterogeneous group of LGTB activists in Malaysia have adopted and internalized the global term ‘transgender’ in their resistance against marginalization and violence. Her analysis rested on both interviews and participant observation. Both the topic and the fieldwork were ambitious in what they demanded from the author in terms of investment and commitment. Saviniemi’s thesis provided nuanced discussions of theory related to gender, identity, politics and gender recognition, and these discussions were relevant for her research questions. Her interpretation within the thesis moved back and forth between macro-, meso- and micro-levels of analysis, and her findings pondered the complex and intertwined nature of politics, religion, culture, governance and institutional life, as these impact discourse, individual subjectivity and the material body. These findings hold much potential for broader theoretical concerns related to the health care of transgendered persons, social empowerment, and human rights based on recognition of diversity.”

The Society has given the 200-euro award for the best Master’s thesis since 2017.

The society wishes Johanna Saviniemi the warmest of congratulations!

Laura Stark’s statement about the Master’s thesis award 2019

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