Dissertation inspired by refugee crisis wins John’s student £1000 MPhil prize
"It is concern, grief and anger at the way in which European states were dealing with refugees which brought me to this research"
Esther Luigi, who graduated with an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from St John’s earlier this year, has been awarded the 2019 Quentin Skinner Prize.
The prize, which launched in 2008, is presented by the Faculty of History for the best performance in the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History.
It is awarded annually to the student with the highest mark aggregate for the essays and dissertation undertaken as part of their MPhil.
Luigi, who also studied at St Johns for her BA in Human Social and Political Sciences, centred her MPhil research on the notion of the ‘right to hospitality’. Her dissertation was entitled ‘Hospitality in the law of nations and international law, 16th-19th centuries’ and explored the diversity of uses and meanings of the term ‘hospitality’ in legal documents and usage.
She explained: “I first arrived in Cambridge as an undergraduate student in 2015, at the height of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, and it is concern, grief and anger at the way in which European states were dealing with migrants and refugees which brought me to this research.
I wanted to explore the history of hospitality in the hope that the ideas and practices of times past might inspire new ways to think and act in the present. I am not sure the history is inspiring – the concept of hospitality is deeply linked to colonialism and was often used against strangers but it was fascinating to study.”
Luigi will soon be moving to Berlin to take up the position of parliamentary assistant in the German Parliament (the Bundestag). She has been selected for the Franco-German parliamentary assistant exchange programme, part of the International Parliamentary Scholarship, and will be taking courses in international law and philosophy as well as working in the Bundestag itself.
The Quentin Skinner Prize was established by intellectual historian Professor Quentin Skinner in 2008. Professor Skinner was a lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of History for 38 years and held the positions of Regius Professor of History at the faculty and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University during his time in Cambridge. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of the historiographical movement known as the Cambridge School of the history of political thought.