A Durham finalist just handed in her dissertation on the Kardashians

She loves Kourtney

While you were writing about the impact of the Falklands crisis or the intricacies of the Russian economy, a Durham student has written her Sociology dissertation on America’s most famous family: the Kardashians.

The 10,000 word project was worth a massive third of Eliza Cummings’ degree, and titled “Keeping up with the Kardashians: A postfeminist fairy tale?”

As arguably America’s most famous family, the Kardashian clan have dominated the global media over the last decade, from sex tapes to sex changes and marriages to divorces, all while building an estimated $200 million empire.

This is why Durham Sociology finalist Eliza, 20, opted for the less traditional dissertation topic and focussed on the Kardashian family’s role as a postfeminist fairy tale in a bid to unpick the snobbery of what initially meets the eye.


The Tab spoke to Eliza to find out more:

Why did you choose to specialise on the Kardashian’s?

I knew I wanted to do something about postfeminism, and I wanted to pick something I would never get bored of. I picked the Kardashians as a sort of joke but then six months went by and I realised I couldn’t really change my mind at that point. I also thought there was probably a lot more to the family than meets the eye.

What did your friends say?

Generally, my friends think it’s completely ridiculous. Ollie Burrows, a Law finalist at Durham, told me: “Every time I see your stupid title it makes me sad”. But on the whole, everyone has been either vaguely condescending or have treated it as if it’s some kind of novelty. I feel like if someone studying English or Law chose the Kardashians, everyone would comment on how interesting and insightful it was, but everyone turns their noses up at Sociology already so it didn’t really help.


What did your parents say?

My parents actually thought it was great, especially my dad. He was a massive help, we’d just go for walks and talk about the Kardashians for hours.

What did you conclude?

Firstly, I wanted to find out if they fit the idea of a postfeminist heroine, and secondly if they have the capacity to influence women’s lives like traditional fairy tales. I concluded that the Kardashian women are the ideal postfeminist heroines, and that they have the capacity to influence young women on an unprecedented scale because their presence is felt across all medias.

I ended by saying the postfeminist narrative they disseminate has potentially disastrous effects for gender equality on a huge scale, and so we have to ask whether the postfeminist fairy tale is one we want to be telling our daughters. Even though people think it’s ‘low culture’ and it’s trivial, they clearly are having an effect on what kind of women today’s girls are becoming, so I think it’s important they’re given due attention.

Who is your favourite Kardashian?

Kourtney, for sure. She seems the least affected by the massively consumeristic and often sexist culture in which they exist. She’s also so blunt and cutting, which is something I love in a person. And she makes great avocado smoothies.

What was your research like?

I interviewed nine girls, six of which were Durham students. I asked them about their views and experiences with the Kardashians in the context of postfeminist themes like consumerism, beauty and sexual liberation. Then I compared the interview data with the existing literature. It was so fascinating seeing how much the Kardashians influenced these young women without the girls even realising it was happening.


Can you watch the Kardashians now, or does it feel like work?

I can still watch it but not casually and superficially like I used to. I used to watch it and be like “Omg this is so great” and now I watch it while shouting, “Crush the patriarchy!”. It’s not ideal. All of the stuff about them being empowered just seems like bullshit to me now.

What did your supervisor say?

My supervisor loved it! She was my module leader for one of my favourite first year modules, so I knew her from before. She was so helpful and she was pretty much the only person who never said it was silly or that it wasn’t a good idea.

Written an even more bizarre dissertation? If the Kardashians isn’t as weird as your topic, let us know. Email [email protected]