Our Funded Cohort

Each year, LISS DTP will welcome up to 58 new funded students, supported by the ESRC and LISS DTP’s partner institutions.  These students have their fees covered, receive a stipend and are also eligible for funding to cover additional, beneficial, professional experiences such as overseas fieldwork, research training, overseas institutional visits and internships.  Some will be working on collaborative (CASE) projects with non-academic partners; many are successful recipients of 1+3 (Masters + PhD) or +3 (PhD only) funding from our Open studentship competition, where research proposals must be student-generated.  If you’re interested in applying for a LISS DTP studentship, you can find out more about them and whether you’re eligible on our Studentships webpage.

Upon application to LISS DTP, all students affiliate their research project with one of our thirteen Thematic Pathways, which are clustered into five larger Research Area groups and cover a broad range of important social and economic issues.  You can use the drop-down menus below to learn more about our funded cohort and their work.

Health, Wellbeing & Social Inclusion

Pathway 1- Health Practices, Innovation & Implementation (HPII)

Mebh Conneely McInerney

Bringing Identity into the Clinic: Investigating Identity Negotiation in Psychosis

Mebh’s research how experiencing psychosis and receiving a diagnosis may affect patients’ identity and sense of belonging to different groups, and identify if and how identity negotiation processes are linked to clinical outcomes and mediators.  Her research aims to translate insights from social psychology into methodological tools to study identity negotiation processes in people with psychosis and link them to outcomes and to good clinical practices.  Research questions will include: How are identity changes and patients’ experiences of the impact of symptoms of schizophrenia on identity described in the mental health literature?  How do people describe the process of identity negotiation following a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder?  How can processes of identity negotiation be measured quantitatively in a way that is understandable and meaningful to patients?  Are identity negotiation processes linked to health outcomes (quality of life and social situation)?  Which practices are likely to support positive identity negotiation processes?

Gemma McKenzie

Freebirthing in the UK: A Narrative Study

Freebirthing is a clandestine, yet legal practice, where women intentionally give birth without health care professionals present.  Problematically, freebirthing women are often faced with stigma and condemnation from the maternity services and wider society.  By capturing the narratives of freebirthing women, Gemma’s study aims to understand their motivations, experiences and pregnancy journeys.  The methodology that will be employed – the voice-centred relational method – will enable the narratives to be analysed within their bioethical and sociological context.  The outcome will enable health care professionals to better support women who make atypical birthing decisions such as freebirth, whilst also contributing to the growing academic literature on subjects such as the rights and interests of pregnant women versus those of their babies, and the medicalization of childbirth.

Sally King

What counts as a premenstrual symptom? Patient and expert health professional perspectives on PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) diagnostic guidelines prioritise psychological symptoms, but the clinical reason for doing so remains unclear.  Studies show that they are not necessarily the most commonly experienced, nor uniquely determining, nor most disruptive of the (100+) known premenstrual symptoms.  Does such medical knowledge/ practice simply reflect and perpetuate the myth of the irrational female?

The main aim of Sally’s research is to explore how and why certain premenstrual symptoms achieve relative prominence over others, by examining ‘expert’ clinical constructions of PMS, alongside the experiences and perspectives of ‘PMS sufferers’.  By seeking to explore ‘what counts’ as a premenstrual symptom, and by asking this question of both expert medical professionals and ‘PMS sufferers’, her study hopes to examine this tension around what differentiates a menstrual cycle-related change from a symptom of ill health.

Farida Butt

Towards a critical understanding of the emergence, development and implementation of integrated care pathways for frail older people (CASE project with Age UK Lambeth, Age UK Lewisham & Southwark and the Health Innovation Network South London)

Integrated care pathways (ICPs) are ‘locally developed, multidisciplinary infrastructural technologies that map core interventions in a clinical trajectory and are simultaneously a workflow system and a record of care’ (Allen 2014: 808).  ICPs have been widely used to improve quality and equity of care for patients with a range of health conditions. They have been proposed as a vehicle for clinical governance (Degeling et al 2005), embedding evidence-based guidelines into clinical practice (Allen 2014), and health care policy.

Farida’s study will explore these issues in the context of ICPs for frail older people in Lambeth and Southwark, South London.  Although a number of ICPs for frail older people are being developed, evaluated and commissioned locally in the UK, little is known about different stakeholders’ perspectives of the benefits, limitations and unintended consequences of ICPs, and the contexts shaping their development and implementation in practice.


Pathway 2- Life Course, Psychology & Health (LCPH)

Temitope Ademosu

Child mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders in Sierra Leone: a mixed methods study

Sierra Leone has been burdened by a twelve year civil war and recent Ebola-virus outbreak.  Such ‘population shocks’ with their attendant mortality, morbidity and societal disruption exacerbate chronic effects of poverty, limited resources, and poor governance.  Half of Sierra Leone’s population are children; whilst mental health research has focused on increased internalised and externalised psychological distress in child soldiers, little attention has been given to mental health and neurodevelopmental problems in the child population overall.

Tope’s proposed project aims to produce both qualitative and quantitative evidence on country and culture-specific mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. This will increase the depth of understanding and management of these disorders in Sierra Leone. The following research questions will be addressed: What is the prevalence of mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders amongst children living in Sierra Leone?  What are the major risk and protective factors for these disorders?  How do children’s caregivers and local stakeholders (e.g. policymakers, health professionals, educators, religious leaders and traditional healers) perceive these disorders? For caregivers, what are the help seeking behaviours and barriers to support seeking?  What is the current service provision and what are the most prominent unmet needs?

Mary Agyapong

Investigating Biological, Psychological and Social factors of early symptom emergence in ASD and ADHD: A longitudinal ‘high-risk’ study

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a moderate-to-highly heritable disorder (Messinger et al., 2015; Szatmari et al., 2016). ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have also been found to have high rates of co-occurrence (Russell, Rodgers, Ukoumunne & Ford, 2014). There is research which highlights shared risk factors concerning genetic (Smoller, 2013) and environmental (Ronald, Pennell & Whitehouse, 2011) risks for the disorders, and possible mechanisms of resilience common to those at ‘high-risk’ for ASD and ADHD (Johnson, 2012).

Mary’s project proposes to utilise the high-risk longitudinal design within the British Autism Study of Infant Siblings, Studying Autism and ADHD Risks (BASIS STAARS) to investigate the emergence of early symptoms and development of ASD and ADHD.  By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, her research will aim to investigate the biological, psychological and social factors underlying causal mechanisms of ASD and ADHD.

Elyse Couch

Mortality and health service use in dementia and MCI- a mixed methods study

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.  Dementia is the leading cause of extra deaths in older adults over the age of 70, with the highest mortality estimates found in the first year following diagnosis.  Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) describes cognitive impairment above normal levels, but does not meet the diagnostic criteria for dementia.  MCI has been identified as a risk factor for dementia, and is estimated to affect between 6-12% of older adults over the age of 60. People with MCI also have an increased risk of mortality, compared with cognitively normal adults.

The prime minister’s challenge on dementia 2020 has identified dementia as a public health priority and highlighted the need for early diagnosis and intervention in dementia.  Elyse’s research has the overall aim of investigating which services are used by people with dementia and people with MCI in the first year of diagnosis and the impact these have on mortality estimates.

Paula De Vries Albertin

Youth gangs and mental health: trajectories, risks, and resilience

Young people who join gangs often face multiple disadvantages and often grow up exposed to violence (e.g. community or family violence, physical abuse, sexual victimization), all of which increase risk of mental health problems.  Estimates suggest as many as one in three young people who offend have an unmet mental health need.  However, the patterns of association between mental health and exposure to violence remain unclear and this limits our ability to intervene effectively.

Paula’s proposed study will capitalise on two existing projects to address these gaps and investigate violence, gang membership and youth mental health in London: (1) REACH (an established school-based cohort study of ~ 4000 adolescents aged 11-16 in south London), and (2) the Youth Violence Intervention Programme (YVIP) (an intervention run by Redthread at King’s College Hospital Accident & Emergency department with data over 10 years on approximately 450 young people per year (aged 11-25) who have been victims of violence).

The study will address an important topic and provide much needed data by addressing the following aims: (1) establish the prevalence of, and fluctuations over time in, gang membership and acquaintance, overall and by gender, age, and ethnic group, among adolescents in south London (REACH), (2) estimate and compare the prevalence and development over time of mental health problems among gang members in REACH and YVIP, (3) examine risk and protective factors for gang membership and for mental health problems in REACH and YVIP (i.e. neighbourhood characteristics and gender differences), and (4) investigate the temporal relationship between mental health problems and gang membership.

Emma Maun

Longitudinal patterning of caregiving, disturbed sleep and health among older adults

Informal care by friends and relatives is a central pillar of English social care policy, increasingly necessary to meet the needs of a growing number of older adults (Vlachantoni et al, 2011). Insufficient and disturbed sleep has been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes among older adults including caregivers (Kumari et al, 2010).  Poor sleep among caregivers has been associated with reduced quality of life (Cupidi et al, 2012) and cited as a significant reason for cessation of caregiving (Pollak and Perlick, 1991) and is therefore of direct relevance to social care policy.  The majority of research on caregiver sleep is cross-sectional, leaving a gap in knowledge about the situations and personal characteristics that may influence sleep outcomes over time.  Emma’s research will address the following questions: How are disturbed sleep and selected health outcomes patterned among older caregivers by hours of care, duration of care and when entering into and leaving caregiving, in comparison to non-caregivers?  What is the longitudinal relationship between caregiving, disturbed sleep and health and does this relationship hold after accounting for background and context characteristics, primary and secondary stressors and mediating factors?  These research questions will be explored through secondary quantitative analysis of longitudinal data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Emma is developing links with individuals from the third and public sectors, for instance Carers UK, who can provide advice from a policy perspective as she shapes her research, practice-insights into her research findings, and advise her on presenting the research in a policy- and practice-relevant way, increasing the impact of the study beyond the academic sphere.

Anna-Sophia Warren

Psychosocial development in gender nonconforming children

Gender expression refers to the way that children experience and express themselves in a masculine or feminine way, through their interests, friendships and clothing choices (Collaer & Hines, 1995).  Those who do not follow the social norms expected for their biological sex are referred to as ‘gender nonconforming’.  Recalled experience of childhood gender nonconformity (CGN) has been associated with a number of negative outcomes, including poorer mental health (Alanko et al., 2009; Roberts, Rosario, Corliss, Koenen & Austin, 2012; Roberts, Rosario, Slopen, Calzo & Austin, 2013), poorer relationships with parents (Alanko et al., 2009), and poorer relationships with peers (Roberts et al., 2013).

There are currently no prospective studies investigating the role of childhood reported CGN on mental health and wellbeing in adolescence and adulthood.  Data from a birth cohort study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), will be used in the proposed research to assess the prospective relationship between CGN as reported in childhood with a number of these outcomes.  In addition to the quantitative analysis of the ALSPAC data, qualitative data will be collected to investigate in more depth the associations between CGN and distress.  This will not only add further information, but will help to highlight whether there are discrepancies between how the children and their parents feel about the gender nonconformity.  These findings, together with the quantitative analysis, will help to develop an understanding of how and when CGN leads to negative outcomes in mental health and relationships. This will have important implications for those who work with children, such as teachers, social workers and healthcare providers.


Pathway 3- Health, Biopolitics & Social Inequality (HBSI)

Leonie Mol

“Taking it in, to take it out”: an ethnographic study of bulimia nervosa

Psychiatry in Western Europe is changing.  Western European and the British governments are profoundly re-fashioning public psychiatric services, partly because of financial pressure (GGZ Nederland 2013; Stewart & Taylor 2016).  At the same time, new ways of treating patients such as “shared decision-making” are designed by medical experts to “activate” patients’ capabilities to act responsibly upon their disorder, which, intentionally or not, may reduce the financial demands of treatment (Broersen 2011; Elwyn et al. 2012; Godolphin 2009).

Within this project, Leonie will scrutinize these changes, their underlying principles and implications by undertaking a case study of how bulimia nervosa (BN) is treated, portrayed and experienced today.  Bulimia is one of the most diagnosed eating disorders today in increasingly younger patients (Pirie 2011; NICE 2004; Map of Medicine 2016).  Yet, despite voluminous clinical literature, little is known about how the disorder and its treatment are experienced by patients.  Most contemporary therapies focus upon teaching patients how to manage their symptoms (NICE 2004).  This makes the bulimic patient an important case for analysis, since it is precisely her “autonomous”, self-inflicted behaviour that constitute the symptoms that lead her being diagnosed as “ill” (APA 2013; WHO 1993).

Arianna Rotulo

Fiscal Federalism and Fiscal Decentralisation in Healthcare, and Health Inequalities: A New Framework From the British, Italian and Spanish Experience

Fiscal federalism and fiscal decentralisation have been widely discussed over the last few years in terms of their impact on public services provision.  Recent analyses have outlined that there is a difference between fiscal federalism and fiscal decentralisation in terms of national grants: under fiscal federalism central governments subsidize services provided at the local level or by local autonomies; conversely, with fiscal decentralisation local bodies develop more financial independence in terms of collecting their revenues and subsidizing their services.

UK, Italy, and Spain have state organizations and healthcare structures useful to understand the abovementioned variance in the healthcare sector: the three countries are constitutionally unitary States with a strong regional divide within their borders, sharing a similar national health system based on universal, equitable and free healthcare at the point of use for all citizens.  However, the three countries have developed different approaches to the management of healthcare finances: UK’s NHS has a centralized financing system that consists in the transfer of money from the central level to CCGs – which administrate grants – and hospitals; the Italian health system, conversely, is funded mostly by regional taxation and small contributions from the national level; the Spanish NHS’s financing system, differently from the previous examples, is completely levied and administered at the local level.

This comparison outlines the possible existence of a dynamic evolution from fiscal federalism in healthcare (where the health system is centrally funded but finances are locally administered), to fiscal decentralisation in healthcare (where the health system is financed and administered at the local level) in unitary countries.  Arianna’s research proposes to draw a theoretical framework outlining the different phases that take place in the healthcare fiscal decentralisation process in terms of health inequalities indicators.  Are European unitary countries progressively shifting towards fiscal decentralisation in healthcare; does this shift involve a continuous adjustment of National Health Systems and variations of health statuses?

Blessing Taiwo

Social institutions of local markets to drive dietary changes in at-risk communities

Markets are community health assets where traders sell a variety of cheap, fresh produce.  Ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged groups often purchase food from local markets offering affordable and culturally familiar foods.  There is untapped potential to promote public health in a novel and unique way by working with local markets.

The aim of Blessing’s research is to explore the potential for local markets to promote sustainable healthy eating among communities at risk of nutrition related disease with a particular emphasis on exploring how best to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce the consumption of sugar, salt and fats.  Project methods will include: a review of the literature on market-based nutrition related public heath interventions to refine the research questions.  A mapping exercise to identify local markets within proximity of deprived neighbourhoods.  Concept mapping workshops will be conducted in each market to develop a conceptual (logic) model of implementation.  A stakeholder panel will be recruited by purposive sampling to take part in semi-structured interviews, the concept mapping exercise and to advise throughout on the process of intervention development.  Multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis will then be used to visually summarise the relationships among the strategies.  Intervention development & evaluation will use the findings from the concept mapping.

Blessing will collaborate with KCL Science Gallery to develop the digitalised materials. Small scale testing of delivery will be explored with 2 traders (e.g. fruit and vegetable trader, barber) over a 10-week period.  Qualitative interviews and digital questionnaires will provide in-depth information on the effectiveness of the intervention.  Process and outcome measures will use the RE-AIM framework (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance).  It will be important to evaluate the potential support of partners for sustainability.

Economics & Business

Pathway 4- Economics, Finance & the World Economy (EFWE)

Ilias Chronopoulos

Unconventional Monetary Policies in the UK, estimating their impact using shrinkage and persistent volatility

Two main strands in econometric analysis literature for macro-econometrics and finance are structural change and volatility modelling and high-dimensional regressions.  For these two strands, Ilias proposes a framework that has the potential to create a number of contributions.  First, empirical work has concluded that variation in volatility is very persistent, a feature illustrated in estimated parameters that lie close to the boundary for stationarity.  This implies that volatility can be characterised by persistent and possibly non-stationary processes.  In this content Ilias proposes the use of a kernel volatility estimator (KVE) that has the potential to adequately fit the observed behaviour of volatility.

Second, the growing availability of large datasets in the last ten years can potentially assist econometricians under the assumption that they carry rich and relevant information.  Their size creates an “ill-posed” problem where even basic methods as ordinary regression cannot work.  In this content Ilias proposes a different estimator that generalises the above. Specifically, he will not impose a specific number of norm-penalties but instead envisions an estimator that includes a vast number of norm-penalties, whose performance will be assessed by Cross-Validation and out of sample forecasting.  The benefit of this procedures is that while agnostic to the number of norm-penalties to include apriori, a penalisation scheme is produced that can potentially work in a different way for each dataset and can yield better results.  Assessing the performance of this estimator requires MC with synthetic datasets.

In terms of the empirical applications, Ilias’s estimators are natural candidates to examine first the volatility that exists in stock indexes and whether parameter estimates obtained from the KVE procedure are better in forecasting.  Further both the KVE as well as the shrinkage estimator can help us to potentially examine the effects unconventional monetary policies, as employed by the Bank of England, had in the real economy and whether the effect deteriorated after their initial employment.

Eleni Kalamara

Measuring the aggregate effects of Unconventional Monetary Policies

In the summer of 2007, the US economy experienced a financial meltdown in which the burst of real estate bubble in conjunction with vast and growing imbalances played a significant role.  At this point, the long-lasting beliefs about the role of Central Banks and existing policy instruments were challenged.  Despite the attempts of the Central Banks to mitigate recession by manipulating interest rates, it soon became evident that the conventional monetary policy toolkit was not influential enough to restore the economic welfare.

Eleni’s aim is to evaluate the non-standard policy tools that the Central Banks [the European Central Bank (ECB), Federal Reserve (Fed) and Bank of England ( BOE)] executed in order to boost economic activity from the onset of the financial crisis.  In particular, for each currency union, she will assess the measures undertaken and their joint impact on key macroeconomic variables.  Furthermore, Eleni will give critical focus on how the transmission channels of those actions performed in the restoration process of the impaired banks.

Grace Thomas

Challenges of accessing mainstream capital for impact investment

Grace’s project explores the structural and semiotic aspects of investment in the impact investment market, with a particular focus on the challenges and barriers to making such practices mainstream, both culturally and structurally.  Impact investing can be broadly defined as investing not just for financial return, but also to achieve a positive social and/or environmental impact.  The industry faces a number of hurdles on its path to growth and scale, each one a potential barrier to access mainstream capital.  Barriers include: how to define ‘impact’, how this is measured, the legal framework for the market, how investments are structured, how investments are packaged, communicated and perceived.  These barriers in turn relate to a much broader societal and cultural understanding of the perception of financial markets, and the potential and limitations capital has to effect positive change in society.

The potential for impact investing to have positive social and environmental effect is considerable, and Grace’s research could contribute towards a greater understanding of how the impact investing model and approach could become more widely dispersed.  Grace proposes to develop a research framework that will further demonstrate the utility of ‘new economics’ and contribute to the evolutionary economics discourse – which draws on a broad range of theories, frameworks and methods, and is highly interdisciplinary –  involving economist, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and biologists.  The concept of “Generalized Darwinism” refers to the sociocultural application of the three Darwinian principles of variation, selection and retention.  Generalized Darwinism argues that if this metatheory can be used for complex, evolving biology, it can also be applied to other complex, evolving systems.

Darius Jenner Pullinger

Distributed Ledger Technologies and Smart Contracts: Challenges and Opportunities for the London Insurance Market (CASE project with Lloyd’s of London)

Ledgers are ancient tools for recording assets such as money and property.  Modern advances in technology have enabled the existence of a distributed ledger – a database that can be shared and updated simultaneously (and transparently) across all users of a system without each user having to separately amend its own records.  The radical nature of this technology (DLT) arises in conjunction with other applications, such as ‘smart’ contracts – in which contract terms can be automatically executed by a computing system.  Darius’s proposes to investigate these technologies via themes that have emerged from a preliminary survey of the topic.  Understanding how these technologies are being taken up and how the industry adds value enables an analysis of how the market can adapt.

DLT and related technologies rely on two types of code: legal and technical – the right balance needs to be struck.  As humans still must define the rules legal code is still of central importance.  Who should be subject to those rules?  With increased mechanisation control becomes more centralised – what does this mean for a human being’s relationship with rules and the law?  Finally, it can be said that DLT and associated technologies are at the radical end of the change spectrum – how could this come about and what effect could it have on society?  A sense of the radical emerges through the dramatic effect such technology can have on hierarchies and the increased level of complexity that such technology brings to commercial and human relationships.


Pathway 5- Work, Organisation & Business Management

Mursheda Begum

Profiling the professions and researchers by ethnicity and sex

Mursheda’s project examines the distribution by sex and by national origin or ethnicity [subsequently called just ethnicity for short] of members of UK regulated professional bodies, such as accountants, doctors, engineers and solicitors.  The project would also cover members of other unregulated professions such as artists, economists, historians, musicians and in particular, researchers in universities and other institutions.  The intention would be to see if some groups, such as Bangladeshi women, are significantly under-represented, whether the situation has changed over recent decades, and what steps are being or could be taken to improve the representativeness of the chartered professions and other professional groups. The project will also examine any barriers to the advancement of minorities within their professions.

The methodology proposed is to compare the surnames and the given names of the professionals with two large proprietary databases of names that have been classified by ethnicity and by sex.  This analysis of the composition of the professions will be complemented by surveys of their members, especially those of ethnic minorities and women, in order to learn about the difficulties (if any) that they faced on gaining entry and in seeking to advance their careers. It would also ask about external help that they received, including financial assistance and advice from mentors or family members.  Work with the administrative staff of the professional groups would then explore ways in which they could improve the inclusiveness of their professions.  This would not only promote social and ethnic cohesion, but also provide a source of additional professional talent.

Karen Jeffrey

The Political Economy of AI-driven Automation and Technological Change: Effects on Income Inequality and Policy Responses

In recent years, leaps in the field of artificial intelligence (Silver et al., 2016) fuelled by fierce competition between powerful players such as Google, Apple and Amazon (Pratt, 2015), have produced intelligent machines and algorithms capable of completing non-routine tasks.  Coupled with the falling cost of robotics (Graetz and Michaels, 2015), these developments are creating profound potential for human labour to be automated (Benzell et al., 2015; Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2014; Citi GPS, 2016; Ford, 2015; Pratt, 2015; Sachs et al., 2015).  Indeed, one influential study has forecast that such AI-driven automation could displace as much as 47% of workers in the USA in the next two decades (Frey and Osborne, 2013).

Commentators from academia, the business world and wider civil society have suggested a range of policies to mitigate any potential negative effects of AI-driven automation; however, it is not immediately clear which policy responses will most effectively share the benefits associated with AI-driven automation throughout society, or which are capable of winning popular support.  Karen proposes a five-stage programme of research to explain the factors most likely to affect the level of adoption of AI-driven automation, and to compare the economic and political viability of a range of possible progressive policy responses: Stage 1: Investigating the influence of political factors during periods of technological change  Stage 2: Identifying potential progressive policy responses to the increasing automation of work  Stage 3: Explaining variation in the economic effects of the different policy responses in the context of AI-driven automation  Stage 4: Explaining variation in the popularity of the different policy responses  Stage 5: Development of policy recommendations.

Sarah Marks

Women’s experiences of entrepreneurship in the context of East London

Sarah’s research project will investigate the factors that determine women’s ability to become entrepreneurs and maintain entrepreneurial activity in a sustainable and meaningful way in East London.  Using a broadly interpretivist approach, her research will collect and analyse new empirical evidence drawn from in-depth interviews to demonstrate how the privileges and disadvantages related to intersecting social positions of gender, race and ethnicity, class and motherhood are experienced by female entrepreneurs in East London.  It will use this evidence to explore the idea, often discussed in the context of developing economics, that entrepreneurship can lift women out of poverty.

Sarah’s project will also link women entrepreneurs’ experiences and the creation of entrepreneurial identities to the space they inhabit and work in.  A further premise to be explored is that when female entrepreneurship is located close to the home, or within the home it can act as a powerful agent of social and urban change.

Sarah Ryer

Personal Development Training: A Genealogy of the Self-Actualising Self

Falling within the remit of Human Resource Management, Personal Development Training (PDT) is an ambiguous terminology used to group together corporate-sponsored initiatives focused on employee growth and development. Ranging from executive coaching to psychometric testing to workshops on assertiveness, PDT is centred around managing and maximising an employee’s ‘potential.’  Such initiatives concentrate on fostering improvement at the individual level of the organisation: harvesting fluid “soft skills,” rather than “hard” technical skills.  It signals a move away from the ‘alienating’ Taylorist dichotomy between body and mind, towards a more ‘holistic’ managerial agenda.

The presence of PDT in the workplace explicitly illustrates the convergence of the personal and professional realms.  Sarah will consider PDT as a ‘technology of governance’ (Rose, 1989: 217); aligning the aspirations of individual workers with those of the organisation, alongside wider political interests.  The project will be grounded in a genealogical investigation of PDT: Sarah proposes to unearth its ideological base and unpack PDT through a trajectory of the Human Potential Movement and Humanistic Psychology.  The research forms an open-ended enquiry, addressing of a group of questions: Where does this idea of constant invention and limitless growth stem from?  Why does it emerge?  What is it trying to do?  What is the ideological critique?  What does it tell us about modern subjectivity and work?


Language, Culture & Education

Pathway 6- Education, Mind & Society (EMS)

Emma Browning

How does the use of narrative nonfiction in the Key Stage 2 history classroom affect learning, specifically in comparison to the use of nonfiction?

Narrative is thought to be the ‘fundamental instrument of human thought’ (Turner, 1996:4), yet within the Key Stage 2 classroom, narrative is usually confined to the teaching of specific English skills (Duke, 2000; Kiris et al., 2011).  If narrative is so fundamental to human cognition and thought, perhaps it should be utilised more widely across the primary curriculum to teach a range of subjects such as history.  However, there are concerns that using narratives in the history classroom might reduce history to myth (Barthes, 1993), as narratives are not always factual.  To counteract these concerns, narrative nonfiction is proposed as a potential solution.  Emma’s research aims to compare the impact of nonfiction and narrative nonfiction on history learning in the Key Stage 2 classroom.  Two phases of research will be conducted to do so. Firstly, a survey will be emailed to Year 5 and 6 teachers in approximately 16,500 schools across England, exploring teachers’ understandings of narrative nonfiction as a genre and how teachers categorise text extracts.  The second phase of research will involve a comparative experiment with an intervention, bringing narrative nonfiction into a classroom environment.  It will involve a participant sample of four Year 5 history classes, with two classes from two different primary schools, producing a sample of approximately 100 children.

Sarah Steadman

The Making of Teachers: A study into the differing experiences of PGCE students in university and school based initial teacher training environments.

Sarah’s research focuses on the experiences of secondary English beginning teachers and how the choice of PGCE environment impacts on their development as practitioners.  The research project title alludes to Pam Grossman’s seminal book ‘The Making of a Teacher’ (1990) where she suggests that, ‘Teacher education can provide a framework that shapes what beginning teachers subsequently learn from experience.’ p111.  Inherent within this premise is the tension between learning ‘from experience’ and the relevance of theoretical study, an idea developed further by Grossman in later works that advocate practical methods in teacher training.

An ‘on the job’ (Cochran-Smith 2005) approach to the development of teachers prioritises school-led systems over the traditional home of teacher education in universities.  It is intended that the research will illuminate the differing approaches to learning and teaching practices in university and school-based initial teacher training.  The development of in-depth understanding of the cultures of both university and school-based PGCE settings could help to inform future policy decisions around the nature and location of initial teacher education and the relationship between universities and schools.

Ute Thiermann

Uncovering the link between mindfulness and sustainability – an experiment

Mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience, moment by moment”.  The positive effect of mindfulness on people’s well-being, cognitive abilities and behaviour has been proven by medical, psychological and organisational research. Consequently, mindfulness has evolved to a business worth over one billion USD with an increasing number of companies investing in in-house mindfulness activities to boost productivity of their employees.  Newer research is exploring how mindfulness affects “sustainable behaviour”, which we understand as a more ethical, pro-social and pro-environmental, behaviour.  Publications advocate the potential of mindfulness for supporting the transition to a sustainable society.

Ute’s study seeks to explore whether there is a causal relationship between mindfulness and sustainability in business settings, reflected in the following research question: to what extent does a regular mindfulness practice increase the sustainability awareness of employees?  This mixed-methods research is constructed around an experiment with 50 to 100 employees from diverse companies, who have never practiced mindfulness before.


Pathway 7- Linguistics, Media & Culture (LMC)

Elvis Coimbra-Gomes

Normative Regulations of Discourses About Misunderstood Sexual Obsessions: a Netnographic-Supported Corpus Linguistic Study

Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is stereotypically associated with cleanliness, order, symmetry, and perfectionism, it is unknown to the wider (clinical) population that intrusive sexual thoughts are commonly experienced by up to 25% of OCD sufferers (Grant et al. 2006).  Since sexual obsessions are under-studied, they are often dramatically misunderstood and misdiagnosed (Glazier et al. 2013).  Ignoring that they are – unlike sexual fantasies – unpleasant (Gordon 2002), therapists might wrongly identify them as symptomatic of e.g. pedophilia, or internalized homophobia.  Researchers argue that genetics and sociocultural factors may shape the content of obsessions (e.g. Fontenelle et al. 2004; NICE 2006), and that moral judgments surrounding gender/sexuality create sexual obsessions (Gordon 2002).  While discourses of gender and sexuality generally reflect normative regulatory forces (Cameron & Kulick 2003), no studies have explored how normativity shapes sexual obsessions precisely.

By mixing quanti-qualitative corpus linguistic (CL) approaches with critical discourse analysis (CDA), Elvis’s netnographic-supported interdisciplinary study aims to further knowledge of the under-researched and misunderstood manifestations of sexual obsessions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Rooting the current project in Health Communication and Queer Linguistics, the study will contribute to theoretical discussions of normativity in sociolinguistics and promote the use of CL in humanities research more broadly that could inform clinical understandings of mental health.  The results may improve the clinical assessment of these often-misdiagnosed obsessions.  Moreover, the project carries an action-oriented goal in the creation of an online forum to support and guide sufferers to appropriate treatment.

Annelies Foccaert

A sociolinguistic approach to the identity construction of and medical discourses about women with a late diagnosis of autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by unusually restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests, and impairments in social communication abilities (Hiller et al. 2016; Lauritsen, 2015).  There is some ambiguity over the precise male-female ratio, but in general, more male than female individuals are diagnosed with autism (Lai et al., 2014a), and women receive their diagnosis at a later age than men (Begeer et al., 2013).  It has been argued that women are often diagnosed later because the clinical symptoms of autism are expressed differently in females or because of an inherent gender bias in the screening and assessment tools (Baldwin et al., 2016; Kirkovski et al., 2013; Lai et al., 2014b).

To date, the vast majority of research on autistic women has been situated within the biomedical fields (Sweileh et al. 2016) and very few linguistic studies on autistic women have researched diagnosis and identity construction.  Therefore, there is a need for empirical linguistic approaches to women’s first-hand accounts of the process of receiving a diagnosis of autism. In this PhD, Annelies will primarily draw upon the sociolinguistic framework of small stories (Georgakopoulou, 2007), which advocates the potential of non-canonical stories as information sources on collaborative identity construction and offers an alternative to the common clinical approaches to researching autism.

Matthew Hunt

An experimental and qualitative study on the perception of offensive language

‘Swear words’ are included in a subset of language known as ‘offensive language’.  They are words which break a historic societal taboo, such as religious defamation, scatology or sexuality, to express the speaker’s emotional state (Jay and Janschewitz 2008: 268).  Matthew’s proposed research will examine the correlation between the level of offense that is physiologically measurable in a person exposed to swear words and their ability to accurately report their perception of that offense.  A number of studies have analysed the reporting of emotional responses to swear words, e.g., rating swear words in offensiveness from 1-10 (Beers Fägersten 2007).  Others have used an experimental methodology to measure a person’s emotional response to swear words e.g. by measuring skin conductance responses (Harris et al, 2003).  However, no research has been done on whether the two approaches can be combined to improve our understanding of how a word can be considered offensive when physiological evidence suggests that it is not.  Matthew’s research will compare the validity of each approach and the extent to which sociolinguistic factors (cultural norms, social expectations and discourse context) create a gap between reported and unconscious responses.  The research will also report on how aware the participants are of what might affect their reactions, given that offensive language is typically emotionally laden.

Leoni Schwandt

Beirut Looks – Racial Capital, National Aesthetics, and the Female Body

Leoni’s study investigates fashion and commercial models’ embodiment of racial and linguistic capital within Beirut’s fashion modelling industry.  Taking the example of Beirut as the fashion metropolis of the Middle East, this study explores the impact of conflicting hegemonic neocolonial narratives of racialized and nationalized aesthetics on female Lebanese models as aesthetic labourers.  Rooted in Lebanon’s colonial history and ethno-religious diversity, Beirut’s fashion industry is strongly marked by conflicting racial and national aesthetic ideals, mirrored by the diverse bodily appearances of Lebanese models.  This research asks how models, as active labourers and in charge of their bodily transformations, possess agency to either reproduce, but moreover resist and disrupt hegemonic aesthetic ideals, and thus challenge overarching racial and national hierarchies within the Lebanese fashion industry.  It will shed light on the techniques with which models volitionally consume, manage, and employ bodily and linguistic symbols imbued with racial meaning as essential parts of their self-commodification and self-presentation.

Embedded in a Bourdieusian approach to fashion as a field of cultural production, this study builds on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s works on embodiment to dissect the discursive nature and transformative power of bodily practices. Further it draws on literature on the female body as a representative medium of racial and national identity.  The project will contribute to knowledge about the underexplored domain of aesthetic labour in the Middle East and its racial and linguistic implications.

Louis Strange

Ideological Landscapes

The primary aim of Louis’s research will be to demonstrate how ideology both structures and is structured by the Linguistic Landscape (LL), and how the LL thus functions as a carrier for ideology.  This idea encompasses – but is distinct from – that of language ideologies.  Most LL research has approached the LL as “an important sociolinguistic factor contributing to the vitality of competing ethnolinguistic groups in multilingual settings” (Landry and Bourhis, 1997: 24), focusing on what the LL can tell us about competing languages or codes, and by extension competing (often ethnolinguistic) groups.  This research would not only address “ideology” in the sense of a specific set of beliefs concerning the relative power relations between different languages or codes, but “ideology” in a broader sense, as the creation or imposition of this belief system – that is, the mechanism of ideology.  This, it will be argued, is an inherent part of the LL and the relationship between the LL and ideology is one of mutual influence: the LL is both influenced by and simultaneously shapes the ideology of a given space, and an individual’s experience of and social relations within that space.

Therefore, the fundamental question driving this research must be conceived of in two parts, or on two levels:  Is it possible to elaborate some “theory of ideology” proper to the LL, which seeks to explain and investigate how the LL simultaneously structures and is structured by ideology (and ideological processes or mechanisms)?  How does this manifest itself in the LL? In other words, is it possible to show that such a theory of ideology in the LL can offer insights into, among other things, conflict and/or competition between distinct ethnolinguistic or social groups?

Catrin Williams

Language Ideologies and Urban Welsh

Welsh language planners want to incorporate Welsh as an official, economically relevant language used in the public sphere in day-to-day life (Welsh Government 2016:9-11,13-15,17), but the language is widely idealised as a rural phenomenon.  Tension between policy goals for Welsh and its idealisation as a rural language is not properly addressed in government documents, which are filled with terms such as ‘inheritance’ and ‘national identity’ and speak as if the population was socio-economically and ethnically homogenous, overlooking the increasing diversity of urban environments.

Catrin’s study will draw on linguistic ethnography, working with a “layered and multi-scalar conceptualisation of context” (Blommaert et al 2011: 11), and it will investigate how the new urban social domain affects conventionalised language usage and disrupts ‘semiotic regularity’ (Agha 2007: 205).  It will examine micro-level phonological and lexical variables and focus on reflexive stylisation to understand language ideologies and the indexical associations conveyed by speakers.

Sarah Kirk-Browne

100 Years of Continuity and Change in Spoken British English (CASE project with the British Library)

Sarah’s collaborative doctoral project will compile a diachronic corpus of sound recordings from the historic holdings of the British Library Sound Archive, an unparalleled collection of natural British speech spanning over a century.  The corpus design will aim for a balanced selection across region, register and demographic factors while maximising time depth.  Using this unique corpus, the project will investigate a fundamental theoretical challenge in the study of language change: What is the relative importance of linguistic factors, frequency and social factors in changes observed in British English over time?

This question has been difficult to address fully so far due to the lack of audio archives with sufficient time depth.  Recent historical corpora have begun to remedy this, leading to some unexpected findings regarding the role of frequency in phonetic change (Hay et al. 2015) and intensifying the debate over the relative role of frequency in large-scale dialect change (Labov 2010; Kiparsky 2016).  A substantial diachronic corpus will also permit deeper investigation of related themes such as vernacular stability, social factors in change (age, demographics, gender, class) and co-variation in change.

The Environment & Urban Life

Pathway 8- Urbanisation, Social Change & Urban Transformation (USCT)

Corina Angheloiu

Future tense: How might design futures methods enable place-based systemic change?

The definition of sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations” (Bruntland, 1987) directly translates into the urgent need for modern urban lifestyles to reduce consumption by ten times (Charter and Tischner, 2001).  Achieving the quantitative indicators for sustainable development is a process wrapped up in broader behavioural and cultural change (Lockton, 2015) and will require new methods, tools and narratives (Beddington, 2010).  Design can “change existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1999).  More recently, design expertise has been advocated as a “social resource for enabling local innovation which designers are enablers of collective cycles of generating and exploring alternative futures” (Jégou and Manzini 2008, Manzini 2015).  Urban sociology, a field within social theory, provides a fluid understanding of cities as “place-based” sites of social encounter and division, as fields of politics and power, as symbolic and material landscapes (Tonkiss, 2005).  Lefebvre’s (1991) treatment of space as a socially constructed product can provide a meaningful way to tackle the complex web of wicked-problems through locally contextualised approaches that focus on the role of actors (both individual and institutional) in the process of creating change.

Corina’s research proposal is situated in the context of her work as senior designer in the System Innovation Lab at Forum for the Future, and builds on previous experience in critical design as architectural designer and urban researcher.  The aim of her proposal is to develop a formative assessment of how design futures methodologies can help catalyse place-based systemic change.  How might the fields of design methods and futures studies provide approaches to systemic change at a local level?  How might design futures methods support actors in developing practices for place-based systems change?

Hana Riazuddin

Growing up during neighbourhood change: The impacts of urban regeneration on the psychosocial health of young people in South East London

Hana’s study will examine the effects of urban regeneration understood as a process of neighborhood change on two aspects of psychosocial health -common mental disorders (CMD) and wellbeing- of young people in South East London. Using mixed methods and participatory action research with young people as co-researchers to explore how they experience neighborhood transformation.  Mental health in young people is of concern, with half of lifetime mental health problems starting by age 14 (Smith et al, 2015b).  CMD such as depression and anxiety have higher prevalence in urban environments (Hatch et al, 2011;).  There is evidence on socio-economic determinants of psychosocial health showing that disadvantage over life course is linked to poor health.  It is less clear whether aspects of physical and social environments at neighbourhood-level also affect the risk of CMD (Polling, 2014).  In the UK, studies investigating the health and wellbeing impacts of regeneration are rare and offer mixed findings (Thomson et al, 2006; Smith et al, 2012; Huxley and Roger, 2006). These commonly exclude young people under the age of 16 (Smith et al, 2015a).

South East London has widespread regeneration programmes underway, higher eviction rates than the national average and 24.2% of the adult population reporting CMD (Lees and White, 2016; Hatch et al, 2011).  The study will be supported by the South East London Community Health Study (SELCoH) and involve quantitative analysis using SELCoH data, along with qualitative participatory action research.  Participatory Action Research helps to introduce a flexible, collaborative and socially owned process (Kindon, Pain & Kesby, 2007) that will provide a platform for young people to voice their opinions on designing and managing sustainable neighbourhood change.

Rosie Riley

Reduce Avoid Protect Support – changing air pollution related behaviour through a smart phone app (RAPSapp)

The health implications of air pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are increasingly clear.  Before leading to death, these pollutants increase cancers, asthmas, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even dementia.  In the UK the health costs of air pollution add up to more than £20 billion every year and lead to 40,000 premature deaths.

The aim of Rosie’s project is to develop and evaluate the use of a mobile app to engage citizens in promoting healthier and more sustainable air pollution-related behavior. The outcomes of this research project will be: a fully functioning app to inform individuals on the risk of pollution, their own exposure, and what they can do to change it; a unique panel data set of individuals’ characteristics, lifestyle, and pollution-related behaviour; estimates of the causal impact of pollution related information on individual’s behaviour change, and how it differs among different socio-economic groups.

Jade Hunter

Home, migration and belonging on a suburban estate (a CASE project with Eastside Community Heritage)

Despite the growing interest in the connections between home, migration and the city, little work has engaged with experiences of home and migration in relation to the suburbs and, in particular, the interplay between historical internal migration from the inner-city and contemporary international migration.  This intergenerational research project will examine the layered histories and experiences of home, migration and belonging through an in-depth study of the Harold Hill estate in Havering.  In collaboration between Queen Mary University London and Eastside Community Heritage – and also affiliated to The Geffrye Museum of the Home via the Centre for Studies of Home – the research will explore (i) the histories of migration from inner-city London to Harold Hill from the late 1950s; (ii) new migration patterns to Harold Hill over the last 20 years; and (iii) the impact of these overlapping migratory patterns on home and belonging on the housing estate and within the wider suburban landscape.

Collaborative outputs beyond the thesis will include a collection of oral history and visual material for deposit at ECH; the design of intergenerational school sessions focused on home, migration and belonging; and the development of learning resources for use in school sessions and work with adults of different generations and heritages.

Alessandra Abeille

An interdisciplinary framework for disaggregate assessment of productivity and well-being impacts of digital technologies on knowledge workers in nontraditional settings (ITINERANT) (a CASE project with Cisco Systems & Transport for Greater Manchester)

The rapid development of new mobile devices and omnipresent connectivity has led to the increasing decoupling of work (and other activities) from specific locations.  Cultures of work have emerged, especially strong among knowledge workers, that exploit non-traditional settings, including public spaces and transport modes, with the aim of improving productivity and well-being by the better alignment of tasks to productive times and spaces.  The overall aim of Alessandra’s PhD research will be to develop new ways of embedding emerging qualitative and quantitative evidence regarding impacts of digitisation and connectivity into appraisal and evaluation frameworks for investments in infrastructure.

Towards this end, the first objective will be to utilise social science methods and theories to explore case studies enabled through the partnership.  Accompanied by training in the mobile collaboration technology, this will permit in-depth understanding of productivity and well-being impacts of digital technologies by knowledge workers in non-traditional settings. The second objective will be to identify and fill key gaps in the existing investment and appraisal methodologies. The final objective will be to develop advanced disaggregate statistical and econometric modelling methodologies to address the aforementioned shortcomings by incorporating interdisciplinary input into appraisal and evaluation methodologies for infrastructure investments.

Nicholas Fisk

Spatial Dynamical Networks of Concentration & Dispersion of Crime (a joint ESRC/EPSRC-funded studentship)

Studies in the geography of crime confirm that over 50% of crime incidents occur within 5% of the streets in each city, thus forming micro-crime places known as crime hotspots.  For this reason, hotspot policing has generated considerable interest, whereby identifying high-risk places by means of hot spot detection and targeting hot spot locations in the practical policing scenes have come to form a pillar in efforts to reduce crime.  A method recently proposed for crime hotspot detection is effective in identifying the exact times and locations of micro-crime places.  However, it is retrospective in nature with its main utility being the promotion of long-term policing by reducing opportunities for crime.  In other words, they do not necessarily help predict where and when crime will likely happen in the future.

The aim of this project is to establish a new type of geosurveillance method for predicting the likely elevation of crime activities at the disaggregate street address level.  The project involves the use of syndromic surveillance, originally designed for epidemiology and subsequently repurposed and refined in the crime analysis context to be taken to the next level by incorporating hidden Markov models. Nicholas will work closely with his supervisors to (1) explore how these two methods can be integrated into one, (2) code the new method as a workable tool, and (3) carry out empirical analysis using real-world crime data so as to confirm the validity and the performance of this method for detecting and predicting crime hotspots. Crime data will be provided by the Metropolitan Police Service.


Pathway 9- Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health (PEEH)

Steven Harry

Socio-Energy Systems in the Anthropocene: Island Metabolisms and the Contested Geographies of Energy Transition

Climate change has moved energy-society relations centre stage. Political struggles and class relations are finding new expression in the geographies of carbon lock-in, the geographies of (renewable) energy transition, and the geo-spatialities of alternative energy futures; these struggles are themselves shaped by the materiality of socio-energy systems.

Islands have become emblematic figures in the Anthropocene. The dynamics of energy development and change on islands, embedded within complex multi-relational systems, highlights particularly well the ways in which energy transitions more generally are shaped by their spatial and material context, the need to develop frameworks that account for geographical specificity, and the ways both material location and spatial form capture shifts in the operation and contestation of power.

As the energy transition unfolds under the dictates of fossil capital, and many previously peripheral places such as islands become both ‘sustainable-development laboratories’ and sites of energy extraction and struggle, how are class relations and conflicts over the appropriation of energy surpluses (re)surfacing and being (re)interpreted and (re)expressed in this moment? How can we trace and position struggles over island time–space, land and resources into broader contexts of historical global capitalist relations?

Steven’s project focuses on four islands, two in northern European countries transitioning from oil-based economies (Scotland and Norway) and two in southern European countries emerging from post-crisis situations (Spain and Greece). Drawing on eco-Marxist theories of metabolism, he uses a ‘relational comparison’ framework, which focuses on spatio-historical specifications, interconnections and mutually constitutive processes, and roots this in a dialectical and historical-geographical materialist understanding of energy systems. Steven is using desk-based exploratory research, interviewing and storytelling, and critical ethnographic techniques.



Security & Governance

Pathway 10- International Development, Conflict & Human Security

Jennifer Constantine

From Zero to Nutrition for Growth: a comparative study of policy responses to food and nutrition security issues in Brazil and the UK

Jennifer’s study offers a comparative analysis of the UK and Brazil’s policy responses to food and nutrition security (FNS) issues since 2003.  The study of FNS policies offers a unique opportunity to bridge different disciplinary approaches to policymaking at domestic/global levels.  Much has been done to document the political economy (PE) of Brazil’s considerable progress in tackling hunger and malnutrition through social policy.  Recent nutrition governance studies highlight the role of political elites, CS and the private sector in shaping FNS outcomes, principally in the ‘Global South’. However, less research exists on this in the UK, a vital gap given the rising prevalence of domestic FNS issues.

In 2013, Brazil and the UK signed the Global Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Compact, a voluntary agreement signalling commitment to strengthening international cooperation to tackle FNS challenges through private public-sector partnerships, considered vital for meeting the SDGs.  The N4G process is a useful convergence point to analyse how the private sector, international organisations and civil society (CS) lobbied Brazil and UK state elites to modify their commitment to FNS policies.  Jennifer’s work will also look at how these domestic policy agendas influenced one another through policy transfer and translation.  Her research speaks to the broader question of how to translate FNS governance agendas into improved outcomes at domestic and global levels.  Research questions will include: What are the similarities and differences in the ways state and non-state actors shape FNS policy agendas in the UK and Brazil?  How does the N4G endorsement reflect domestic/global nutrition governance agendas?  How do these formal/informal two-level games shape FNS outcomes worldwide?

Kavita Dattani

Digitising rural India: Exploring the role of digital technology in women farmers’ work-lives

Kavita’s project will bring together and contribute to three bodies of academic knowledge: neoliberalism and agrarian demise; the feminisation of agriculture and digital technologies and gendered transformations of agrarian systems in order to contribute to empirical understanding of the impact of the recently launched Digital India (2015) policy campaign on rural communities in India, and women in particular.  The long-term difficulties facing India’s agri-sector include “low productivity, a shrinking agricultural land base, urbanisation, diversification in production and consumption bases, poor market linkages and other factors” (Mittal, 2012).  The Indian government’s National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology was set up in 2014 to target these issues by restructuring and strengthening agricultural extension services that provide key information to farmers to improve agronomic practices of smallholders (Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, 2014).  However, with feminisation of the sector, a targeted policy for women is essential.

The project will contribute to debates on agriculture, gender and digital technology looking at the use of rural digital technologies in the work lives of women agricultural labourers in its provision of the relevant tools and information needed to achieve bargaining power, better practice and market access.   In doing so, it will provide a nuanced analysis of the role of digital technology in creating new forms of labour residing in the complex realities of neoliberalism.


Pathway 11- Global Order, Violence & Security Practice

Jente Althuis

Mapping revolutionary ideology onto urban space as a means of strategic communications

The role of communications in conflict, revolutions, and counterinsurgency has over the past years received increased attention with the emergence of a strong focus on ‘strategic communications’ in not only the academic study of war, but also in practice and policy making of national governments and international organisations such as NATO.  This ‘strategic communications’ is not confined to the verbal sphere, but also includes communication through physical acts and the way in which these are depicted in pictures and the written word.  An essential aspect affecting the way in which audiences interpret these messages is the space in which they are sent and interpreted.  Furthermore, as identified by David Kilcullen, conflicts are increasingly fought in urban areas, which has incited a shift in focus from the control of geography to the control of networks of people.

Even though current trends of urbanization and the effects this has on conflict have become an important topic in the field of war studies, a study moving beyond communication in urban space to the communication of urban space in revolutions, derived from the idea that space can play an instrumental role itself, has not yet been performed. Hence, Jente’s research proposes a study of the mapping of revolutionary ideology onto urban space as a means of strategic communications. Focusing on one of the early cases of urban revolution, the anti-Apartheid struggle of the African National Congress (ANC) in South African urban areas, it aims to answer the following research question: How did the African National Congress employ the urban space of Soweto, Johannesburg as a means of communicating ideology and strategy to achieve their revolutionary goals?

Hannah Goozee

South Africa and Sierra Leone: the trauma of conflict and peace

Conflict has a devastating impact on individuals, with the potential to create severe psychological trauma. Since the 1980s, transitional justice mechanisms such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) have sought to incorporate such individual trauma into wider processes of national healing and reconciliation. In response, a broad transitional justice literature has emerged, analysing the design, implementation, and impact of these mechanisms. In parallel, a number of psychological studies have often critiqued transitional justice mechanisms for their approach to trauma. Yet remarkably, the transitional justice literature has failed to communicate with the psychological and psychiatric knowledge produced, meaning that the ‘healing’ capacity of TRCs is far from established.

Despite the frequent use of therapeutic language by both TRCs themselves and the relevant literature, there is a severe lack of engagement with the psychology of trauma and healing in post-conflict environments. Through the case studies of South Africa and Sierra Leone, this PhD critically examines the relationship between transitional justice and individual trauma, engaging with interdisciplinary debates concerning memory, reconciliation, and peace. Utilising an ethnographic methodology, this project considers the contemporary construction of trauma and the silencing of narratives to discover how TRCs impact psychological trauma from conflict.

Alvina Hoffmann

Reclaiming Democracy – Political Being in Geopoliticised Contexts

From the so-called European ‘refugee crisis’, to the occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia to Transatlantic surveillance practices colonising digital space, Alvina’s project takes issue with the employment of cynical realpolitik to make sense of political events, stressing the causal relationship between geography and politics.  Such political practice is considered as “‘truth’ in world politics” which seemingly persists in world history.  Despite academic deconstruction and critique of geographical-determinist accounts, practitioners as well as leading think tanks continue to frame international politics as realpolitik and fail to find alternative ways to think about the nexus of territory, bureaucracy of power, and population.

The focal point of the project is the nexus of territory, peoples, and politics, with the aim of assessing how political subjectivities are configured in this co-constitutive relation between the geopolitical imaginary and citizenship practices. This also challenges the separation between the social and the political, which social movement analysis and transnationalism tend to neglect, as this scholarship focuses solely on social aspects of citizenship and migration, rather than explicating the power relations at place.  By granting the everyday and the local political significance, new political questions come to the fore.  In espousing an International Political Sociology approach, this thesis will take the international not just as a level of analysis, but as an interconnection between processes, practices and relations.


Pathway 12- Strategic, Regional & Security Studies

Euan Carss

Trust in International Relations – a meaningful driver of EU external relations with MENA countries in security policy domains?

The concept of ‘trust’ has recently gained traction among scholars interested in cooperative relations between states, though studies remain in their relative infancy in terms of adequate theorising and conceptualisation (Hoffman, 2006; Brugger, 2015).

It is the premise of Euan’s proposed research – by way of further developing the concept of ‘trust’ within an International Relations (IR) perspective – that such an approach would not only serve to put ‘the IR back into EU studies’ theoretically, but also offer a new avenue for exploring questions of European Union (EU)/Middle East and North Africa (MENA) security cooperation empirically. The proposed research question for this project is thus: in what way and to what extent does ‘trust’ affect security relations between the EU and MENA countries?

Euan plans to utilise a sequential exploratory approach; an initial phase of qualitative research in order to explore the various characteristics of trust in EU/MENA relations and beyond, followed by a second quantitative collection of data to better understand the dynamics trust between the EU and MENA countries. Specifically, he will look at three MENA countries and three security policy domains within each.

Kalina Damianova

Strategic ”castling” on Eurasia’s energy map:  Russia’s natural gas strategy enhancement

Kalina’s PhD research argues that in the last two decades the complicated Eurasian energy dynamic has undergone a fundamental structural change, which has led to the ”regrouping” of its main actors’ strategies, policies, and regional approaches. In the rapidly changing regional context, where interests and conflicts are interwoven, the enhancement of the Eurasian actors’ strategies and bargain capacity is what has become relatively more important than maximising their traditional realist power.

The case study looks into one of Eurasia’s fundamental energy pillars, and also key political and security actor, Russia, and its natural gas strategy from the early 2000s onward.  It uses an interdisciplinary approach combining International Political Economy (IPE) with negotiations theory.  Through a multi-level vertical and horizontal method, the analysis ”dissects” Russia gas strategy into three levels: domestic; regional; and international, and examines the dynamics of each level.  Finally, it integrates the three levels into a comprehensive strategic analysis.  Although a variety of aspects affecting Russia’s energy sector and its strategy have been analysed already, Russia’s gas strategy has not been examined comprehensively within a theoretical framework that encompasses the dynamics of its domestic, regional, international level.  This research investigates the drivers of the aforementioned strategic changes on these three levels, tracks their outcome down and assesses them, asking the questions – why did these changes take place and what kind of outcomes did they lead to?

Luigi Scazzieri

The EU’s Responses to External Threats: Between Power and Institutions (Working Title)

Luigi’s research analyses the increasingly topical issue of the European Union’s responses to threats in its near abroad, assessing the respective role of Member States and EU Institutions in shaping responses and – by using the process tracing method – inductively theorising the conditions under which each factor exerts a greater impact on responses and the causal mechanisms through which it does so.

An Institution will be defined as ‘a set of rules and norms that stipulate the ways in which states should co-operate and compete with one another’.  The rules and norms guiding EU foreign policy are codified in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union.  Drawing on a broad conception of security (Ullman, 1983; Buzan/Wæver/de Wilde, 1998; Mathews, 1989; Buzan, 1991), threat will be defined as ‘an entity or phenomenon that has the potential to damage the European Union’s security’.  The thesis is based on three empirical case studies: the EU’s response to the Ukraine crisis (early 2014 -mid 2016), to the migration crisis (early 2015- late 2016) and to civil war in Libya (mid 2014- mid 2016).  The dependent variable of Luigi’s analysis is the EU’s response, namely its policy output in the three cases.  This is limited to output within the framework of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and does not include the foreign policies of individual Member States.  The independent variables are: i) Member States’ security preferences and ii) EU rules and norms.


Pathway 13- Politics, Public Policy & Governance

Tinahy Andriamansomanana

The Securitization of Immigration: A cross-national analysis of supranational judicial activity on immigration policymaking and policy practice

Tinahy’s research endeavours to contribute to migration-security literature by analysing how European Court of Justice (ECJ) and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings influence immigration politics and policy practice in Britain and France.  So far, much of the migration-security scholarship has largely oversimplified the relationship between immigration policymaking, policy practice, and judicial activity.  The study argues that judicial decisions have an effect on the overall dynamic of immigration policy-making and policy practice.  ECHR and ECJ rulings exert a direct and indirect influence on immigration policymaking and policy practice, by providing a liberal constraint on overly restrictive immigration policymaking by the executive.  ECJ and ECHR rulings introduce important rights-based elements into national migration policies, and in doing so, these courts have often thwarted member states’ ‘restrictive’ approaches.  The central guiding research question of this study is as follows: What is the influence of supranational judicial activity, specifically of the ECHR and ECJ, on the perceived ‘one-way’ flow between immigration policymaking and policy practice at the national level? This research will focus on two specific areas of immigration policy: irregular migration and border management.  The timeframe analysed will be 2001-2015.

Fabian Bohnenberger

The Role of Trade Expertise in Shaping National Regulatory Autonomy


Fabian’s PhD thesis examines how the debates between trade experts in Committees of the World Trade Organization (WTO) shape the interpretation of multilateral trade agreements and, therefore, Member States’ national regulatory autonomy. The project investigates empirically and theoretically how the discursive interactions between committee members can lead to the creation (and contestation) of shared ideas and common conceptual frameworks about the objectives and limits of the WTO’s agreements.

The project sheds new light on the roles that WTO administrative bodies play in regime maintenance, norm elaboration and the adaptation of the existing legal framework to new challenges. The thesis advances the argument that the contributions of WTO Committees to these crucial tasks, their internal functioning and the role of expert knowledge in international trade governance remain relatively under-explored. It argues that WTO Committee proceedings are more effective and have more profound implications on the operationalisation of WTO treaties and, by extension, member states’ domestic regulatory affairs, than is currently realised. The project reflects the turn towards social constructivist theorising in International Political Economy and International Economic Law research. It is supervised by Dr Valbona Muzaka at King’s Department of European and International Studies and Dr James Scott at the Department of Political Economy.

For more information on the PhD project and recent publications visit Fabian’s blog or follow him on Twitter.

Joe Hallgarten

What kinds of local institutions and external global levers and can most effectively and sustainably counter the closing of civil society spaces?

Whilst the reasons for threats to democracy are complex, there is increasing recognition that for democracy to flourish, a strong, fully engaged civil society is imperative. Notions of civil society are diffuse and subjective (Edwards, 2014), but there is a general consensus that, in addition to its role in supporting democracies to thrive, a healthy civil society expands the realm of human connection to meet essential needs: well-being, social connections, civic participation, freedom of expression, and belonging.

Although threats to the closing of civil society spaces are continually countered in a variety of ways, there is insufficient evidence about what works, and what works for the longer term.  There is too limited understanding about what approaches – whether ‘bottom up’ from local institutions and social movements, or ‘top down’ from the interventions of other countries or global institutions – are most effective and sustainable in preventing the closing of civil society spaces.  In addition to the rapid reaction that is so vital to countering threats when they arise – for instance, to freedom of expression, Joe’s work will argue that some broader theoretical underpinning is needed to understand how national and global actors (state and non-state) can develop more proactive, holistic strategies, creating an overall enabling environment where a flourishing civil society is far more likely and attempts to close spaces far more rare.

Sarah Court-Brown

The extent and effect of equality considerations in the development of UK law and policy in other areas

In the period following Britain’s exit from the EU, the Government will need to consider what Britain’s equality framework should look like in a changed political and legal landscape.  One difficulty it will encounter is the complicated maze of equality obligations and conventions in this country deriving from domestic and international legal obligations and social/political convention.  Unlike countries with a constitutional code, we do not have one clear set of written equality principles and equality is not generally understood to have entrenched or constitutional status.  This is despite the fact that equality considerations deriving from law and other sources are taken into account and represent an important guiding principle in the development of many other areas of law and policy.  In this way, equality considerations affect the final product of many political and legislative activities in other areas whether explicitly – for example, the health inequalities duty in section 1C of the NHS Act 2006 – or implicitly, in the way the law has been designed.

Against this background, the aim of Sarah’s research is to investigate precisely what equality considerations are taken into account in practice by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government in their law and policy making activities in other areas, and to what effect.  The research findings will contribute to the debate about whether equality protections have entrenched or constitutional status in the UK, and may assist in developing the case for protection of a minimum equality framework in an increasingly unstable and uncertain legal and political context in which equality rights are likely to suffer and the existing equality law framework is very likely to be substantially revised.

Onna Malou Van den Broek

Blurring the Lines: A Quantitative Study of the Dynamic Interplay Between Lobbying & Corporate Social Responsibility

Firms are increasingly involved in political activities around social issues (Peterson & Pfitzer 2009).  These activities suggest a certain degree of interaction between lobbying, or in other words Corporate Political Activities (CPA), and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), evoking questions of whether there is a trade-off between pursuing CSR and CPA. Explanations have far-reaching consequences for the scope of CSR and CPA practices, and bear political and social implications.  Understanding the role of corporations in society is especially important in the new area of governance modes beyond the state. This understanding can lead to an increased level of accountability and transparency (Bernhagen & Patsiurko 2014: 1-2). While a growing number of studies have started to explore the link between CPA and CSR (Bernhagen & Patsiurko 2014; den Hond, Rehbein, Bakker & Lankveld 2014; Mellahi, Frynas, Sun & Siegel 2016), no research has explained their interaction in a comprehensive manner.  Onna’s research aims to fill this gap by systematically analysing the dynamic interplay between CPA and CSR. These insights lead to the following research question: “When, how, to what extent, and with what effect is there a dynamic interplay between CSR issues and CPA activities?” Onna will start by using the resource-based theory to explain any trade-offs and look at the antecedents and effects of (mis/non)alignment. Furthermore, she will focus on heterogeneous institutional- and societal pressures as explanatory determinants of the dynamic interplay between CSR and CPA.