The British Academy / Wolfson Fellowships Awards 2022

Funded by

Dr Amena Amer

Navigating the academic space: Exploring identity negotiation and feelings of belonging among Muslim women in British universities.

University of Greenwich

Universities often present themselves as inclusive spaces, yet students and staff of colour describe feeling isolated, struggling to fit in. The intersection of race/ethnicity and other identities e.g. religion, further compound these experiences with detrimental consequences for success, retention and progression. Yet, much research fails to unpack these nuances which are important for understanding the complexity of experiences before taking steps to improve outcomes. Given equality, diversity and inclusion currently featuring highly on university agendas, it becomes an opportune moment to address these challenges. Drawing on qualitative methods, it explores the experiences of female Muslim students and academic staff in UK universities. It will generate new knowledge in understanding how the interplay between ethnicity, religion and gender impact experiences and shape outcomes and identify important insights for developing more inclusive university environments, positively influencing experiences for students and staff, and increasing aspirations for further study and pursuing an academic career.

Dr Thomas Cowan

Digital Enclosures: automating property in contemporary urban India

University of Nottingham

Over the past five years a series of partnerships between the Indian government and corporate tech companies have begun to roll-out digital property reform programmes (PropTech) across rural and peri-urban India. These programmes utilise blockchain technologies, biometric identification and GIS mapping to digitally map, title and enclose landholdings. For its state and institutional backers the provision of digitised private property rights is essential to resolving global challenges of poverty and state corruption and stimulating real estate investment in the Global South. Nevertheless, the implementation of PropTech programmes are hotly contested. The translation of customary rights, bordering of land, and construction of data each depend upon bureaucratic work, and are each subject to significant localised contestation. Through new research with engineers and bureaucrats implementing, and residents impacted by reforms in two sites, this fellowship will offer a book-length account of the travails of a global digital policy in the Global South.

Dr Rachel Elizabeth Fraser

Narrative Epistemology

Exeter College and University of Oxford

We think and speak in narrative. We tell each other stories, and come to believe them ourselves. Those are truisms. But they are truisms that analytic epistemology has ignored. Analytic epistemologists focus on very simple cases of belief and knowledge -- the kinds of belief and knowledge we attribute by saying things like `Jim believes that London is south of Edinburgh' and 'Sara knows that Jim is in London'. But such isolated beliefs make up at most a tiny fragment of our cognitive lives. Our beliefs are not isolated packets of information, but instead woven together into more or less complex, more or less sophisticated stories. My project has two parts. First, to see what happens to epistemology once we take seriously our status as `homo narrans'. Second, to work out the implications of narrative's epistemology for social and political theory.

Dr Sui Ting Kong

‘We are Hongkongers’: Contested identities, communities and home-building of Hongkonger diaspora in the UK

Durham University

The new British Nationals (Overseas) (BN(O)) visa route entitles 5.2 million Hong Kong BN(O) passport holders and their dependents to settle in the UK. While some policy and research addresses the health and social care needs of Hongkongers, no study has situated these needs in in the context of Hongkongers’ identity, social network building, their experience of recent pro-democracy movements, and the prevalence of anti-China sentiment and colonial nostalgia among Hongkongers. Without understanding these issues, the needs and preferences of newly arrived Hongkongers cannot adequately be assessed. This project will work with the UK Hongkonger diaspora to explore how they understand, negotiate and perform their Hongkonger identities, which may impact pre-existing and new relationships with local and transnational communities, friends and families and support agencies. Findings will help the UK government, community groups and social care professionals develop suitable services for Hongkongers.

Dr Amber Murrey

Extraction and the Social Scientist: Decolonising Research on the Politics of Knowledge, Agency, & Resistance in Natural Resource Geographies

University of Oxford

This project proposes to undertake the first comprehensive examination of social scientists as actors equipped with agency, power, and influence within extractive projects. To examine the contested relations between social scientists, communities, and the corporate extractive sectors, I develop an analytically apt transdisciplinary decolonial methodology. The project aims to challenge a variety of methods, classically critiqued for perpetuating forms of knowledge extraction (‘epistemic extractivism’). I draw upon decolonial scholarship and community workshops in Yaoundé, Port Harcourt, and London to develop a critical, redistributive, and decolonising praxis for social scientists engaged with and working within the geographies of extraction. My findings will be disseminated through academic publications, an original documentary film, and in the form of a decolonial handbook laying the foundations for thoughtful and ethical practices in this arena. Overall, the project reorients debates about the socio-politics of scholarly expertise and the responsibilities incumbent upon social scientists towards the public.

Dr Michelle Williams Gamaker

Narrative Reparations: On Fictional Activism, Fictional Revenge and Fictional Healing

Goldsmiths, University of London

Black Lives Matter (2013–) has urgently highlighted our impoverished ethics of representation of marginalised groups. Racist characterisations saturate the cultural imagination of Western filmmaking with cinema’s so-called Golden Age (1920s–1960s) – specifically early-mid 20th Century British and Hollywood Studio films – producing countless, structurally unequal, exoticised fictions as entertainment. Both film industries actively denied roles for actors of colour, exposing generations of audiences to the studio tradition of blackface – an image-violence through crude stereotyping of complex subjectivities. By reinstating the representation of these individuals as Fictional Activism (2017-) my decolonial research studies actors Anna May Wong, Sabu and Merle Oberon to explore the relationship between cinema, psychoanalysis, self-conceptualisation and self-worth. I will extend my innovative research methodology in moving image and film theory to Fictional Revenge and Fictional Healing as Narrative Reparation. Two new films and three interdisciplinary roundtables with international scholars will produce material for a themed journal.

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