Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards 2021

Funded by

William Allen

University of Oxford

Do Facts Still Matter? Examining the Importance of Information for Migration Attitudes

Globally, concerns about migration animate political divisions and fuel illiberalism. Assuming false beliefs partly underpin these concerns, political scientists have prioritised understanding how information about migration conveyed via fact-checking impacts attitudes. Yet there are threats to the growing consensus about facts’ effectiveness: existing experimental evidence is based on stimuli (‘treatments’) that inadequately reflect real-world digital messaging; information effects may not extend to general migration attitudes; and contexts beyond largely migrant destination countries may exhibit different dynamics. My project addresses these problems in two parts. First, I will use UK- and US-based experiments to measure how and for whom factual messages impact migration attitudes, basing these messages’ designs on preceding computational analysis of news media and fact-checks that include visual elements. Second, I will use existing cross-national surveys—including ones involving migrant-sending countries—to model whether and how individuals’ levels of information change their migration attitudes.

Alexis Javier Alvarez Nakagawa

Queen Mary University of London

Non-Human Rights. New Legal Persons in Posthuman Times

“Non-Human Rights” is an interdisciplinary project that seeks to understand the ongoing transformation of the subject of rights in the human rights discourse as a consequence of the recognition of personhood and rights to non-human entities. Considering this development as a phenomenon of unprecedented global dimensions, which attempts to cope with contemporary environmental and technological challenges, it examines the granting of rights to animals, rivers, mountains, rainforests, and synthetic and/or artificial non-human beings in different legal systems around the world. This trend, which emerged in the US and India and gained momentum in 2008 in Latin America, has now expanded globally, and could produce a radical change of paradigm in the legal domain. “Non-Human Rights” will employ qualitative research methods combining historical analysis and comparative in-depth case studies. It will help us understand how this trend might develop in the near future and fill a gap in the current scholarship.

Merrick Anderson

University College London (UCL)

Just Prospering? An Ancient Debate about the Value of Justice

The virtue of justice (dikê/dikaiosunê) played an important role in ancient Greece. It was traditionally thought to lay the foundations for a successful society by regulating what citizens could and could not do to one another. In the second half of the 5th-century BCE, however, a group of intellectuals known as the sophists called this virtue into question and ushered in a fierce debate which, for the first time in recorded history, featured principled arguments for and against the value of justice. I am proposing a detailed historical study of this debate and the impact it had on Plato’s philosophy in the following century. By focusing on the sophists’ attitudes towards the narrow virtue of justice this study will contribute to a growing appreciation of early Greek moral thought. By documenting the influence of these attitudes on Plato it will additionally shed new light onto this most seminal of philosophers.

Richard Ashby

King's College London

Shakespeare and Holocaust Writing: Testimony, Literature, Philosophy

Holocaust writers have consistently used Shakespeare to represent and reflect on the events of the Shoah; yet the important, intertextual role Shakespeare has played in Holocaust writing has received little scholarly attention. This project addresses a gap in Shakespeare and Holocaust studies by asking why Shakespeare is so vital for Holocaust writers and how his works have been used to enhance Holocaust understanding. Drawing on close readings of prominent writers and related archival research in national/international collections, it will investigate the way Shakespeare emerges as a shared intertextual reference, through which authors can invoke and/or interrogate the traditions of Western humanist culture after the Shoah. This will involve exploring a distinctive nexus among generic forms: testimony, literature and philosophy. Shakespeare enables survivors to testify to the camps; produce new literary culture around the Holocaust; and philosophise about the human condition, making the Holocaust more intelligible to both self and others.

Zoe Baker

University of York

Care-experienced graduates' decision-making, choices, and destinations: How does a background of care affect graduate transitions?

Care-experienced (CE) students overcome profound challenges to access Higher Education (HE), such as educational disruption, and mental health issues arising from childhood trauma. Yet, we know little about their onward trajectories as graduates. Quantitative evidence of CE graduate destinations presents a complex pattern; they are less likely to be employed, though are more likely to move directly into postgraduate study. Dominant theories in the sociology of education would predict a continuation of disadvantage, which only partially exists here. This study will be the first to investigate the reasons underpinning this complexity. Using a qualitative, longitudinal approach, it will explore how CE students negotiate their graduate transitions into employment/postgraduate study. In paying attention to how care histories shape constellations of structural enablements and constraints upon graduation, the study will generate new insights into sociological theories of how inequalities are reproduced (or not), and whether HE helps to transcend early life disadvantages.

Giada Baldessarelli

Imperial College London

Sensing together: Embodiment and collective work in creative projects

Creative workers, such as designers and architects, substantially rely on teamwork to accomplish creative tasks. Teams construct and share knowledge by working in close proximity and collectively manipulating material artefacts. As such, the production of creative outcomes involves “bodies-in-action” that employ and share their sensory, embodied experiences to carry out collaborative work. Despite the importance of human bodies, management research has provided little evidence on how embodied experiences influence collective activities. Through qualitative research methods based on ethnographic fieldwork, the proposed research project explores the role of bodies in the activities that creative workers carry out to accomplish novelty. By adopting an original standpoint that draws attention to the pivotal role of embodiment, this project advances the scholarly understanding of the dynamics that underpin the production of creativity and collective organisational processes.

Santiago Bertrán

University of Warwick

Engagements with British Culture in Spanish Writing and Film of the Transition, 1965-1980.

This project traces and theorises the contributions to Spain's so-called 'Transition' to democracy of a generation of young Spanish writers and filmmakers who found in British literature and culture a source for creation and experimentation beyond the bounds of Francisco Franco's Spain. Marked by a period of economic and cultural opening in the final years of dictatorship, this generation was driven less by an explicit project of national rehabilitation or collective memory than by a cosmopolitan sensibility and a fascination with pop cultural and countercultural forms. At the same time, this project shows how this fascination did not represent an evasion of Spanish identity and memory so much as it provided new modes for addressing those preoccupations in an increasingly globalised society. The study of these British- Spanish transcultural mediations will reveal their contribution to Spain’s Transition into a global and globalised democracy.

Sage Brice

University of Glasgow

Everyday Practices of Trans-Individuality: Viral Ecologies of Isolation and Exposure during the COVID-19 Pandemic

This project examines the conditions of vulnerability through which Covid-19 elicits a new and different concept of subjectivity, working closely with a diverse group of trans participants to examine what happens to everyday practices of gender expression under the novel spatial constraints of a global pandemic. Resistance to trans recognition arises in part from fiercely contested theoretical positions regarding the 'nature' of identity: positions which go to the heart of what constitutes a political subject. Similarly, conditions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic - combining a generally unfamiliar degree of social isolation with new forms of exposure and mutual vulnerability - have profoundly destabilised the processes through which individuals customarily create and sustain a sense of self in relation to wider collectives. The project deploys a combination of conventional and creative methods to facilitate a participatory research process with trans participants, to rethink subjectivity in explicitly relational and ecological terms.

James Brown

University of Sheffield

Expressivism and the Normativity of Well-Being

Prudential discourse, or thought and talk about well-being or what is good for a person, forms a central component of thinking about how we should live. As well as asking what we should do morally, for example, we also ask what we should do for our own good. However, despite its centrality in thinking how to live, very little attention has been given to questions about the nature of prudential discourse. My research aims to fill this lacuna. Drawing on contemporary research in meta-ethics, I propose to motivate, develop, and explore the implications of an expressivist theory of prudential discourse. According to expressivism, claims about how we should live express evaluative attitudes and practical commitments, rather than factual beliefs. Understanding prudential discourse in this way, I will argue, provides a novel and attractive account of prudential discourse that furthers our understanding of a centrally important part of our lives.

Philip Conway

Durham University

Critical atmospheres: A transdisciplinary investigation of criticism as a contested social practice

Who gets to judge? That is, who gets to pass critical judgement on public policy, popular morality, or the way of things in general? In recent years, movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have, via new media technologies, transformed established convention regarding whose criticism counts. This has, however, gone hand in hand with widespread complaints that ‘cancel culture,’ ‘virtue signalling,’ and academic ‘critical theory’ are, in one way or another, undermining the standards of reason and civility that make liberal democratic politics possible. ‘Critical atmospheres’ investigates these problems via three contemporary case studies—of satirical cartoonists, the news media, and activist healthcare workers—as well as extensive historical research. Employing an innovative mixed methodology, this approach not only clarifies the multifaceted concept of criticism in academic terms but also locates everyday critical practice in the swirling, ‘atmospheric’ flows of outrage and opposition that foment political thought and action.

Vera Da Silva Sinha

University of York

Amazonian perspectives on time and number in cognition and communication

This project investigates the relationship in human cognition between time and number, with a focus on the role of language and culture in configuring this relationship. I will investigate the role of number in time reckoning in three indigenous Brazilian communities, using field-based non-linguistic experiments and multimodal communication (speech with gesture) analysis. These three Amazonian languages have small number systems with less than five basic numerals and use exclusively event-based time intervals, in which the time interval is indexed to an event or activity. The project will contribute to resolving controversies about the role of language and cultural artefacts versus innate capacities in number and time concepts. Results will be communicated through scientific journal articles, and to wider audiences through the production of a documentary. The data will be used in indigenous education and language/culture revitalization; and will also be important for understanding human-environment relations in traditional non-Western societies.

Henry Dee

University of Glasgow

We demand free labour: African and Asian migrant workers, immigration controls and the international labour movement in interwar South Africa

During the interwar period, African and Asian trade unionists in South Africa pioneered new ideas about race, rights and mobility, with international ramifications. As state borders across the British empire consolidated, the free movement of immigrant workers in South Africa became increasingly restricted. Many were forcibly deported. At local mass meetings and international labour conferences, however, two new trade unions - the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU) and the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) – championed the transnational rights and representation of immigrant workers. This project examines these organisations’ campaigns through the prism of migration and citizenship, thus moving beyond a narrow focus on their African and Asian nationalist contemporaries. At the intersection between labour history and global history, the project will show how trade unionists’ arguments shaped local debates about nationalism and immigration, and transformed global ideas about race and empire within the world labour movement.

Charlotte Diffey

University of Oxford

Plants and Power: the social dynamics of urban food production at the Late Bronze Age city of Hattusha

Large-scale systems of food production were essential to the development and growth of urban settlements during the Late Bronze Age (LBA - 2nd millennium BC) of the Eastern Mediterranean. Control over these agro-economies allowed the expansion of elite power and paved the way for greater levels of bureaucratic administration in these societies. However, a lack of empirical evidence has prevented detailed examination of the relationship between LBA agriculture and urban society. My project will address this gap by applying a multi-stranded archaeobotanical approach to the study of urban farming systems at Hattusha.

The unparalleled archaeobotanical assemblage recovered from Hattusha, combined with the use of cutting-edge scientific techniques, will provide a unique opportunity to assess at a high-resolution the changing nature of LBA agro- and socio-economies in this region, as well as furthering academic dialogue on the rise of social inequality and subsequent LBA urban collapse.

Christina Easton

University of Warwick

Opening minds: A new analysis of tolerance for the classroom

Schools in England are required to teach ‘tolerance’. But what does it mean to be ‘tolerant’? Ofsted and the Department of Education interpret it as an attitude of non-disapproval, or even as an appreciation of the value of different ways of life. This view has received little scholarly attention, with political philosophers focusing on tolerance as forbearance – refraining from interfering with others' ways of life. I will present, defend, and explore the practical implications of a novel analysis of tolerance as non-disapproval. Schools can, and should, teach children positive attitudes towards a diverse range of lifestyles. The theoretical insights that emerge will be used to generate recommendations for responding to some pressing education policy challenges, including current controversies over LGBT education. Thus as well as shedding light on important debates in political theory, this project will provide much-needed clarity on disputes currently playing out on streets and in classrooms.

Arthur Ghins

King's College London

Public Opinion versus Popular Sovereignty: from the French Revolution to Tocqueville

Today, political theorists often understand public opinion as an expression of popular sovereignty. This amalgamation of the two concepts is usually traced back to the French Revolution. To date, however, scholars have not paid attention to how, after the Revolution, major theorists of public opinion envisaged it in relation to popular sovereignty. As a result, we have forgotten the tensions between the two notions that emerged at this key moment. This project investigates how early nineteenth century French liberals – Necker, Staël, Constant, Guizot and Tocqueville – theorized public opinion, popular sovereignty and the connections between the two. My main research hypothesis is that, in reaction to the Revolution, these authors conceptualized public opinion as an alternative to popular sovereignty. This would imply that key past theorists of government by opinion did not conceive it as enabling popular sovereignty, as most contemporary democratic theorists assume, but as preventing its exercise.

Daniel Herskowitz

University of Oxford

Jewish Existentialism and the Legacy of Martin Luther

This research project offers an innovative reinterpretation of twentieth century Jewish existentialism by approaching it in light of the ‘constructive return’ to Martin Luther in post-Kantian Protestant theology during the fin de siècle. It offers a close reading of key works by four Jewish thinkers – Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas – and argues that while differing in emphasis, detail, and methodology, they share a single underlying ‘structure of thought’ that could be termed ‘Lutheran.’ It analyses their negotiation between commitment to Jewish sources and Lutheran structural assumptions and explores how they polemicise against Christianity while sharing with it a common inheritance. This study contributes an unacknowledged perspective to the debates over the ‘Protestantisation’ of modern Judaism and the construction of Jewish-Christian difference, and confirms that just as there is a medieval tradition of Jewish Aristotelianism, so there is a modern tradition of Jewish Lutheranism.

Sinan John-Richards

King's College London

Science’s Fiction: Lacanian Philosophy of Science and Epistemological Debates in Twentieth-century French Thought

I propose the first comprehensive account of the contributions of Lacanian psychoanalysis to the philosophy of science, through an analysis of Lacan’s implicit and explicit contributions to the field, and through a contextual account of his forerunners and contemporaries, including Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, and the Cahiers pour l’Analyse group (Milner, Miller et al.). Philosophers of science have underappreciated the contributions of twentieth-century French philosophy, and Lacan’s critique is that Modern Science remains in what he calls the Imaginary realm. The underlying research question of the project is this: is psychoanalysis a science? While Freud insisted on the biological nature of psychoanalysis, Lacan’s clinic actively sought to subvert psychoanalysis in its empirical and measurable vein. I will show how Lacan developed a psychoanalytic practice that, epistemologically, stood apart from “science,” while also advocating in favour of a philosophical tradition which tackled “scientific” questions from within a non-scientific paradigm.

Suzan Meryem Rosita Kalayci

University of Oxford

"Fragments of Insanity: Shattered Lives after the Armenian Genocide"

“The life of Alexander Cosac remains a mystery, perhaps even to himself. He cannot be expected to give very coherent answers for our oral history interview because of his years in isolation in various mental institutions and his damaged skull," writes the oral historian Harold Takooshian.My project ‘Fragments of Insanity’ is largely inspired by the life story of Alexander Cosac, survivor of the Armenian genocide. Through his life story and others, my project will explore the incomprehensibility and unlocatability of extreme trauma caused by historical experiences such as the Armenian genocide. My project brings together for the first time the untold and forgotten stories of severely traumatized Armenian genocide survivors. The impulse of my project is thus both recuperative and analytical. ‘Fragments of Insanity’ will contribute to the fields of genocide studies, Armenian studies, oral histories and memory studies, and histories of war, trauma, and medicine.

Isidoros Charalampos Katsos

University of Oxford

Christian Human Rights: Ancient and Post-Modern

Early Christian reflection on the human condition has been largely overlooked in historical and theological studies on Christian human rights. The proposed research fills this gap by studying, for the first time in scholarship, the anthropology of the early church against the backdrop of the Greco-Roman concepts of “human rights” and “human dignity”. First, it explores the transformation of “rights” and “dignity” from philosophical into theological categories in the Greek patristic corpus. Secondly, it critically reflects on the meaning of early Christian humanism and investigates its consequences for current debates on Christianity and human rights. The proposed study will offer the first monograph and articles on the mutual influence of Christian anthropology and ancient human rights reshaping our understanding of the conceptual origins of postmodern Christian human rights.

Una MacGlone

University of Edinburgh

Designing and evaluating creative music workshops for individuals under 18 with additional support needs through person-centred, mixed methods research.

This innovative project will develop new, inclusive and flexible strategies to facilitate creative musical participation for children and adolescents with additional support needs (ASN). There are increased pressures on mental health of all in society as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but research shows those with ASN face greater disadvantage. Creative activity is associated with better mental health and wellbeing for those with ASN as it can provide a positive coping strategy. Musical improvisation provides those with ASN the opportunity to develop self-expression, agency and creativity. Such processes offer substantial positive effects on confidence and mood. Person-centred, inclusive methods will capture experiences of and impacts on participants. Their views will be central to informing content and functionality of an interactive website. An advisory group including lay researchers with a disability, will add valuable perspectives. Journal articles and presentations will contribute to developing theory in this urgently needed cross-disciplinary area.

Maayan Menashe

University of Cambridge

Re-Imagining Global Labour Rights’ Enforcement

The current deficiency in international labour rights’ enforcement is commonly described as the 'crisis of labour law'. While labour standards are regulated across nations by the International Labour Organization (ILO), in the absence of ‘hard’ enforcement mechanisms, the ILO is frequently lamented for lacking ‘teeth’ to be effective. This project therefore asks: how can international labour law be effectively enforced, in lieu of coercive measures? Employing economic and systemic theory to the study of law, this research proposes a novel approach to international labour law enforcement. Calling for a conceptual departure from the prevailing understanding of legal enforcement through coercion or threat of sanctions, the study uncovers the role of legal enforcement in building a convention of compliance around labour standards. Ultimately, regulatory processes will be developed to bypass the system’s lack of coercive powers, and to alter the incentive structure of countries and companies towards compliance with labour rights.

Rebecca Menmuir

Queen Mary University of London

Classical Pseudepigrapha and Forgeries in the English Middle Ages (c. 1100–1500)

In the later Middle Ages, the canonical works of classical authors were not the final word on classical authority. Alongside the genuine poetry of Ovid and Cicero, for example, were a number of texts spuriously attributed to these Latin authors: classical pseudepigrapha. Some are the product of accidental misattribution – a copy-text gone awry, or a misinformed scribe – whereas others are intentional deceptions, or forgeries. These texts range from fragmentary scribbles borne of a blank, spare manuscript page, to entire poems, complete with backstories and lavish introductions. This interdisciplinary project will catalogue and interpret classical pseudepigrapha and forgeries which werecirculating in England in the later Middle Ages (c. 1100–1500). Building on scholarship on pseudo-Ovidiana and medieval and antique forgeries, this project will ask how the presence and prominence of these pseudo-texts affected the mechanics of ‘authority’ and ‘authenticity’, essential concepts to both medieval and modern readers and writers.

Annemieke Milks

University of Reading

Reverse Engineering Pleistocene Spears: interdisciplinary perspectives on raw materials and performance

This interdisciplinary project seeks to answer questions about a significant shift in human technology: why did Pleistocene humans choose to add stone points to wooden spears? Wooden spears are first evidenced archaeologically around 400,000 years ago, while the first stones for tipping spears appeared between 300,000 and 200,000 years ago. Wooden spears were simple but effective weapons that continued to be utilised until recently, alongside subsequent weapon innovations. The addition of stone points may or may not have significantly improved the performance of spears, and current interpretations are not supported by clear evidence. To evaluate this key shift in human technological evolution, archaeological, primatological and ethnographic records of the use of wood and stone for weapons will be combined with contextual data to create a chrono-geographic overview of weapon materials and human choices. New experimental and ethnographic research will provide further analytical tools to ‘reverse engineer’ this Middle Pleistocene innovation.

Forum Mithani

Cardiff University


The recent #MeToo movement has exposed the fracture in gender relations on a global level. In Japan, one of the most contested sites of gender discourse is the figure of the mother, which has functioned as an allegory for the nation’s anxieties, hopes and dreams. The maternal image cultivated during the twentieth century has largely been shaped by men, who have dominated cultural production, creating a nostalgic fantasy of the mother as selfless and undesiring. However, during the Heisei era (1989-2019), a period of significant social and demographic change caused in part by shifting conceptions of gender and family, women were writing their own mother-centred narratives. There has been little research on the symbolic value of these cultural representations and what they reveal about gender relations in contemporary Japan. This project will fill this gap with the first comprehensive study of the maternal image in literature, film and television drama.

Thomas Nelson

University of Oxford

The Hellenistic Epic Fragments: Edition, Translation, and Commentary

This project will provide the first ever systematic commentary on the surviving fragments of epic poetry from the Hellenistic period (c.323–30 BCE). My goals are threefold: first, to produce a lasting scholarly resource which makes these neglected texts widely accessible to scholars and students. Second, to revise our understanding of the scale, scope and influence of Hellenistic epic – questions of critical importance for our broader interpretation of Hellenistic literary culture and its influence on Roman poetry. And third, to transform our vision of the Hellenistic literary landscape, correcting modern scholarship’s continued focus on the few complete surviving works of Hellenistic poetry from Ptolemaic Alexandria, to the exclusion of other texts from across the eastern Mediterranean. Hellenistic epic fragments range from Sicily and Greece to Syria, Jerusalem and beyond. I will exploit their plurality and geographical range to produce a new interpretation of Hellenistic literature's aesthetic and cultural diversity.

Luca Peretti

University of Warwick

Transnational Media at the End of the Colonial Era in Italy and the Third World

This project investigates cultural exchanges between Italy and the Third World at the peak of the anticolonial era (late 1950s-early 1970s). It focuses on cinema alongside other cultural forms and media practices, such as photography, exhibitions, television. Core case studies include films by Italian directors in the Third World (intended in terms of the political project of that period) and the role of film institutions in Italy (e.g. the national film school, film festivals) in fostering Third World cinema. I claim that a distinct Mediterranean, Internationalist and Third-Worldist ideology emerged at this time, and that the study of cinema and media exposes this ideology and its longer-term cultural and political impact. My contention is that we can better understand and influence today’s relationships between Europe and the Global South by examining a different, more dynamic approach to the dichotomies of North/South, developed/underdeveloped fostered by the end of the colonial era.

Matthew Porges

University of Oxford

Where Would We Be Without Utopia?: Migration and Political Imagination in the Northwestern Balkans

This project will explore how overlapping and competing notions of utopia—idealised futures which transcend the ills of the present—shape political struggles over migration in the Balkans. The primary fieldsite for this project is a disused factory in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which has served as a waypoint and self-organised community for migrants moving through (or settling in) the Balkans on their way to Western Europe. Within the factory, migrants and activists (neither of which are monolithic groups) imagine and work towards overlapping political futures, defined in relation to the European Union, Slovenian nationalism, and the legacy of Yugoslav socialism. This project will examine how migrants organise politically following their “arrival” in Europe, and how utopian movements work within and outside existing institutions. This project seeks to make a novel contribution to the study of migration in Europe, the political legacy of socialism, and ideologies of the future within the European Union.

Stephanie Postar

London School of Economics and Political Science

African Atomic Bureaucracies: Evidence, Trust, and Translations of the State in Tanzania

This study of Tanzanian nuclear regulators examines their roles as translators of science, policy, and evidence with impacts on social and physical wellbeing for Tanzanians today and generations to come. Tanzania’s role in the nuclear world is changing, as a source of uranium and demonstrating increasing interest in nuclear electricity generation. Nuclear regulators undertake ordinary bureaucratic activities regulating equipment, waste, as well as uranium mines all while inextricably bound by the extraordinary nature of ionizing radiation. Using ethnographic and visual methods, this study explores the testing, inspection, and certification of nuclear equipment and facilities through which atomic bureaucrats translate science and state power into efforts to control the invisible force of radiation. By investigating the practices of African atomic regulators, this project—the first to study contemporary African atomic energy regulation—seriously re-examines the (dis)trust between citizens, scientists, and postcolonial African governments.

Afra Pujol i Campeny

University of Oxford

Register, Genre and Syntax in Old Catalan

This project will explore syntactic variation connected to register and genre in Old Catalan from 1269 to 1379, the earliest and shortest timespan available for this purpose in the Old Catalan textual record. In order to do so, a database of eight Old Catalan texts from four different genres (historiographic, literary, religious, and legal) will be produced. By exploring how the register of a text (its linguistic features linked to its function and context) and its genre (its formal features marking it as belonging to a concrete class) interact with word order, I will describe the structure of Old Catalan, identify synchronic syntactic variation linked to written conventions, and establish whether reported speech, an allegedly reliable source of oral-like data, is indeed a window into the spoken language of the past. This project will yield various research outputs, including three articles, a monograph, and a database.

Henry Ravenhall

University of Cambridge

Tactile Communities: Emotion and the Experience of Medieval French Literature

What does touch have to do with literary history? How did readers of medieval French experience the book sensorially, and how did these practices change over time and space? At the intersection of the ‘material’, ‘emotional’, and ‘sensory’ turns in twenty-first-century Medieval Studies, Tactile Communities asks how the pervasive signs of haptic engagement with the medieval manuscript should inform our analyses of the texts that they transmit. Scholars often remark on the rubbing, scratching, and even kissing of image on parchment. Yet what happens if we take this material reality not as secondary to the meaning of the text (thus configured as an immutable object fixed in literary history), but rather as constitutive of the meaning-making process itself? Presenting the first-ever comprehensive investigation of this phenomenon, Tactile Communities re-reads five widely-disseminated texts of medieval France through the physical marks located at the interface between reading subject and tangible object.

Joshua Rhodes

Durham University

The Agrarian Roots of Capitalism in England, c.1550 - c.1850

This project examines the agrarian roots of England’s precocious economic and industrial development between 1550 and 1850. The emergence of agrarian capitalism – a system of rural social organisation comprising large-scale landlords, tenant farmers, and proletarianised labourers – is a crucial factor in explaining higher productivity levels in agriculture allowing more people to work outside agriculture in industry. Increases in farm size are a central feature of the development of agrarian capitalism. However, existing farm size data are limited to local or regional studies and are based on manorial documents, which are an unreliable record of farm size. Using alternative sources and a new approach to reconstruct accurate farm sizes with broad temporal and geographical coverage, this project fundamentally shifts our understanding of the chronology and geography of the development of agrarian capitalism in England and re-assesses its role in underpinning England’s economic and industrial development.

Tessa Roberts

King's College London

Developing and testing an eco-epidemiological model of the maintenance of psychotic disorders: An interdisciplinary, mixed methods study

The course of psychotic disorders is highly variable. There is some evidence of better course in the global south, which has been speculatively attributed to greater social cohesion. However, most studies have been limited to the role of individual-level factors in explaining variance in course, neglecting the role of social context. I will use a mixed-methods eco-epidemiological approach to investigate how the communities and neighbourhoods in which people live affect the course of psychosis in Trinidad (a diverse society in the global south, since most previous research focuses on Western Europe/North America). I will use geospatial qualitative methods to investigate how embodied experiences of neighbourhoods affect people with psychosis. I will then work with communities in Trinidad to co-create improved measures of neighbourhood environments. Finally, I will test whether the neighbourhood characteristics they identify as important are associated with improved social and clinical outcomes for people living with psychosis.

Jon Roozenbeek

University of Cambridge

Psychological “vaccines” against online misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and extremist recruitment strategies

Online misinformation is a pervasive global threat, according to the World Economic Forum. As a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, I will develop a theory of psychological resistance to unwanted persuasion in the digital era. In service of this, I will conduct four separate research projects related to inoculation theory and online misinformation, each of which will advance our knowledge how psychological resistance to persuasion works across different cultures, to what extent "herd immunity" against online misinformation is possible, and the role that threat, memory, motivation and perspective-taking play in inoculation interventions. In addition, this project will yield several practical, scalable real-world interventions. The first three projects focus on issue domains where the proliferation of manipulative content poses a significant threat to society: vaccine hesitancy, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and online recruitment by extremist organisations. The fourth domain focuses on the development of psychological “herd immunity” against misinformation through agent-based modelling.

Patrick Smith

University of Warwick

Mediated Forensics: Documentary’s New Evidentiary Turn

New technologies and aesthetic practices are reshaping the role nonfiction visual culture can play in exposing state violence and violations of human rights. This project focuses on the new visual media practices being developed by groups of artists, researchers and media collectives such as Forensic Architecture, SITU Research, WITNESS, Mnemonic, Bellingcat, INDEX, Videre est Credere, VFRAME and the Digital Forensics Research Lab. The project will examine how, within a political and cultural epoch marked by discourses of “post-truth” and “post-representation,” these artists, research and media collectives have developed new visual and technological practices that aim to reassert the capacity that nonfiction visual media forms have to speak truth to power and act as powerful forces for positive change. Ultimately, the project argues that the new technological and aesthetic strategies being developed and utilised by these groups are radically reconstructing investigatory methodologies and collaborative practices across contemporary human rights, documentary, and new media practice. Therefore, the project will examine the radical convergence of different investigatory modes and aesthetic-political dispositions across these diverse fields of practice.

Kate Summers

London School of Economics and Political Science

Studying social security policy in a (post) pandemic world: new qualitative methods for a socially distanced era

The social security (‘benefits’ or ‘welfare’) system is a cornerstone of the UK’s coronavirus pandemic response. The pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges faced by the working-age social security system as well as creating new concerns and vulnerabilities. At the same time, the pandemic has posed new challenges for how researchers study social security policy when qualitative research in this area is dominated by traditional face-to-face interviews.

This research has two interrelated aims: (1) to develop and deploy new methodological tools fit for the (post) pandemic era, targeting current methodological blind-spots, omissions and exclusions, and (2) to produce new substantive insights on the (dis)functioning of the working-age social security system in this context. The research will produce rigorous, policy-relevant evidence on how the social security system has fared in supporting key groups, and at the same time share new approaches to qualitative data collection that can be used by other researchers.

James Tanner

University of Glasgow

Tracking talker dynamics within and across English dialects

Human language is striking in its diversity: people from the same regional and social background can speak in remarkably different ways. Our ability to understand speech from numerous talkers suggests that humans are well-adapted to managing such variation. However, the properties of speech which systematically vary across speakers, within and across dialects, are not well-understood, nor is how such variation impacts on distinguishing speakers. This project expands research on speaker variation by focusing on speech dynamics: changes in acoustic quality of a sound over its duration. The project will first examine individual speaker dynamics in the largest existing cross-dialectal database of North American and British English, and then probe the role of dynamics for perceiving individual talkers. Project findings will provide insights into how individuals systematically differ in speech, and will further understanding about what constitutes dialects in terms of how speakers participate in, and deviate from, group-level speech patterns.

Federico Testa

University of Bristol

Georges Canguilhem, from Pacifism to Resistance. An Alternative History of the Twentieth-Century French Intellectual

In times of strong anti-intellectual sentiments, this project aims at recovering a neglected (but still relevant) model of the committed intellectual through a study of the trajectory of Georges Canguilhem, who was one of the most influential historians and philosophers of science of his generation. Canguilhem’s work is usually depicted as a technical study of medicine and biology. This project challenges this dominant view by re-situating Canguilhem’s thought in the context of the main events that shaped it, especially the event of war: I will trace his intellectual trajectory from pacifist during WWI to résistant in WWII, showing that practical, political, and social concerns preceded his epistemological work. The project seeks to write Canguilhem back into twentieth-century French intellectual history and, by relating his thinking to that of his interlocutors and contemporaries (Alain, Cavaillès, Sartre and others), it will offer an alternative history of the intellectual in France.

Frederika Tevebring

King's College London

Matriarchal Past and Modernist History

This project explores how, in the first half of the twentieth century, the theory of a prehistoric matriarchy became a focal point for reimagining a shared European heritage amidst political instability. My study is grounded in the multifaceted career of British archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996). In collaborations with UNESCO, The Festival of Britain, and artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, Hawkes popularized archaeological theories of an early matriarchy and presented it as a model for a post-war European future. I contextualize Hawkes’s lifework within similar cross-disciplinary programs across Europe, including a 1938 conference in Ascona, Switzerland, where artists, Classicists and psychoanalysts—some of them recent refugees—debated the Great Goddess. Based on several unpublished archives, the project reconstructs the social history and geopolitical ramifications of the matriarchal theory. Resonating with present-day debates, the project offers a model for studying the relation between political instability, nationalism, and the politicization of history.

Pablo Torres Nunez

University of Cambridge

Does the development of self-regulation require culturally effective teaching? An international and experimental study

How does culture influence the type of teaching that promotes child and adolescent development? Until now, it has been assumed that the same teaching strategies have similar effects on child and adolescent development globally. However, new research shows that they can, in fact, have different, even opposing, effects on learning and skill development across countries. This warns against acritical cross-cultural appropriations of teaching strategies. Recent small studies suggest self-regulation may be among the skills that must be developed through culture-specific teaching. Self-regulation refers to people’s capacity to regulate their own cognition/motivation/behaviour towards the successful completion of a goal. It is, therefore, paramount for the development of other skills and learning in general. Through a large-scale international quantitative study and a quasi-experiment, this project will test the cost/benefit of appropriating foreign versus perfecting local teaching strategies for self-regulation development. It will thereby determine the extent to which self-regulation requires culturally-specific teaching.

Alexander Vickery

Royal Holloway, University of London

Complementarities in Children’s Skill Development and Mental Health: The Role of Parental Investments, Health and Relationship Quality

The development of a child’s skills is crucial for their long-term health, economic prosperity, and wider family outcomes. Heterogeneity in investments, experiences, and opportunities puts children on different paths from birth. This means that children growing up in households characterized by low child investments, poor parental health and partner abuse will fall behind in multiple aspects, including cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and physical and mental health, limiting their future opportunities. My research will estimate how skills and health develop in unison and how they interact in order to evaluate policy interventions that can be effective at improving outcomes for disadvantaged children. It is likely that interventions are more productive at certain ages, but it remains unclear whether targeting one dimension can compensate for, or help overcome, deficits in another dimension. For example, can interventions focused on supporting mental health indirectly foster the development of cognitive skills?

Calum Webb

University of Sheffield

Investment in Prevention and its Systemic Effects (IPSE): Modelling the causal effects of spending in children's services with a whole systems approach.

Rates of children in out-of-home care have continued to grow in an unsustainable way; these children are far more likely to face adverse outcomes. Research has found enormous inequalities in intervention, which are embedded in under-researched complex systems. The Care Crisis Review and APPG for Children both recommended reinvestment in preventative services that were cut more than 50% under austerity, but methodologically-limited existing quantitative evidence shows no association between investment and interventions. Using novel methods, this research will model causal effects throughout the child welfare system and investigate whether preventative investment creates 'virtuous cycles'. It will show for whom, by age, gender, and ethnicity, and where investments are most effective. Qualitative case studies will identify why they are effective. Policy recommendations will be developed alongside experts-by-experience, academics, and charity/public-sector representatives to create sustainable systemic changes that can reduce inequalities and deliver on children's rights to support, well-being and family life.

Mike Wells

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Tackling Poverty Among Asylum-seekers and Refugees in Wales: Psychological Perspectives

Asylum-seekers and refugees face many challenges because of forced migration and displacement. Poverty is one of the main problems for this group. This research will investigate how the psychological dimensions of poverty affect the lived experiences of asylum-seekers and refugees in Wales, including the views of service providers for this group. The theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development will be used to explain the experiences and psychological perspectives on poverty among asylum-seekers and refugees. This research will employ qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), to collect and analyse data from a purposive sample of adult asylum-seekers and refugees and service providers for this group. The research is important in helping to understand the psychological perspectives on poverty and how this can be incorporated into policy-making and interventions to improve outcomes for tackling poverty among asylum-seekers and refugees in Wales.

Simon Willems

University of Reading

Rethinking Wellbeing: Evaluating the Neoliberalisation of Wellbeing in the Workplace Using Artworks as a Critical Lens

Workplace wellbeing programmes have increasingly become a central part of work and organisational life within a neoliberal economy, offering solutions to stressful working environments and the challenge of maintaining good physical and mental health. Yet how is wellbeing to be appraised when organisational austerity measures and modern efficient management approaches lead to a lack of wellbeing? This confuses the centrality of the idea of wellbeing as something critical to life with ‘wellbeing’ as an imposed free-market enterprise motivated by profit and productivity. By examining how contemporary artists critique the obsession with performance and quantification within neoliberal organisations, this interdisciplinary project will assess this confusion in a new way. It will evaluate how different aspects of neoliberalism have appropriated wellbeing, by demonstrating how art adds a much needed complexity to the debate around Positive Psychology and self-optimisation in the workplace.

Beth Wilson

University of Reading

Enslaved Women's Emotional Experiences and Memories of the Slavery Institution in the US South.

Since the 1970s, African American women’s experiences have sat at the centre of research into US slavery, with historians focusing on topics such as motherhood, resistance, and abuse. These scholars have relied on testimony produced with formerly enslaved women, including Works Progress Administration (WPA) interviews conducted in the 1930s. Despite these testimonies being emotionally rich, no explicit study of enslaved women’s emotional experiences has been published. My project will be the first of its kind to combine methods from slavery studies and emotional history to explore the short- and long-term emotional impact of slavery on Black American women. Using an emotional history lens, and exploring previously under-utilised recorded interviews and photographs with formerly enslaved women from WPA evidence, this project will reveal how societal standards limited enslaved women’s emotional expression, their varied emotional experiences of slavery and emancipation, and the complex long-term emotional impact of enslavement.

Meng Wu

University of Manchester

Rethinking State Capacity and Economic Development in Republican China -Yan Xishan and his Provincial State, Shanxi, 1912-1937

This research will study the Chinese warlord Yan Xishan (閻錫山), together with the state capacity and economic development of his provincial state, Shanxi. My research aims to redefine Republican China’s state capacity and re-evaluate roles that warlords played in state building. On the basis of novel data sets, I will gauge three vectors of state capacity: fiscal capacity, infrastructure power and monetary capacity. In addition, I will design empirical models to explore state building’s determinants and test classical theories on state capacity. To explore Shanxi’s economic development, I will examine Yan’s social and economic policies and gauge Shanxi’s economic development from spectrums of economic growth and public goods provisions.

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