Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards 2022

Funded by

Dr Taylor Aucoin

University of Edinburgh

The Contested Ball Game: Football and the Social Value of Sport and Leisure in Britain, c.1400-1800

This project provides a ground-breaking new cultural and social history of football in premodern Britain, illuminating how the sport was embedded within medieval and early modern conceptions of status, identity and rights. Scholarship has tended to focus on football’s violence and illegality above all else, treating the sport as a rough prelude to its later ‘civilised’ association and rugby forms. Moving beyond such teleological approaches and fixations on violence, this project interrogates premodern football’s social value on its own terms, determining what made it worthy of support or condemnation, and how this changed across time and space. Three research strands examine its contested nature, in terms of play, place, and social profitability. Based on extensive archival research using legal, financial, newsprint and cartographic sources, the result reshapes ongoing debates about modern football’s ‘origins’, and reconceptualises our understandings of premodern play/leisure and its relationship to social relations, politics and community.

Dr Zeinab Azarbadegan

London School of Economics and Political Science

Citizenship Beyond Borders: Extraterritoriality in Nineteenth Century Ottoman Iraq

In the nineteenth century, extraterritorial rights gave imperial states the means to assert legal control over their subjects and protected persons beyond their borders. This research will examine assertion of multiple sovereignties over the population of Ottoman Iraq. It does this by examining the significance of the evolution of the concept of "tabiiyyet" – originally an Arabic word variously translated as subjecthood, citizenship, and nationality among other words – and comparative close reading of the administrative and diplomatic archives of the Ottoman, Qajar, and British empires. The case of Ottoman Iraq is distinctive, in that it provides an opportunity to compare how the Qajars, a non-European empire, utilized the same extraterritorial rights granted to European empires to redefine their relationship to their subjects outside their territory. Yet, it further provides an opportunity to compare the Qajar case with the British protection of their subjects in the same space.

Dr Ammar Azzouz

University of Oxford

Slow Violence and the City: Rethinking the aftermath of war from Homs in Syria to Manchester in the UK

Since the start of the Arab Spring in 2010, cities in Syria have been radically reshaped by destruction of their built environment and the mass displacement of people. While media images have focused on the shattering cities, less attention has been paid to the impact of war on residents and their everyday efforts to carve out spaces of endurance and survival, even in their exile. In this research, I will focus on two cities: Homs in Syria, and Manchester; the home of the second largest Syrian diaspora in the UK. The research has two main aims. First, to understand the impact of ‘slow violence' in Homs on the everyday life of people who remain in the city (a violence that is slow moving and long in the making, beyond the moment of destruction). Second, to engage with Syrian diaspora who are building a new sense of home in their exile.

Dr Emily-Rose Baker

University of Southampton

Legacies of the Jewish Other in Slavic Horror Cinema

Since the end of Soviet-era censorship in 1989, the Slavic nations of Central and Eastern Europe have been embroiled within fraught ‘memory wars’ over competing narratives of Jewish and non-Jewish suffering during the Holocaust years. The role of genre film in negotiating these contestations even before communism’s collapse, however, has been critically overlooked. This interdisciplinary research project proposes to examine the cultural significance of Slavic Horror cinema as a site of Jewish othering as well as Jewish-Slavic entanglement and reconciliation. By analysing the politics of Jewish presence and absence within a range of post-war arthouse and mainstream films from Central and Eastern Europe, it will be the first to read the Slavic Horror subgenre as a generative mode of Jewish-Slavic memory production. Combining Jewish, Slavic, Holocaust and film studies, the research will make an unprecedented contribution to understanding how the region has confronted its ‘dark’ past of local complicity in wartime Jewish murder.

Dr Lloyd Belton

University of Glasgow

Kru Empires: West African Sailors and Imperial Expansion

This fellowship proposes an innovative trans-imperial history of one of the most significant and widely-dispersed free African diasporas: the Kru. A seafaring ethnic group from West Africa, the Kru were prolific sailors. All throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were contracted by British, American, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spanish captains of merchant, slave trading, pirate and naval vessels as ancillaries to imperial and commercial interests. Despite their widespread presence across Atlantic ports, their contributions to the rise and expansion of empire and capitalism in this period have typically been reduced to footnotes in siloed imperial or national histories. The fellowship interrogates this silence, and working across European, American, and West African archives, uncovers how the Kru were movers and shakers of the Atlantic world. In doing so, it shifts away from conventional Eurocentric histories, and instead gives primacy to West Africans as industrious catalysts of Atlantic commerce and empire.

Dr Hanno Brankamp

Durham University

Carceral Corridors: Migrant Detention and Disrupted Mobility in Kenya

Migration enforcement is globally on the rise. The warehousing of refugees and migrants in camps across Africa has been well studied and remains salient in the public eye. Less discussed is migration control in the corridors between camps, hinterlands, borders, and cities on the continent. It is in these spaces that people on the move are often most likely to experience the sharp edge of state power. Whereas existing scholarship emphasises the immobilisation of migrants through extended periods of confinement, my Fellowship offers the first analysis of everyday migration enforcement in sub-Saharan Africa as disrupted moments of capture and release. In going beyond simply equating containment with camps, I shed new light on the momentary, interstitial and often unnoticed carceral experiences on the move. Thereby, I advance new ways of thinking about the interrelations between detention, mobility, and humanitarianism in Africa – an urgent task in times of accelerating migration.

Dr Sara Caputo

University of Cambridge

Health and Medicine in European Navies, 1750-1830

This project will offer two new contributions: a transnational and comparative history of European naval medicine from 1750 to 1830, and, within that, a ‘patient’s history’ of naval seamen. Late eighteenth-century navies are often deemed crucial to the development of modern Western medicine, and prototypes of the Foucauldian ‘institutionalisation’ of bodies and minds through hospital structures, doctors’ professionalisation, and state-controlled healthcare. However, no study has ever gone beyond national contexts, or considered the views and autonomous medical practices of the seamen themselves, instead of surgeons and states. Doing so produces an entirely new account of the origins of norms, practices, and counter-practices which define present-day debates on health, medicine, medical expertise, and state power. This project will assess how far resistance, avoidance, and negotiation were integral to the establishment of medical institutionalisation, comparing the British, French, and Spanish navies, and examining transnational migration and exchanges among both medics and seamen.

Dr Matilda Carter

University of Glasgow

Maintaining the Extended Mind: Dementia Care and the Relationship Between Justice, Mind and Space

Stories of abuse in care homes have, regrettably, become a staple fixture in public discussion of dementia. While accepting that conditions in present-day institutions are in dire need of improvement, my project will set out and explore the implications of an alternative view. Drawing on medical ethics and the philosophy of mind, I will produce a new philosophical defence of institutional care homes as vital facilitators of agency for people living with advanced dementia, embedded within a broader account of the relationship between justice, mind and space.

The aim of this project is to produce a monograph with Oxford University Press. Drawing on theoretical research, while engaging with relevant non-academic stakeholders, this project will speak both to a philosophical audience and in a way that is accessible to policymakers and practitioners, with a view to transforming practices in the sector.

Dr Nafay Choudhury

University of Oxford

Order at the End of the World: Neoliberal Orthodoxy, Economic Regulation, and Market Associations in Fragile Settings

This project explores the modes of governance that exist outside and alongside the state, particularly in fragile settings characterized by weak state institutions. I study the role of market associations - non-state groups of businesses sharing a common set of interests - in defining the scope of rights possessed by their members. Associations are crucial for understanding the nature of rights and the operation of law in fragile settings, despite receiving scant attention in existing scholarship. Through an empirical study of four associations - two in Afghanistan, and two in the Democratic Republic of Congo - this project examines the intermediary role played by associations between market actors and the state. By focusing on non-state legal ordering, governance becomes a dispersed project accomplished by both state and nonstate actors and institutions; consequently, understanding legal order requires understanding the role of market associations in mediating the rights of individuals and businesses.

Dr Barry Coughlan

University of Cambridge

Antecedents of suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-harm for young people with social services involvement: a mixed-methods study

Understanding the antecedents of suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm among young people is an important public health priority. In the general population, these issues are associated with experiences of adversities, including socioeconomic deprivation and mental ill-health. Yet suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm are alarmingly understudied in young people with social services involvement, a population facing particular adversity. Using a mixed-methods approach, I will examine the risk and the protective factors for suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-harm among young people with social services involvement. The project will involve three work packages: i) an umbrella review of evidence addressing antecedents of suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm among young people, ii) interviews with young people with experience of social services intervention (n=25), iii) quantitative analysis of administrative records. All three work packages, and associated academic and media dissemination activities, will be co-produced with experts-by-experience of social services and mental health services involvement.

Mr Wenderson De Lima

University of Surrey

Towards a Sociology of Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding the Junctions of Private Gains and Compassionate Practices

In nearly six decades of international interventions, the question of how to promote societal progress in economically poor countries is still the subject of lively debates. The persistence of wars, famine, political instability and economic underdevelopment in the Global South continues to fuel spirited discussions about how to organize aid most efficiently and whether old forms of international assistance still work. In this scenario, modern missionaries appear bearing promises to solve poverty related problems. Some of these people call themselves: ‘social entrepreneurs’. These entrepreneurs have during the last decade gained increased space in the humanitarian field.

The aim of this research is to examine how assumptions about social entrepreneurship are put in practice by actors such as social entrepreneurs, donors and social entrepreneurship beneficiaries, contributing to the development of what I call ‘a sociology of social entrepreneurship.

Dr Kathryn Dyt

School of Oriental and African Studies

History from Below: Subterranean Worlds and Power in Vietnam

This project examines how subterranean worlds have been understood, harnessed and controlled in Vietnam since the early nineteenth century. The subterranean landscape features prominently in Vietnamese folklore and has been a contested domain in colonial and postcolonial power struggles, yet it has been largely overlooked in previous scholarship. This research illuminates the ways in which power and governance is entwined with the tangible materials and historical meanings of the underground. Through specific case studies spanning two centuries, from the beginning of the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) through French colonialism and communist revolution to the present, it challenges historical narratives that approach power as a purely socio-cultural pursuit played out on a fixed terrestrial surface. The project will add new layers to established narratives of the past by scrutinizing the underground as a site of cultural, economic and supernatural power which Vietnamese dynasties and foreign empires sought to contain and exploit.

Dr Giacomo Floris

University of York

At the Margins of Equality: A Theory of Vulnerability to Social Exclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly exposed our shared vulnerability to isolation, serving as a reminder that marginalization and exclusion constitute significant obstacles to the achievement of a society in which everyone can fully participate and stand in relations of equality with each other. This project will illustrate how these issues are profoundly related to a broader range of social and health problems, such as addiction and mental health, and thus will develop an original and comprehensive liberal egalitarian theory of vulnerability to social exclusion. This theory will define the rights that marginalized individuals have to be fully included as equals in society, and work out the social arrangements that the state ought to put in place in order to ameliorate their social condition. Hence, it will determine what a just society owes to its most vulnerable members if they are to be considered and treated as equals.

Dr Clara Fontdevila

University of Glasgow

Student testing as development policy. An enquiry on the spread of large-scale learning assessments in the Global South

Once a feature almost-exclusive to high-income countries, large-scale learning assessments (LSLAs) are increasingly present in middle- and low-income countries. Yet, in contrast with the profusion of literature discussing the drivers behind the expansion of LSLAs in the Global North, the penetration of this policy into the Global South remains empirically under-examined. This project aims at gaining insight into the interplay of international and domestic factors driving the expansion of LSLAs into the developing world. First, I will investigate the role played by international organisations in the theorisation and promotion of LSLAs as an education development policy. Secondly, and on the basis of a comparative case study of Ghana and Zambia, the research will shed light into the rationales behind the adoption of LSLAs in developing countries. The results of the investigation will provide insight on how donors and development agencies can support a better alignment between LSLAs and country needs.

Dr Victoria Gierok

University of Oxford

Inequality, Taxation and Social Mobility in Pre-Industrial Germany 1300-1800

My research investigates economic inequality in Germany from 1300 to 1800. The goal is to understand major changes in inequality over time. Economic growth, pandemics, revolts and state failure are all explanations for inequality. I show that the Black Death in 1350 and the Thirty Years’ War in 1618-48 led to a decline in inequality that cannot solely be explained by high mortality. In my proposed research I will go beyond such explanations and investigate economic institutions and state growth in greater detail. In particular, I want to investigate whether wealth differences in gender can explain inequality and economic growth. Similarly, economic opportunities depend on the openness and fairness of political institutions which lends itself to analyzing the social (im)mobility in pre-industrial communities. Lastly, I focus on state building, by investigating why agricultural Prussia became the new hegemon, rather than the fiscally and economically advanced towns of south-west Germany.

Dr Henrique Gomes

University of Oxford

The age of gauge: how the theoretical foundations of particle physics impinge on metaphysics

Gauge theories lie at the heart of modern physics. They arose in the mid-twentieth century, but they have received far less philosophical analysis than physics’ older revolutions---relativity and quantum mechanics. This is unfortunate, since they are as relevant for philosophy and metaphysics.

At its simplest, the idea of gauge is that nature is best described using descriptively redundant language. Nonetheless, it constitutes the standard model of particle physics, describing electromagnetism, the nuclear forces, and the Higgs mechanism. So the idea prompts a puzzle, which I will seek to address: how can redundancy be so scientifically fruitful?

Just as relativity's and quantum mechanics' findings revolutionized the philosophies of spacetime and probability, I will show that gauge theory has major repercussions for some topics in philosophy, e.g. Humean supervenience, the absolute-relational debate, and the nature of time.

Dr Samuel Grinsell

University College London

Making North Sea coasts in England, Flanders and the Netherlands, c.1800-1950

This project will investigate the relationship between architecture and the environment on the North Sea coastlines of England and the Low Countries in the modern era. It uses architectural history to understand how settlements in this region were reorganised in response to changing transport technologies, energy sources and relationships to water. The project draws on archives in three countries to construct a new account of historical change, in which the environment and architecture, generally considered separate spheres, are instead understood as thoroughly intertwined. In an era when careful management of the built environment is an essential part of the effort against climate change, historical analysis is vital. Environmental architectural history can help reveal how the places we live in were made, and how they might be structured differently. By enriching our understanding of the past, the research proposed here also seeks to improve our shared future.

Dr Krisztina Ilko

University of Oxford

The Pawns of History: A New Approach Towards the Global Middle Ages

The Global Middle Ages is a fledgling field. My project offers a fresh methodological approach by using chess to materialise global interconnectivity. Played by people from the wealthiest and the poorest strata alike from the Outer Hebrides to Samarkand, chess was a potent agent of political, cultural, and intellectual transmission, and thus serves as an analytical foil to examine how different groups adopted the game when it crossed boundaries. Unlike previous histories of the game, my goal is to investigate how chess facilitated cross-cultural communication across the Afro-Eurasian world between 800 and 1400. My project explores chess by systematically targeting five themes: representation, diplomacy, artisanship, gambling, and religion. This will lead to a critical rethinking of wider processes, practices, and products of cross-cultural interaction in the Middle Ages. Ultimately, my project will contribute to broader discussions about how the Middle Ages overlaps but also differs from the modern global world.

Dr Marco Ladd

King's College London

The Invention of Lightness, or, Musical Politics of 1920s Italy

This research examines a variety of popular musical repertoires and entertainment practices in Italy during the 1920s—from jazz-influenced operettas to hit gramophone records—that came to be discussed using a crucial new term: musica leggera, or ‘light music’. Yet what was it about this music that made the idea of ‘lightness’ necessary? And what can this concept reveal about Italy’s experience of modernity? Prior scholarship on Italian music of the 1920s has tended to focus on Italy’s moribund opera tradition, the nascent avant-garde, or elite composers under Fascism. In contrast, this monograph presents a critical new perspective on both Italian musical culture and the ‘Roaring Twenties’, repositioning Italy as an active participant in a global economy of popular music production and consumption. More broadly, it places musica leggera—as musical phenomenon, as aesthetic category—under scrutiny as a key case study in how musical hierarchies develop and evolve.

Dr Ryan Pepin

University of York

'Differunt tamen a magnis poetis': Dante and Medieval Latin Poetics, between Theory and Practice

Where current literary historiography casts Dante as the inheritor of a Classical tradition (Vergil, Ovid, Statius, Lucan) and forerunner of a national tradition (Petrarch, Boccaccio), this project seeks to reveal Dante’s engagement with contemporary Medieval Latin poetry and poetic theory. It re-evaluates the derivation of Dante’s ideas about vernacular verse, showing that Dantean dichotomies like ‘natural’, as opposed to ‘artificial’, language, adapt the terms of a preceding Medieval Latin poetic avant-garde. It further locates Dante’s technical poetic vocabulary within the Medieval Latin preceptive literature available in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Northern Italy. The second aim of this project is to discover how Medieval Latin versification influenced Dante’s practice of writing vernacular verse. Instead of a replacement model (Italian poetry overcoming the inertia of a Latin epoch), it examines parallel developments in the versification of both Latin and the vernacular, offering the first model for the co-evolution of European verse.

Dr Thomas Van de Putte

Nottingham Trent University

Memory and morality: studying the micro-effects of liberal and illiberal memory politics

Since the memory boom of the 1980’s, the past has increasingly become a focus for policy makers and scholars to formulate new ‘horizons of hope’. As a policy tool, memory education has been used by governments to shape people’s moral beliefs in either liberal or illiberal ways. Memory studies scholars have mostly looked at this phenomenon from a macro-cultural perspective, or a meso-institutional perspective.

This project, instead, proposes an innovative way to study the possible effects of memory politics and policies on the moral discourses produced by ordinary people. It borrows conceptual insights from cultural and interactional sociology, and methods from sociolinguistics, to investigate whether and how people connect dominant cultural narrations of the past with moral vocabularies on the micro and interactional level. The project will focus on participants in state-funded Holocaust education projects for adults in an ideal-typically liberal (Belgium) and illiberal (Poland) memory regime.

Dr Sugandha Srivastav

University of Oxford

Fostering Innovation for a Climate Compatible Future

Climate change necessitates that the economy moves to a net-zero emissions paradigm. This will require significant amounts of innovation, not only to reduce emissions but also to adapt. As extreme weather events and the pandemic have illustrated, early, pre-emptive investments can avoid acute crises. However, firms have a "rational reluctance" to invest in risky but “socially-beneficial” technologies such as vaccines or climate resilient infrastructure in a timely manner. I ask 3 questions to ascertain how to best foster innovation for a climate-compatible future.

  1. What is the most efficient way to incentivise timely investment in breakthrough technologies?
  2. What support do firms in low and middle-income countries need to undertake innovation locally?
  3. To what extent are we locked into a high-carbon knowledge paradigm, and what sort of R&D policy can steer innovation towards clean technologies?

I study these topics through economic theory, econometrics, network analysis and machine learning.

Dr Laura Tradii

University of Kent

Beyond social memory: An interdisciplinary study of the long-term legacy of mass death and the management of Wehrmacht fallen soldiers in East Germany (1945-1990)

My project investigates the long-term social and cultural impact of mass death by focusing on the treatment of the German fallen soldiers on East German soil, whose search, identification and reburial became a thorny issue under state socialism. The project takes as its object the population’s everyday engagements with these dead, and their conflictual (mis)management by a number of actors between the end of the war (1945) and the Reunification (1990).

By deploying a methodological framework at the intersection between historical research, social anthropology, and the digital humanities, my research offers a ground-breaking account of the long-term social and cultural impact of mass death, producing a textured reconstruction of how it was experienced in everyday life in the particular case of East Germany.

Dr Johann Laux

University of Oxford

The Emerging Laws of Oversight: Regulating Human Discretion in the Age of Automation

The expected economic and societal importance of artificial intelligence creates one of the biggest regulatory challenges of our times: how to implement effective human oversight in automated decision-making (HOADM)? HOADM is supposed to increase the accuracy, legitimacy, as well as fairness of decisions. However, merely placing a human agent in a hybrid human/machine system will hardly guarantee accurate, fair, or non-discriminatory outcomes, as emerging research on the novel subject shows. The proposed project therefore takes a currently missing regulatory perspective by asking how the law can be improved to promote HOADM’s effectiveness and better protect citizens from algorithmic harm. It combines legal analysis with empirical methods, especially difference-in-differences testing and linear regression models, to (1) analyse how HOADM is mandated by law, (2) test how actual human overseers perform under the current legal status quo, and (3) make empirically based suggestions for improving HOADM’s implementation.

Dr Hannah Lee

School of Advanced Study, University of London

The Matter of Race in Early Modern Italy: 1500-1700

This research seeks to examine the development of constructions of race in Italy from the sixteenth to the beginning of the eighteenth century through the lens of the materials used by artists and craftsmen to depict people of African descent. Using the resources of the Menil ‘Image of the Black in Western Art’ photographic archive at the Warburg Institute, the project will explore how the use of materials such as lacquer, gold, marble and bronze can provide a unique insight into the development of ideas about race, skin colour and the human body in early modern Italy.

Dr Liming Li

King's College London

Understanding the impact of higher education expansion policy on women’s empowerment

Studies suggest that women with higher education are more likely to be empowered than less educated women. However, there is limited understanding of the role of higher education policy in contributing to women’s empowerment in the context of rapid economic change. This project examines the impact of policies that expanded women’s access to higher education on women’s empowerment in China. Using quantitative (quasi-experimental) and qualitative methods, I will examine how China’s Higher Education Expansion policy influenced women’s family formation decisions and marital wellbeing outcomes, and assess the implications of these effects for women’s empowerment. As basic education is widely promoted to achieve women’s economic empowerment, this project will advance understandings of the potential of higher education policy interventions in empowering women through family life.

Dr Simon Loynes

University of Edinburgh

The Qur’an and Pre-Islamic Poetry: Worldviews Negotiated

This interdisciplinary study will establish that to accurately reconstruct the Qur’an’s historical context, it is imperative to take seriously its Arabian textual setting; a setting that is, however, largely neglected in contemporary scholarship. It will do this by offering the first comprehensive comparative study and open-access research tool of the Qur’an and pre-Islamic poetry. Through the semantic analysis of key vocabulary, the innovative research programme will demonstrate that a core component of the Qur’an is the way in which it negotiates its theocentric worldview with the essentially heroic and worldly ethos attested in the poetry itself. By establishing that the Qur’an and pre-Islamic poetry are more closely connected than hitherto thought, the scene is set for a re-evaluation of the very foundations of classical Arabic literary and cultural history.

Dr Gianmarco Mancosu

School of Advanced Study, University of London

DecolonItaly. Challenging Colonial Legacies in Contemporary Italian Culture

Italy’s involvement in colonial endeavours (Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, Ethiopia, 1890–1960), and the controversial memory of those experiences has remained a neglected page of national history. Though academic research has finally acknowledged colonialism’s impact on the configuration of modern Italy, less attention has been given to cultural practices that engage with the material and cultural debris that emerges from the colonial past. "DecolonItaly" aims to contribute to addressing this gap, by considering how previously unexplored artistic practices (film, music, and performance) have been using and challenging the colonial legacies that pervade modern and contemporary Italian society and culture.

Mr Lawrence McKay

University of Southampton

The Revival of the Urban-Rural Divide in Western Europe? A comparative study of the geography of discontent and political representation

Recent influential studies have suggested that the historical urban-rural divide has re-emerged in contemporary politics. It is argued that, with economic growth and cultural prestige accruing to cities, rural areas are the focus of political discontent and distrust, fuelling a populist ‘backlash’ in Western Europe and around the world. Most accounts of this phenomenon are, however, broad-brush. These often rely on analysis of a handful of elections and survey findings, and lack analysis of the elite level. Based on harmonised public opinion surveys, and data on elites such as the Global Leadership Project, this project would address the urban-rural divide more comprehensively. It would explore the democratic representation of urban and rural voters in parties and legislatures. It would analyse divides in voting and in broader political support. Its final and most original contribution would connect the political supply of urban and rural representation with the ‘backlash’ of populist voting.

Dr Valentina Mele

University of Leeds

‘Poetic voice, lyric subjectivity, and literary tradition. The reception of Dante and medieval culture in the San Francisco Renaissance’

This project proposes the first comprehensive investigation into the reception of Dante and Italian medieval poetry in three prominent poets associated with the mid-20th century “San Francisco Renaissance” movement: Robert Duncan(1919-1988), Jack Spicer(1925-1965), and Robin Blaser(1925-2009).Up to this point, there has been no sustained examination of this topic. However, I argue that Dante’s work plays a central role in the articulation of poetic subjectivity in each of these three poets. This project reshapes current understanding of their shared preoccupation with poetic voice, lyric subjectivity, and literary tradition, offering a pioneering analysis of changes in the interpretation of medieval Italian poetry among key practitioners of the ‘New American Poetry’ and historicising the stratified process of construction and consumption of medieval knowledge among pivotal poets of the Bay Area. Through an interdisciplinary methodological approach, the project explore the transformation of Dante into an object of critical attention in mid-twentieth century American culture.

Dr Diego Molina

Royal Holloway, University of London

The nineteenth-century ornamental exchange: plants and urban spaces in Europe and the Andes

This project considers the transatlantic market in ornamental plants that emerged with the nineteenth-century urban expansion in Europe and South America, focussing on Andean cities in particular. Analysing the trade in plants from a global perspective, the research reinterprets the role of plant hunters, botanical gardens and urban planners as key actors within an extractive industry built upon informal colonial relationships. The project investigates how demand for tropical plants influenced the greening of European cities, and conversely how the application of European horticultural knowledge re-shaped urban biodiversity in the Andean region. Alongside historical sources, including archives, newspapers and other publications, the research will draw extensively on botanical collections and associated materials in Europe, the United States and South America. This investigation will show for the first time how particular urban aesthetic trends associated with nineteenth-century urbanisation entailed a redistribution of global biodiversity at a scale unseen since the Columbian exchange.

Dr Ugo Carlo Luigi Mondini

University of Oxford

Teaching Greek in Eleventh-Century Byzantium. Schedography and Its Methods

Schedography is a Byzantine method of teaching Greek grammar that was popular from the eleventh century to the early modern period. The analysis of this method enables a better understanding of 1) how Byzantine Greek was taught; 2) the influence of school curriculum on writing and reading practices in Byzantium; 3) the purposes of Byzantine education and cultural politics. The extant studies offer sound, but general, overviews and several schedographic sources are unedited.

My project addresses this issue by looking at the eleventh century, when this method began to spread. I will frame schedography within the context of eleventh-century Byzantine culture and of contemporary school practices. Furthermore, I will examine the most relevant source for this period, the handbook by Longibardos, to describe its teaching method through a linguistic and stylistic analysis. My project will also lead to a critical edition of Longibardos’ handbook and other unedited eleventh-century schedographic remnants.

Dr Maria Stella Morgana

University of Liverpool

The Gig Economy of Iran: Humans versus their Means of Production

This project proposes the first dedicated study of the gig economy in Iran, a tech bubble of online shopping, food delivery, taxi services, and care work, which is opening new spaces of employment and participation for young Iranians (half of the 80m population is under 30). It investigates how humans selling their labour through digital platforms relate to their means of production. This project tackles how gig workers exercise their agency in a context where hybrid capitalism fuels labour alienation. 1) How does the gig economy shape the relation humans versus machines, where class, gender and means of production intersect? 2) How do gig workers negotiate their spaces under the Islamic Republic? 3) Why have their roles transformed historically and politically beyond the economic dimension? This focus on the evolving dynamics of political/economic participation from a bottom-up perspective opens new horizons for studying digital labour platforms in the Global South.

Dr Naomi Muggleton

University of Oxford

Why does income inequality foster status anxiety? Identifying psychological mechanisms of status competition from mass-transactional data

The world’s richest 1% have twice as much as 6.9bn people. Income inequality leads people to feel more threatened about their position in the social hierarchy and devote more resources to the pursuit of status. Yet existing research has relied on coarse, regional measures of inequality and status seeking, in part due to data limitations. As a result, little is known about its effect on those who occupy different positions in the income distribution. The proposed project addresses this through recent advances in computational behavioural science and my unique access to individual-level spending data for millions of individuals. I ask whether status anxiety (i) occurs for both rich and poor individuals, (ii) changes as an individual moves between environments differing in inequality, and (iii) is reduced by social mobility, which offers alternative routes for status enhancement. I’ll achieve this through my ongoing, confirmed partnerships with five private sector data providers.

Dr Aya Nassar

University of Warwick

When the city stands still: Curfews and urban life in the Middle East

This project investigates how urban life is reshaped and how political attachments to the city unfold in the wake of interruptions to everyday life in the form of curfews. It explores the gendered, material, and affective reconfiguration of the city dwellers’ attachments to their domestic and urban space during the times of curfews in two cities: Cairo and Beirut. For over a decade, urban space has been increasingly shaping how we understand the politics of the Middle East. From the 2011 revolts to the 2020 Beirut Blast, attention is typically drawn to spectacular episodes. However, this project asks: what would an account of the city look like if it emerges from its moments of interruption? Based on archival research, creative geography methodologies and women activists’ memoirs, the project examines an archive of anticipation for an altered relationship to the city. One that unfolds when the city seemingly stands still.

Dr James Nissen

University of Sheffield

Making multicultural worlds: A critical study of international music festivals in the UK.

This project tells a new story of UK music festivals and provides fresh insights into British multiculturalism. It offers an account of international music events that challenges existing narratives focused on Anglo-American pop, analyses the role of festivals in representing cultural diversity, and contributes to emerging conversations on race and ethnicity that problematise historic notions of ‘Britishness’ and ‘selfhood/otherness’. This study explores how international music festivals make multicultural worlds, navigating intercultural encounters, building culturally diverse communities, and negotiating multiculturalist politics. Drawing on the multimodal ethnographic approach applied during my doctoral thesis on the international music festival WOMAD, it combines fieldwork at several festivals; interviews and questionnaires with organisers, musicians and attendees; archival work; and programming analysis. By examining the perspectives of participants and delving into tangible encounter experiences, it interrogates an important multicultural movement that has been largely overlooked to diversify and decolonise knowledge about music and festivity in Britain.

Dr Erin O'Halloran

University of Cambridge

Gernika as Orient: Bombs, Art, and Fake News

This project will produce the first scholarly analysis of the 1937 aerial bombing of Gernika as a political and artistic event rooted in—and in ongoing dialogue with—colonial violence in the Middle East & North Africa. It will demonstrate, for both academic and general audiences, how Gernika became the fulcrum for a set of momentous transitions in the conduct of war, the politics of art, and the manipulation of news media, with ongoing repercussions for East-West relations. The project connects the aerial bombardment of civilians in colonial Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Morocco during the 1920s to the fascist assault on Gernika during the Spanish Civil War. In parallel, it documents how officials sought to cover up the bombing, and traces the reception of Picasso’s painting, Guernica, across the colonised East, where it was seized on by artists and activists as a symbol of their own confrontation with European empire.

Dr Costanza Porro

University of Manchester

Caring among equals: the role of vulnerability and care in an egalitarian society

As human beings, we are inherently vulnerable to harm and illness as well as mistreatment and disrespect. Further, we are dependent on others taking care of us throughout our lives. These dimensions are often neglected by political theorists, yet they should be central for our understanding of justice. In this project, I aim to take seriously the role of our common vulnerability and our need of care in thinking about what a society of equals should look like. Taking care and vulnerability into account compels us to abandon a distributive understanding of equality centred around the amount of goods that citizens should receive in favour of a perspective that focuses on the quality of social relationships. A society is egalitarian if all stand in egalitarian relationships with each other, and, precisely because we are vulnerable and dependent, I argue that this requires not only others' respect but also they care.

Dr Kumail Rajani

University of Exeter

Hindus or Muslims? The Syncretic Religious Identity of the Satpanthi Khojas

The Khojas are an ethnocultural community of people originating in the northwestern provinces of the Indian subcontinent. Up until the nineteenth century, they followed a syncretic tradition that was neither “Hindu” (due to various Islamic expressions embedded in its devotional literature) nor “Islamic” (as it operated, particularly in legal matters, according to Hindu tradition). The term Khoja was subsequently used strictly to denote their caste distinction and not their religious persuasion. Nineteenth century colonial India, however, witnessed events that forced Khojas to self-identify with a demarcated religious identity, leaving them divided into Ismaʿili, Twelver and Sunni Khojas. This project aims to a) examine the creed of the early Khojas and analyse internal and external dynamics that contributed to the reshaping of their identity and b) highlight the differences between vernacular and colonial interpretations of eclectic traditions, such as that of Khojas, by consulting hitherto unexplored Sindhi and Gujarati primary sources.

Dr Sneha Roy

University of Edinburgh

Nationalism and Ecology: Women’s participation and the Hindu-right in the India-Bangladesh Borderland

This study seeks to identify and understand the ways in which women of the Hindu-right/Hindutva organisation (Samaj Seva Bharati Pashchim Banga) conceptualise religious nationalism to interact with and navigate the politics of ecology in the Sundarbans, a tempestuous borderland region between India and Bangladesh. The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is a world heritage UNESCO site and the world’s largest mangrove biodiversity that is shared between India and Bangladesh. Each year, thousands of families see their lands being swallowed up by the brackish waters during the monsoon cyclones, leading to dramatic transformations in landscape, distorted political geography, and loss of citizenship. Hindu nationalists mediate between ‘saffron’ (symbolising Hindutva) and ‘green’ (symbolising ecology) politics to participate in environmental protection, which are locally demonstrated but are subsumed under the agenda of national identity. This study will examine how the women model their interpretations of Hindu nationalism to organise their responses around environmental crises.

Mr Gianfranco Selgas

University College London

Entangled Materialities: Cultures of Extraction and Regional Environments in Venezuela, 1890-1960

This research project charts an alternative cultural and environmental history of Venezuela’s regional extractive zones from 1890-1960 to reveal its complexities, potentialities, and ontological provocations. Drawing on cultural studies, environmental humanities, and world-ecology, it contends that Venezuela’s modern discourse associated with the oil industry flattened and rendered invisible the Venezuelan Amazon and its Caribbean coast as repositories of material and poetic possibilities. By examining a unique selection of cultural and institutional texts, photographs, and films, the project engages critically with resource extraction and culture, both conceived as a material process and an aesthetic worldview of ‘entangled materialities.’ It seeks to rethink the national territory as represented in the canon of Venezuelan culture and politics, revealing its discursive blind spots. The project is unprecedented in its approach to archival material and in its attempt to situate Venezuela in the context of global debates on environmental humanities and post-anthropocentric philosophy.

Dr Silvia Speriani

University of Manchester

EYE ON THE 'SCAENA'. Visual communication and the construction of Rome’s social scene in Latin texts

This project will show how visual actions described and enacted in Latin literary texts relate to Rome’s social world, defining what will appear as a visual ‘etiquette’: a set of visual codes, acting as communicative tools to express but also construct social dynamics.

I focus on texts by Horace, Seneca and Pliny the Younger - particularly enmeshed with Roman public life, interpersonal relationships and power dynamics - to analyse the gazes exercised and endured by the characters and those (virtually) enacted between authors, addressees and readers. These visual forces will appear as functional devices that the authors use to construct the image of the social world they are intent on shaping and mediating for their readers to look at, perceive and, ultimately, validate.

These ‘literary’ gazes will thus prove to be not only epiphenomenal expressions of Rome’s social world but actively engaged in crafting its perception and its very reality.

Dr Kathryn Spicksley

Oxford Brookes University

Playing teacher: designing a mentoring intervention to support Early Career Teachers

In England, a quarter of teachers quit within three years of qualifying. Although it is often assumed that teacher attrition is a result of high workload, my previous PhD study contributed to a growing field of research which shows that constructing a positive professional identity is a key factor in maintaining commitment amongst Early Career Teachers (ECTs). However, developing a robust professional identity is challenging for ECTs, who are subject to multiple and often contradictory cultural and political discourses, which impact on their sense of self.

During this fellowship, I will analyse how teachers are constructed in recent political and cultural texts, using emergent methods from corpus linguistics to reveal new pathways into understanding the persistent problem of teacher attrition. Then, drawing from these findings, I will develop an innovative, gamified intervention to support ECTs to reflect on and develop their professional identity, in conversation with their mentors.

Dr Christabel Stirling

University of Huddersfield

British Sound Art Since 1980: Recovering a Genealogy, Transforming a Field

This project examines the interrelations between British sound art, sound system culture, and electronic dance music from the 1980s to the present. It argues that the 1980s were a turning point in the expansion of sound art beyond academic and state-funded art institutions, with the invention of new music technologies permitting DIY musicians of diverse social locations to experiment conceptually with sound, taking their cues from dub reggae, punk, soulful house, and political rap. Through a combination of historical and ethnographic methods, the project will recover undocumented histories of UK sound art and examine the active legacies of these histories in the present day. The resulting monograph will intervene in scholarly accounts of sound art, which have historicised the genre principally with recourse to twentieth-century Euro-American experimental music and art. The project will thus produce a ground-breaking study that critically reassesses and revises the rapidly calcifying history of sound art.

Dr Rebecca Whiteley

Birkbeck, University of London

Improper Bodies: A Visual and Material Study of Medical and Pornographic Illustrations (1820-1880)

Between nineteenth-century medical and pornographic book illustrations is a new history of sex and medicine, propriety and power. In these bodies of visual culture, under-studied in themselves and almost never examined together, are conversations on the propriety of medical practice, the sexual potential of the doctor-patient relationship, and the overlaps between the sexualised and medicalised body. Using close visual and material analysis, this project will explore how doctors used images to deal with issues of sexuality, and how pornography commented on these efforts. Using material culture and digital humanities methodologies, I will explore how the prints’ materiality shaped their affective meanings. Working with media from photography to video to facsimile reproduction will centre materiality within the study and bring my findings to wide audiences. The project will make a significant intervention in the disciplines of material culture and digital humanities, as well as histories of medicine, sex and visual culture.

Dr Teresa Witcombe

University of Oxford

“Booty for their enemies”: Captivity and enslavement between Muslim and Christian societies in medieval Spain

The capture and enslavement of women and men was endemic to the societies of the Iberian Peninsula across the Middle Ages. It was both a ubiquitous and widely accepted result of hostilities between the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain and the Muslim rulers of Islamic Al-Andalus, although one that has been widely overlooked in modern scholarship. Bringing together a wide range of sources in Arabic, Latin, and early Spanish, including notarial records, law codes, narrative accounts, epic poetry, and hagiographical traditions, this project will examine the ways in which interreligious slavery was defined, practised, understood, and experienced by those at its heart, individuals whose agency can be seen and voices heard through a number of these sources. In so doing, this project will provide, for the first time, an integrated and interconnected understanding of interreligious slavery and its place in the complicated and multicultural societies of the medieval Iberian Peninsula.

Dr Frederick Wojnarowski

London School of Economics and Political Science

Bleeding the Land: Corruption talk, water scarcity and political patronage in Jordan

My research considers how, when and why talk of corruption is deployed in everyday politics in a context of environmental and economic stress. Corruption has become a major theme for neoliberal reformers, protestors, development practitioners and political Islamists alike, in and beyond the Middle East, as well as a way for people to question increasingly inequitable political economies without risking open sedition. This tendency intersects with growing use by protestors of the rhetoric of environmental justice and sovereignty in the face of water scarcity. I seek to trace the social life of the corruption/anti-corruption complex ethnographically in a rural area of Jordan at the forefront of the nation’s interlinked crises of political legitimacy, water scarcity, and economic uncertainty. This will contribute to a widely recognised need for increased scholarly engagements with hydropotlics and environmental justice, and to theoretical debates around how ethics and political economy interact in corruption talk.

Dr Annabell Zander

University of York

Exploring human-environment interactions across the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in northwestern Europe

The Pleistocene-Holocene transition at around 9640 cal. BC is characterised by intensive climatic warming which transformed vegetation and fauna. This climatic Pleistocene-Holocene interface has been used by archaeologists to divide the Stone Age into two separate periods: the Palaeolithic during the Ice Age and the Mesolithic following the climate change. Yet cultural change at this interface is far from clear cut with no consensus on the definition of different archaeological groups across northwestern Europe due to different research traditions and language barriers. This project will offer a critical re- assessment of this important period by joining the fragmented archaeological record of the Palaeolithic-Mesolithic transition. A database will be developed harvesting data from published material and primary analyses of selected assemblages. The dataset will be analysed statistically to evaluate the relationship between the different archaeological groups at this interface and examine them in the wider context of climate and environmental change.

Dr Luca Zenobi

University of Edinburgh

The Mobile Renaissance: Italian Travellers and the Connected History of Europe

Where have you been? Who did you talk to? What did you learn? The answers to these questions inform much of our present lives. It was no different in Renaissance Europe, yet we still know surprisingly little about the transformative impact which the flows of people, objects and information had on that period. Building on a growing interest in the history of mobility and communication, this project focuses on the activities of the group of diplomats and informants that between 1450 and 1535 corresponded with the duke of Milan. Together, these highly mobile individuals formed the most extensive information system of its time, connecting an Italian court to every corner of Europe. Combining methods drawn from global history with approaches developed by social scientists as well as new digital tools, the project will open a whole new window onto the kinetic and communicative processes that shaped our world.

Dr Ann-Christin Birgit Zuntz

University of Edinburgh

BROKERS OF DISPLACEMENT – An ethnography of the infrastructure of Syrian refugees’ circulations throughout the Mediterranean

With 6.6 million Syrians displaced globally, policymakers and media in the Global North have focused on refugees’ dangerous border crossings, and people smugglers. But the reality of displacement is more complex: refugees resort to a rich ecosystem of brokers who facilitate not only movement, but also the circulation of remittances, jobs, knowledge, wives, and more. What scholarship exists investigates how refugees’ transnational kinship networks distribute resources. However, that tells us little about the “ethnographic black box” of displacement beyond people smugglers and families: how are refugees’ diverse circulations made possible, and by whom? Through fieldwork with brokers and Syrian refugees in Jordan, Tunisia, and Bulgaria, this project proposes an analytical pivot: from displaced people, to the brokers of displacement. Through focusing on relationships, practices, and technologies that enable brokers to operate, I will study the “infrastructure of displacement” that holds refugees and things together, and positions them in global economies.

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