Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards 2023

Funded by

Dr Timothy Anderson

University of East Anglia

‘Here Once Did Sound Sweet Words’: Alliterative Innovation in Poetry and Poetics of the Long Nineteenth Century

During my fellowship, I will produce the first concerted critical history of alliteration in the long nineteenth century. Alliteration is one of the first poetic features which students learn to identify. Yet its history is surprisingly complex, prompting questions about national identity, class and race, as well as the forms and aims of poetry. Alliteration was lauded, by nineteenth-century antiquarian scholars, as a surviving link with ancient oral culture. It became a key device in attempts to preserve and restore the English language, notably in the English purist and elocutionary movements. But alliteration also became associated with challenging verse and radical politics. A tradition of innovative alliteration enfolds poets as diverse as William Barnes and Michael Field, Ezra Pound and Kamau Braithwaite. Through extensive archival research and intensive analysis of the anglophone corpus, my study will draw readers into estranging encounters with alliteration, reviving appreciation and renewing literary scholarship.

Dr Thomas Fry

University of Cambridge

The urban gardenscape: A new ecological formation

Urban gardens are legally administered, experienced by people and materially demarcated as individual spaces. But if we pay attention to wildlife in the city then this scale becomes conceptually inadequate. Animals forge lives within entire blocks of adjacent gardens, inhabiting them collectively as a wider ecological formation: ‘the gardenscape’. These gardenscapes cover an estimated 25% of total urban area in the UK, have significant biodiversity value, but are under considerable threat from development. Despite this they are chronically understudied: we know little of how these spaces are produced. This project will chart the ecological, social and political-economic forces that shape the material composition of gardenscapes in London, and in doing so challenge wider understandings of urban space itself. Focusing intensively on two gardenscapes in Waltham Forest, the project develops and employs an innovative methodological approach combining citizen science, local knowledge and ethological and ethnographic methods.

Dr Sofía Ugarte

London School of Economics and Political Science

Social (in)securities: Care and everyday finance in ageing Chile

What is care within financialised economies and ageing societies? The dramatic rise in living costs starkly highlights the material and emotional effects of financial and retirement insecurity globally. How this impacts dynamics of care, wellbeing, and interdependence is a question of key relevance. This project explores the effects of retirement insecurity and pension systems among older adults in urban Chile. Drawing on ethnographic research with multigenerational households enduring the global rise of living costs, I will investigate the mutual constitution of ageing life courses and care practices to generate new knowledge on how families navigate a failing model of privatised social security. I will focus on how care mobilises the intersections between retirement and household finances, and articulate research findings in conversation with existing debates around pension poverty and social reproduction. In doing so, I will transform what we mean by care and capital across social landscapes in crisis.

Dr Samuel Walker

Bournemouth University

People & Puffins: Developing new scientific methods to investigate how environmental change and exploitation by past communities of Northern Europe has impacted current auk populations.

This project focuses on understanding the impact of environment change and past human activity on Northern European coastal habitats and wildlife. Archaeological animal bones from coastal occupation sites provide a unique opportunity to understand habitat change as well as the history of animal exploitation in these societies. In this respect, seabird bones have been underutilised. Zooarchaeological studies provide a wealth of information about changes in seabird ecology. Preliminary research on Atlantic Puffins from Norway has shown how established and novel zooarchaeological methods can reveal their past relationships with humans and their responses to environmental changes. This project will expand this approach to identify and explain changes in auk populations along the North Atlantic coast (British Isles, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands) during the last 11,000 years. The results will inform societal responses to current and future environmental challenges, particularly regarding the conservation and management of threatened seabird species.

Dr Eloise Fornieles

British School at Rome

Taci, Anzi Parla “Shut up, Or Rather Speak”: Speaking to Power in Rome

This cross-disciplinary, research project explores the intersection of three historical expressions of political protest in Rome: the satirical poetry of Catullus, the ‘Congregation of Wits’ (congrega degli arguti) and the pioneering feminist collective Rivolta Femminile.

These apparently diverse historical practices and traditions are linked by the opportunities they provided for queer, working class, and marginalized subjects to speak to—and against—the extant structures of power. The practice-led research applies methods of Shadow Feminism, as defined by Jack Halberstam, applying collage as a cut and paste technique used editing video, sound, text and materials. The practice investigates the voice as an instrument of political resistance and self-identification, with the research realised as an exhibition of new video works, live performance and collages, a website hosting interviews with experts on the various subjects, namely Christopher Gilbert, Barbara Casavecchia, and Roz Kaveney, and an accompanying publication gathering together the research undertaken in Rome.

Dr Jennifer Thatcher

University of Kent

The artist interview: a Transatlantic history

During my Fellowship, I will build on my investigations into the history, changing format and status of interviews with artists, begun in my doctoral thesis and continued in my forthcoming co-edited anthology, Theorising the Artist Interview (Routledge). This project will produce the first monograph on the Transatlantic history of the artist interview, beginning with its origins in late-nineteenth-century American journalism and continuing until our current digital era. Taking the interview rather than the interviewee as the object of study, I search archives for evidence of the entire interview process. Sample chapters include: the rise of the artist-celebrity in fin-de-siècle France and the UK; the influence of experimental Dada and Surrealist interview formats on American artist-run magazines; the problematic association between interviews and biography; the re-discovery and publication of supposedly ‘lost’ interviews; and peer-to-peer interviews in artists’ documentaries, from the time of the first available portable video cameras in the 1960s.

Dr Joseph La Hausse de Lalouvière

University of Edinburgh

The Removal of Citizens’ Rights in France and the French Empire, 1789–1914

From the Revolution of 1789 to the First World War, citizens and officials in France and its colonial empire used exceptions within laws enshrining civic equality to remove the rights of many fellow citizens. This project asks how and why. The legal procedures of civil death, criminal disenfranchisement, prohibition of residency, judicial interdiction (akin to conservatorships of people deemed incapable or insane), and land confiscation allowed individuals in positions of relative power to appropriate the rights of more vulnerable citizens over their property or labour. I will analyse such exploitative dynamics through court records, administrative papers and legal commentaries in archives and libraries in France. By exploring how citizenship laws enabled expropriation in the paradigmatic modern citizenry—the French—the project will help citizens today understand the great extent to which liberal democracies have fuelled inequality in a capitalist economy.

Dr Nicholas Makins

University of Leeds

Normative Principles and Uncertainty: a User's Guide

When we are uncertain about what to do, we may look to normative principles for guidance. But what does it mean for a principle to be “action-guiding”? In particular, how can these principles guide action when one is uncertain about something pertinent to the context, or even about the principle itself? This research will propose, defend, and apply a novel theory of action-guidance: both what it means for norms to guide action and the sense in which doing so is a desideratum for normative principles. I will argue that both matters are sensitive to the relevant norm, agent, and context, and demonstrate the theoretical virtues of this view over standard “one-size-fits-all” alternatives. I will then put this theory to work, applying it to several challenges to our understanding of rational deliberation under uncertainty. I will thereby draw new connections between abstract meta-ethical theory and concrete matters of practical reason.

Dr Theodore Hill

University of Edinburgh

Faces of the Divine: The Attribution of Anthropomorphic Emotions to the Gods in Classical Greece

Why did the Greeks attribute emotions such as anger and pity to the Greek gods? And what role did this phenomenon play in Greek literature, religion and philosophy? Using an intellectual-historical method, enriched by insights from cognitive theories of religion and emotion, I plan to investigate this central phenomenon of Greek religion and culture. On the basis of sources from multiple genres of Classical Greek literature (e.g. drama, lyric poetry, history, oratory), I will show how the Greeks modelled their gods' emotions on human emotional experience, while also adapting this experience to the divine plane. I will also demonstrate the important role played by divine emotions in Greek literature as a means of providing explanations and eliciting emotions from the audience or reader, and will explore how and why Greek philosophers reacted to this conception of the gods.

Dr Laszlo Cseke

University of Cambridge

Global linkages between the ‘green transition’ and intensification in livestock farming: an ethnography of agricultural landscape transformations in the Netherlands and Colombia

This project critically interrogates the geographies of agri-food production. Mainstream green initiatives in agriculture in the Global North can lead to the outsourcing of environmental damages to the South, impacting economically and politically less powerful groups, as several recent studies attested. Looking at the livestock farming sector in Colombia and the Netherlands, this multi-sited ethnographic study specifies the global North–South linkages between sustainable farming initiatives and agricultural intensification. Current research in human geography and political ecology has investigated at a conceptual level the links between the introduction of mainstream sustainability initiatives and the transformation of agri-food landscapes. However, the connections between agricultural sustainability, environmental problems and the deepening structural (classed, gendered, racialised and speciesist) inequalities have not been interrogated in detail. By providing a comparative analysis of livestock farming in Colombia and the Netherlands, this project fosters a highly topical conversation between political economy, postcolonial thought and feminist political ecology.

Dr Quan Li

University of Edinburgh

Overcoming Communist Violence: Towards A Constructive Chinese Public Theology in dialogue with Karl Barth

The institutional violence displayed by the Chinese Communist regime and integral to its revolutionary practice and discourse presents a pressing case for the study of Christian ethics. This project will be the first one to develop a public-theological response to Communist violence, in dialogue with Karl Barth. Interweaving interdisciplinary approaches of moral theology and philosophy, I will chart a promising vision of Chinese public theology in the context of extreme violence and articulate its significance for a fresh understanding of Barth’s ethics of nonviolent love.

Dr Amal Awad

University of Cambridge

Philosophy of Mind in Post-Classical Arabic Philosophy.

This project aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the formation of the philosophy of mind in the early centuries of Post-classical Arabic thought, namely the period 1100–1300 CE, during which Islamic-Arabic philosophers interrogated the nature of the soul, soul–body causation, and the unity of consciousness in ways that would define the philosophy of mind in the Islamic world in the centuries that followed. I concentrate on the works of three major figures: Avicenna (970–1037 CE), Abū al-Barakāt al-Baghdādī (1080–1164 CE) and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (1150–1210 CE). By exploring the latter two philosophers’ critical reconstruction of Avicenna’s philosophy of mind, this study will cast new light on the role they played in facilitating the integration of philosophical notions within the theological kalāmic tradition, and on how this transformation shifted the perception of the nature of the soul from materialism to dualism.

Dr Sonia Wigh

University of Cambridge

Sex, Medicine, and Manuscripts in Early Colonial South Asia (1750-1857)

This project is the first history of the medicalisation of sex in south Asia through a critical study of numerous Persian sexual-medical manuscripts produced between 1750 and 1857. The consumption of sexual-medical knowledge encapsulated in these texts shaped people’s experiences of their bodies and sexual being. Current historiography traces ‘modern’ sexual ethos to the colonial states’ establishment and the accompanying spread of print technology. Instead, I will argue that ‘native’ actors (usually physicians) drove the establishment of medical authority over sexual experiences and sensations. By using prosopography and source-critical methods, I demonstrate that it was not print but manuscripts that were the receptacles of the transforming language of sexual medicine. By situating these texts within the pre-existing yet distinctive Indo-Persian forms of ‘Science of sex’, my project will de-centralise and de-westernise the study of sexuality and broaden our understanding of how sexual and gender identities were performed, narrated, and contested.

Dr Jeremy Giroud

University of Cambridge

Improving comprehension through tailored speech

The most astonishing human achievement is the ability to communicate through language. However as pointed out by Bergson, our words are a great simplification of the world around us leading to multiple interpretations. As such, misunderstanding is an integral and unavoidable element of communication which may have significant consequences. Yet, the success or failure of comprehension is only crudely reflected in observable behaviour. This project expands research on neural marker of speech comprehension and seeks ways to use neural activity to tailor speech content to reduce miscomprehension. The project will first examine the link between the multiple timescales in speech and brain activity associated with successful comprehension, and then modify speech characteristic to improve the match between the two. Project findings will provide insights into how comprehension is reflected in the brain, how comprehension can be improved and how individualized remediation can be developed for impaired populations.

Dr Alimujiang Tusun

University of Cambridge

The Grammar of Modern Uyghur

The project is concerned with the syntax of Modern Uyghur, an understudied Turkic language. Uyghur is primarily spoken in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with around 11 million native speakers. Its modern study was pioneered by orientalist scholars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but despite its great potential to illuminate many questions across various language sciences, Uyghur has not received sufficient attention from the international research community, partly due to the lack of an up-to-date and systematic treatment. The project contributes to bridging this gap by producing a comprehensive description of its syntax, as informed by insights from Turcology, Descriptive Linguistics and Linguistic Typology.

Dr Bisi Adenekan-Koevoets

University of Essex

Lived religion and socioeconomic mobility among second-generation Nigerian Pentecostals in London

Despite high educational achievements, second-generation Nigerians (mainly British-born children of first-generation migrants) face diverse challenges in achieving good socio-economic outcomes within British society. This project investigates how Nigerian cultural and Christian religious upbringing and British socialization processes impact the lived experiences of Nigerian-British Pentecostal (and non-Pentecostal) youths in London. It employs a qualitative methodology to understand and describe their everyday practices as influenced by macro and meso level factors. The project adopts a lived religion approach that is attentive to religious practices and experiences influenced by the transcendent (divine) in everyday life and examines what effect (if any), this has on social mobility. The project will offer a new perspective for understanding generational inequalities in the socioeconomic outcomes of migrants which has been conventionally attributed to racial discrimination and marginalization. This paradigm will develop broader theoretical and practical perspectives regarding beliefs, practices, integration, and socioeconomic participation.

Dr Matthew Barnfield

Queen Mary University of London

The Political Psychology of the Future

Democracy presents us with choices between different political futures. Expectations about what the future holds, and how our decisions will determine the course of that future, shape these political choices. As impending existential threats to society such as climate change become more pressing, considerations of what lies ahead weigh even more heavily on democratic decision-making. This project provides the first systematic treatment of the philosophical, empirical, and political challenges raised by democracy’s inherent orientation towards the future. Guided by a novel theoretical framework that overhauls the rational choice paradigm, it produces empirical insights from original survey, experimental, and social media research in the UK, USA, and Chile. The analyses shed light on how people think about the future, what shapes these thoughts, and their effects on attitudes and behaviours. Crucially, the findings will inform political communication strategies aiming to foster public support for urgently necessary long-term policy interventions.

Dr Gavin Stewart

King's College London

Growing old on the Autism Spectrum: A mixed-methods exploration of the influence of social isolation and loneliness on health and cognition across midlife and older age.

Little is known about Autism in older age. An important issue in ageing is the experience of isolation and its links with poor mental health, suicidality, and cognitive decline. Younger autistic people often report feeling socially isolated and lonely, which has a profound negative impact on mental health and quality of life. While social isolation and loneliness can occur at any age, these experiences become more common with age, with over two million people aged 50+ in the UK having low social contact. Pilot analyses from my previous work indicate that middle-aged and older autistic people are at increased risk of isolation/loneliness, yet the correlations and impacts of these experiences have yet to be explored. Using existing and novel data sets, this fellowship will examine the impact of social isolation and loneliness in autistic older age, informing the type of support autistic people may need as they grow old.

Dr Vivek Gupta

University College London

Manuscript as Monument: Scribal Knowledge and the Grammar of Ornament in Muslim South Asia (ca. 1300—1550)

How can we reimagine the embodied experience of manuscripts in sacred spaces of Muslim South Asia? To answer this question, I examine the intermedial relationship between manuscript culture and architecture forged by calligraphy and ornament. I focus on a misdated and endangered Indian Qur’an manuscript, the Gulbarga Qur’an (ca. 1406), and its connections to monuments from the peninsular Deccan region. In consideration of a calligraphic practice indigenous to India known as Bihari and numerous unrecognised forms of medieval ornament, I emphasise the agency of artists and their skills that have been transmitted over generations. In contrast to strict style categories, the concept of scribal knowledge reveals how calligraphers moved between Arabic, Persian, and Indic vernaculars. A study of the Gulbarga Qur’an’s architectonic allusions changes our understanding of both Hindu and Muslim material culture from South Asia and artistic practices across the Indian Ocean from Central and West Asia.

Dr Jessica Varsallona

University of Edinburgh

Pan-Mediterranean Dialogues of Power and Prestige: Late Byzantine Architecture in Context (1330-1500)

Aristocratic castles, famed architects, and the cult of classical antiquity are more commonly associated with Renaissance Italy rather than with Byzantium. But Italian families such as the Milanese Visconti or Montferrat marquises were linked through marriages with Byzantine emperors and Balkan rulers. By contextualising these political and cultural connections, I transgress the traditional disciplinary boundaries separating Byzantine, Ottoman and Renaissance Studies. My project demonstrates continuity and exchange between Italian and late Byzantine constructions in Greece, Turkey, and Serbia, thus demolishing old narratives of periodization and modern national boundaries that have obscured our understanding. Analysis of the material features of a group of selected buildings, their patrons’ social network and intellectual background, reveals the global trajectories of architectural interchanges between Renaissance Italy, Byzantium and the early Ottomans in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Dr Shyama Vermeersch

University of Oxford

Farming and the rise of wealth inequality in the southern Levant during the Bronze (3,600-1,550 BCE) and Iron Ages (1,550-332 BCE)

This project enables new insights into the emergence of lasting social inequalities and their connection to farming, by exploring alternative pathways to urbanism at the fringe of ancient empires. The Bronze and Iron Ages in the southern Levant are characterised by the rise of complex urban-based societies and domination by the Ancient Egyptian and Assyrian Empires. Farming and urbanisation processes of these empires—and their relationship to inequality—have been assumed to apply to the southern Levant, but this is untested. The region’s heterarchically organised settlements, lack of overarching social identity, and absence of centralised administrative institutions stand in stark contrast to these neighbouring empires. The impact of taxation and the collapse of empires on local farming, and its effects on inequality, are unknown. Using stable isotope analysis, economics, and (bio)archaeology, I will determine the extent of past empires’ influence and impact on southern Levantine farming, inequality, and urbanisation.

Dr Joseph Powell

University of Cambridge

‘Fighting For Salvation, On Earth As It Is Inna Zion': Perceptions of Violence Amongst UK Rastafari Communities

This project will explore Rastafari attitudes to violence, both earthly and cosmological. Blending Social Anthropology and Theology, my ethnographic research will analyse the beliefs and practices of Rastafari members working within the British Armed Forces and Police. I will explore how those in these positions navigate pervasive millennial expectations whilst simultaneously challenging narrow views of the movement as uniformly peaceful in ‘this-world’. I will build on the emerging Anthropology-Theology dialogue, extending its function beyond Protestant Christianity by employing the central Rastafari concept of 'Word-Sound-Power' as the very tool of ethnographic analysis. My research will examine the ostensibly dissonant experiences of Rastafari soldiers and police officers as they: (i) strive to achieve real-world social justice in the present while; (ii) working within professions marked by discrimination and routinised violence and; (iii) worship within a faith that yearns for cosmological warfare against a militaristic Babylonian empire and the millennial arrival of Zion.

Dr Pablo Fernandez Velasco

University of York

No Direction Home: dwelling and ecological grief

With the unfolding climate crisis, ecological grief – the sense of loss that arises from experiencing environmental destruction – has become a growing phenomenon. This project will build on recent advances in phenomenology, the study of the structures of experience, to develop an integrative account of ecological grief.

A particularity of ecological grief is that it tends to be collective: there is usually a group of people who used to dwell together in an environment that is now lost or under threat. This project will advance a conception of ecological grief as a collective crisis in dwelling. This conception will connect with recent advances in cognitive science to develop into a full-blown theory that serves as the basis of future interdisciplinary research into the psychological effects of environmental destruction. The integrative theory of ecological grief will also have important real-world impact in areas such as clinical treatment and environmental policymaking.

Dr Nicholas Stock

University of Birmingham

Becoming Teacher. Desires, Drives, and Formations.

This mixed-methods qualitative project aims to understand trainee teachers’ desire to teach against a backdrop of recruitment crises and political unrest in the UK teacher training sector. It will intersect discourse analysis and interviews with three trainee teachers to rethink the agency of individuals choosing teaching and their drives to continue once they begin the training programme. Both methods draw on Lacanian psychoanalysis to consider the ways in which external and internal forces are at work in shaping their desires, what drives them to continue in their training, and how their desires were initially formed. Through the three proposed case studies and their situation within broader discourse analysis, this project will contribute both materially and theoretically to educational research surrounding teachers, training, and educational theory. Most importantly, it may have an impact on the discourse around teacher recruitment shortfall.

Dr Benjamin Jackson

University of Manchester

The Professional, Religious and Masculine Identities of Anglican Clergymen, c.1660-1800

During the eighteenth century, a new ‘middling’ social rank was consolidated. The rise of the professions was at the forefront of this important historical transformation. This project will examine the experiences and identities of Anglican clergymen, the largest and most socially and economically diverse professional group in eighteenth-century England. It shows how the clergy responded to, and experienced, the professionalisation of their vocation, established their clerical households, contributed to local government and education, embodied virtues of Christian masculinity in their parishes, and embraced the itineracy of their profession. While doing so, this study will examine not only these social and economic patterns but also the lived experiences of individual clergymen. It will explore how clergymen negotiated conflicting demands of their gender, profession, and denomination, both within their homes and communities. It will provide a new account of how a significant eighteenth-century masculine group saw themselves and what determined their experiences.

Dr Francesca Uberti

University of Oxford

Law and Conspiracy: Exploring the Use of Legalistic Rhetoric and Narratives in Anti-Authority Worldviews

This project will explore the ways in which law is invoked in the production of conspiracy theories. More specifically, it will unpack the mythologies underlying the ‘Freeman on the Land’ movement in the UK. My aim is to investigate how members of this movement refer to ancient laws like the Magna Carta and mobilise imaginary legal frameworks to support their claims. The ‘Freeman’ movement has been described as representing a unique current challenge to the authority of the legal system and the judiciary. Despite the alarm raised by media and academic commentators, especially in the recent context of rising populist sentiment and the spread of online misinformation, little is known about the movement’s current activities. The proposed study will use internet ethnography as a methodological approach linking the digital presence of the movement to its ‘real life’ effects to better understand the social impact of these ‘pseudolegal’ conspiratorial views.

Dr Alice Little

University of Southampton

Constructing National Identity through Music in Eighteenth-Century England

Understanding ‘Englishness’ and English cultural identity is increasingly relevant today as national divisions within the UK continue and deepen. This project looks back to the origins of current divisions in the century after the 1707 Acts of Union, and focuses on England’s musical culture and outputs. I will show how English musical consumers defined their national identity and how this was constructed through collecting ‘national music’, and reinforced through its publication. In addition to using printed sources I will show what repertoire was shared in personal manuscript tunebooks, and use quantitative analysis of tunes and their claimed, apparent, and actual geographical origins to show how national distinctions became all-important. By understanding how English cultural expression was affected by regionalism, gender, class, and race, this project will make an unprecedented contribution to the fields of music, history, history of collecting, and to our understanding of the process of constructing national identity.

Dr Kat Addis

University of Sussex

Slavery and the Renaissance Epic, 1569-96

The proposed monograph connects conversations in literary criticism, critical race studies, and classics to interrogate how Renaissance poets with epic ambitions represented and responded to slavery both as a material aspect of the European imperialist project and as a trope that circulated in humanist discourse and culture. It pinpoints a brief historical period – the thirty years from 1569-96 – during which six self-avowed epic poems were produced across Europe. At the same time, different forms of enslavement played a practical and conceptual role in European and Ottoman imperialist projects in the Americas, Ireland, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. This book will argue that the connection between the Renaissance epic genre and slavery goes beyond historical coincidence into political philosophy, literary form, and language. In doing so, it develops a specifically literary approach to ideologies of race, gender, and sexuality.

Dr Rebecca Haboucha

School of Oriental and African Studies

Jewish Table Talk: Discerning Mizrahi Belonging through Foodways

To date, studies on the assertion of a national Israeli cuisine focus mostly on its implications for identity politics within Israel. There have also been numerous studies on the damaging effects of the conflation of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish (Mizrahi) and Israeli food cultures on Palestinian cultural sovereignty. That said, there is almost no study of the impacts of Israeli culinary nationalism on Jewish diasporic food identity, and Mizrahis are still marginalised from narratives of Jewish and Arab history. Through ethnographic research conducted in London and New York, this project aims to untangle how Mizrahis in the diaspora identify with broader concepts of Israeli and Jewish Diasporic identities through food and foodways. The study of Mizrahi diasporic culture through food offers a unique contribution to the Anthropology of Food, Heritage studies, Jewish Studies and Diaspora Studies by analysing the nuances of ethnocultural identities within a religious diaspora today.

Dr Joseph Gough

University of Oxford

Mind in the Eyes of the Law: Metaphysical Presuppositions of Legal Approaches to Decision-Making Capacity

What is it for an agent to have the capacity to make decisions? I will address this question by focusing on a series of five case studies drawing particularly on medical and legal contexts where the questions of capacity and competence are so central and so impactful. My aim is to contest common philosophical presuppositions about the nature of agency and decision-making which have come to cloud practical determinations of capacity that adversely impact the treatment of some of the most vulnerable members of society. Specifically, I will argue against the common temptation to view decision-making as a wholly inner power, which is on occasion undermined by external influences. Instead, we need to understand the ways in which our capacities for decision-making are partly constituted by environmental factors, and, most significantly, aspects of an agent’s social environment.

Dr Thomas Crew

University of Warwick

"The People's Church": Progress and Scientism in the Age of Classical Modernity

My research investigates critical conceptions of progress in German-speaking Europe between the 1890s and the 1930s – the era defined by Detlev Peukert as Classical Modernity. During this period, attitudes towards progress underwent profound transformation. Having provided a near-religious vision of redemption for most of the century, from around 1890 the notion of progress, and the science and technology on which it was based, lost its appeal. The fin de siècle was defined instead by a sense of foreboding and decay, culminating in the industrial slaughter of the Great War. Although grounded in the initial spirit of optimism, the study focuses on selected critics of progress from both literature and philosophy – Max Weber, Ludwig Klages, and Edmund Husserl, as well as Alfred Kubin, Carl Schmitt, and Alfred Döblin. Advancing a cultural history of ideas, the project strives for a detailed understanding of contemporary criticism and its relevance for today.

Dr Katherine Emery

University of Cambridge

Liturgical Libraries: A Musical History of the Reformation

For many sixteenth century Protestant reformers, shaping the future relied on reimagining the past. Nowhere was this clearer than in Protestant reactions to the music and liturgy of the medieval period; while much music was destroyed during the iconoclasm that characterised the Reformation, other musical sources were preserved and put to new purposes. Prime examples of this phenomenon are the archives built by theologians Matthew Parker (1504-1575) and Matthias Flacius Illyricus (d. 1575), whose libraries were based in England and Germany respectively. Parker and Flacius not only gathered medieval musical books, but also edited and commented upon the material they collected and commissioned new music in response to their collections. My post-doctoral project 'Liturgical Libraries: A Musical History of the Reformation' explores how Parker and Flacius' approach to their musical libraries served as a kind of 'history-making', as they grappled with the musical past in order to create the future.

Dr Anna Jamieson

University of Birmingham

Materialities of Care: Women, Material Culture and the English Private Madhouse, 1760-1840

This project offers a new feminist history of psychiatry. It explores the material, sensorial and emotional world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century private madhouse, a space culturally and historically conceptualised as a site of deprivation, abuse and pain. Though recent scholars have made important steps to unsettle these stereotypes, there has been no material analysis of the private madhouse and its affective, sensorial, emotional or therapeutic bearings on patients.

This project pays novel attention to these issues. Through innovative analysis of material encounters relating to objects, spaces and bodies, it constructs a series of micro-histories on the material lives of privately incarcerated female patients and generates new methodologies through which to creatively and ethically analyse histories of psychiatry and women. The project makes a significant intervention in the disciplines of medical humanities and material culture, as well as histories of women, psychiatry, space, the emotions and the senses.

Dr Flavia Vanni

Newcastle University

Sculpting Light In Byzantine Greece (9th -15th C. Ce): Workshops, Climate, And Devotion

Employing an almost unknown corpus of material evidence (window transennae) in rural contexts, my project challenges the traditional assumption that after the triumph of Orthodoxy (843 CE) the construction and experience of the Byzantine sacred space was standardised across urban and rural areas. This corpus demonstrates that rural communities were not passive recipients of urban models, as previously assumed, but had full agency in innovating and shaping Byzantine architecture according to their practical, religious, and theological needs. I analyse the corpus using a cross-disciplinary methodology that combines liturgical and theological literature with the study of the transennae and 3D building reconstructions to understand how the interaction of natural and artificial light in rural churches, mediated by transennae, shaped sacred space. The results will allow scholars to re-think Byzantine material religion in terms of non-uniform religious experiences and thus provide a more accurate picture of Byzantine life in rural areas.

Dr Paola Zichi

University of Warwick

Feminist Lawyering and International Law: Women Jurists in European Legal History (1899-1949)

This research proposal offers a transnational history of feminist politics within an early European women's movement. It does this by focusing on feminist jurists, lawyering and public policy activism at the transnational level on five themes – suffrage, nationality rights, sexual and child abuse, prostitution and trafficking, and women police – from 1899 to 1949. It also explores whether and how campaigners’ identities and experiences shaped their legal thought and activism by focusing on the lives of five women and their contributions to the emerging international European legal culture around women’s rights and child welfare at the beginning of the 20th century. Using archives of international institutions and organisations as well as personal records (such as diaries), biographies and histories of national feminist movements, this research offers a ‘pre-history’ of European feminist engagements with international law and gender legal reform before the emergence of women’s rights international conventions and institutions.

Dr Jiří Anger

Queen Mary University of London

Videographic Archives: Understanding Transitional Audiovisual Objects in the Online Landscape

The number of born-analogue moving images infiltrating the online space in high-definition quality keeps growing substantially. Archivists and historians judge these images according to their fidelity to the originals, digital humanities see them as relatively homogenous and replaceable fragments of large databases. This project calls for taking these transitional images seriously, especially those deemed incomplete, inauthentic, or disposable. It aims to understand them as archival audiovisual objects whose mixture of analogue and digital features brings diverse histories and memories together. Digital tools will expose the connections between hybrid technological elements entailed within these objects and their broader historical, socio-cultural, and aesthetic implications. By combining archival, scholarly, and artistic perspectives, this project proposes an alternative understanding of which images matter and why. It emphasises that any excavation of minor, hybrid, or repressed histories and memories must give a voice to minor, hybrid, or repressed technological features (and vice versa).

Dr Ret'sepile Makamane

School of Oriental and African Studies

Literature and African Solidarity – Adaptations of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka

This research seeks to examine solidarity and activism between African writers by looking at how adaptations of Thomas Mofolo’s novel, Chaka, from the 1950s - 2000s have worked as sites for resistance. African literature criticism has rarely demonstrated relationships amongst African literature/s from diverse regions, cultures and languages. Translations of African texts into European languages turn African literature/s into World literature, and present African literature/s as marginal to the European high-culture literature. Less attention has been given to Africa-to-Africa translations and adaptations. Through intertextuality, this research will examine intercontinental global networks of resistance established by Mofolo’s Chaka’s adaptations. These are by: Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Seydou Badian from Mali, Zambian writer Fwanyanga Mulikita, Nigerians Akin Euba and Wole Soyinka, Ghana’s Ayi Kwei Armah and Caribbean British filmmaker Nicholas Beveney. Given the global resurgence of racism, xenophobia and police brutality, this research will examine African literature’s role in social change.

Dr Anna Zsubori

Loughborough University

Digital Ex/Inclusion and Hungarian LGBTQ+ citizens: Rebels and exiles on social media

This project examines social media use among LGBTQ+ citizens in Hungary where LGBTQ+ minorities have been gradually stripped of their rights since the rise of illiberalism in 2010, resulting in either intensifying domestic activism or exile to the West. By using life story interviews and digital ethnography, this project investigates LGBTQ+s’ digital media usage in the changing Hungarian political environment, offering original contributions to communication, media, gender, LGBTQ+ studies, and political science. While much-existing research on digital media and LGBTQ+ communities focuses on digital media’s role as a safe haven and means of expression among LGBTQ+ people in liberal democracies, considerably less is known about the situation of LGBTQ+ communities in illiberal countries, such as Hungary. This project aims to fill this gap by paying specific attention to social media’s role in the lives of both those who left the country and those who are actively involved in activism.

Dr James Laing

University of Oxford

Making Contact: Interpersonal Connection and Our Knowledge of Other People

From early infancy, humans seek to interact with others through eye contact, joint attention and conversation. On the face of it, we engage in these forms of communicative interaction not only in order to exchange information and direct action, but also in order to connect with others. However, despite its centrality to human life, the notion of interpersonal ‘connection’ has escaped philosophical scrutiny. This project will remedy that neglect by providing an account of interpersonal connection and its philosophical significance. I will argue that a proper understanding of interpersonal contact is a crucial ingredient in our knowledge and understanding of other people, and that by tracing the limits of our capacity to connect with others we can come to recognise a philosophically interesting sense in which they elude our efforts to know them. These conclusions will be shown to be crucial for a proper understanding of romantic and erotic love.

Dr Rosa Campbell

University of St Andrews

The Unfinished: The Life and Work of V.R. “Bunny” Lang

Pencilled on dozens of poem-drafts in the V.R. Lang archive are the words ‘UNFINISHED—MUST.’ The notion of incompletion, of thwarted desire and ambition, is bound up inextricably with the life and work of the woman that Frank O’Hara termed ‘one of our finest poets,’ yet whose place in literary history has been erased. Lang died at 32 in 1956, but during her short life she was an actor, director, and producer for numerous plays; her poems were published widely; and she co-founded the Poets’ Theatre, the hub of the 1950s New England literary scene. In current scholarly consensus, however, Lang is figured merely as O’Hara’s eccentric “muse,” an auxiliary figure on the periphery of one of the twentieth century’s most influential poetry movements. This capacious recovery project not only constitutes a major, necessary step towards reversing Lang’s literary-historical marginalisation, but also an engagement with the fundamental unfinishedness of the archive.

Dr Asha Hornsby

University of St Andrews

Contagious Crossings: how marine medicine made waves in nineteenth-century culture (1800-1914)

This project ties nineteenth-century ocean literatures to the medical humanities through an in-depth literary-critical study of a greatly underused resource: ship doctors’ journals. Reading these alongside fiction and poetry, medical texts, and periodicals and newspapers of the period reveals shared preoccupations with porous bodies and common anxieties about disease transmission. ‘Contagious Crossings’ embraces a transnational perspective: the texts studied were often written in, about, and circulated between regions including India, China, the Pacific, Australia, West Africa, and North America. The diaries reveal that anglophone medical seafarers facilitated literary-cultural exchange on-board, between ships, and with local populations – practices which indexed and participated in conceptualisations of the voyage as a pathological event. This project investigates how ship doctors shaped nineteenth-century culture by connecting the production, consumption, and exchange of literature to understandings of epidemiology and the health impact of global seafaring.

Dr Chloe Bracegirdle

University of Oxford

Breaking boundaries: Understanding the socio-psychological drivers of ethnic integration in schools

Ethnic segregation in UK schools remains a key societal issue. Despite increasing diversity, students predominantly befriend same-ethnic peers, resulting in high levels of ethnic segregation in school friendship networks. A fundamental question, posed by academics and policymakers alike, is what drives students to break ethnic boundaries and befriend other-ethnic peers? This research will address this question by investigating four promising antecedents of inter-ethnic friendships: intergroup attitudes, commonalities, self-efficacy, and personality. Leveraging new and pre-existing data on school social networks, this research will test to what extent these factors affect the formation and maintenance of inter-ethnic friendships. Innovative social network analyses will determine the relative contribution of these factors in explaining the level of school ethnic integration. This research will provide three key novel contributions: (i) theoretical: integrating psychological and sociological perspectives, (ii) methodological: developing new network analytical tools, and (iii) practical: devising policy recommendations to promote ethnic integration in schools.

Dr Benedetta Catanzariti

University of Edinburgh

Technology in Translation: Investigating Organizational Contexts of AI Development

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems have become central to a wide range of high-stakes areas such as healthcare, education, and welfare assistance. At the same time, awareness around these systems' limitations and potential for discrimination has grown. However, theories and accounts of algorithmic harm are often disconnected from or hard to translate into the contexts of development of AI systems.

This innovative project will investigate the process of production of AI systems as the result of particular organizational structures. This qualitative study of the local and situated characteristics of AI design will: 1) advance our understanding of how organizational practices relate to wider social structures, 2) help produce a set of conceptual and reflexive tools to engage practitioners in conversations around algorithmic harm, and 3) lay the groundworks for an interdisciplinary research agenda that can support actionable change in AI research and development.

Dr Frankie Dytor

University of Exeter

Aestheticism, Sexology and the Making of Trans Feeling, 1870-1930

This project uncovers the trans histories and cultures of British Aestheticism. It argues that figures associated with aestheticism were invested in questions now central to trans studies. Aestheticism pioneered ideas about the affective capacity of aesthetic experience, exploring how it might shape the beholder and modify their being. Trans embodiment was conceived as a vitalising part of aesthetic experience, as aesthetes changed gender, form and species in their work. The project offers two major interventions: it writes the first account of trans aestheticism, and it recovers the legacy of this thought in the new discipline of sexology. By investigating the aesthetic archives of sexology, and by considering the trans capacities of aestheticism, the project shines light on a forgotten moment of sexual science. It ultimately argues that aestheticism provides a vital opportunity to reconsider the experimental trans aesthetics of the late nineteenth century and their after-effects into the twentieth century.

Dr Alessandra Tafaro

British School at Rome

‘Inscribing Anonymity: Unauthored Poetry in Roman Epigraphic Culture’

This project examines anonymous metrical inscriptions from Rome and Pompeii (I century BC to II century AD) to assess for the first time the role of anonymity in Roman epigraphic and poetic culture. Texts without authors have long been victim of neglect or aesthetic prejudice and are underrepresented in the literary canon. A recent rehabilitation of anonymous poetry in Latin literary scholarship has disrupted key traditional assumptions about aesthetic worth, authorship, and authenticity. Yet, despite its field-defining contribution, epigraphic poetry, which survives as intentionally anonymous, remains neglected. This project will shift traditional perspectives on Roman poetry as a highbrow activity, by offering a pioneering analysis of the political, literary, and cultural function of anonymity in epigraphic poetic culture. Through the interpretive frame of anonymity, the proposed project will redefine our understanding of political discourses, negotiation of identity politics, aspects of gender relations, practices of citation, and modes of authorship.

Dr Amy Cools

Northumbria University

The Complete Collected Works of James McCune Smith (ca. 1824-1865)

James McCune Smith (1813-1865) was a pioneering physician, activist, and community leader. His greatest accomplishment, however, is his prodigious, polymathic, and widely influential authorship. Yet McCune Smith has suffered from scholarly neglect. My doctoral thesis ‘The Life and Work of James McCune Smith (1813-1865)’ was the first completed, book-length monograph dedicated entirely to his life; it is being expanded and re-written as a narrative biography. McCune Smith’s restoration to historical memory cannot be fully accomplished, however, until his complete written works are collected and placed in the historical, literary, medical humanities, and scientific contexts in which he wrote. While a collection of his works exists, The Works of James McCune Smith (2007, ed. John Stauffer) it is limited and incomplete. This scholarly editing project will identify, bring together, and annotate McCune Smith’s entire corpus of written works, re-establishing him as one of the most significant nineteenth-century African American intellectuals.

Dr Natalia Cintra de Oliveira Tavares

University of Southampton

Racial Politics of Forced Displacement in Latin America

Latin America concentrates one of the largest global numbers of African descendants. However, this is not reflected on the region’s reception of black forced migrants, who have persistently encountered barriers to protection. This project proposes to explore how colonial and postcolonial constructions of racial difference have historically shaped migratory and asylum policies in Brazil, Mexico, and Chile, and their continuing legacy today in South-South corridors of migration. This focus thus breaks new ground in the emerging literature on the race-migration nexus which focuses mainly on South-North mobilities. The project investigates the histories of racialisations of migratory and asylum frameworks, and the impacts of a racialised politics of asylum and migration on mobility rights and on the access to international protection for black forced migrants in the region. To do so, it combines archival analysis with qualitative analysis of Haitian and Sub-Saharan migrants’ forced mobility experiences to, and within, Latin America.

Dr Javier Perez Sandoval

University of Oxford

Subnational Worlds of Welfare: The Territorial Unevenness of Political Economies within Countries across Latin America

Exploring the complementarities between political and economic institutions is essential to better understand how outcomes such as development and welfare emerge and endure. While research on the political economy of the Global North and the Global South has focused on country-level (f)actors, this whole-nation bias has obscured that taxation, social policies, market regulations, and other institutions are widely uneven across states within countries. As a corrective, my project leverages evidence from Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, combining quasi-experiments with comparative historical analyses to explore the causes and the consequences of varying subnational political economies (SPEs) across Latin America.

My comparative and subnational approach, combined with cutting-edge data and a robust design, provide a unique opportunity to assess the origins and the legacies of SPEs, furthering academic dialogue around the synergies between market and democratic forces, and illuminating the dynamics that shape the territorial unevenness of polities throughout Latin America and beyond.

Dr Adam Brzezinski

London School of Economics and Political Science

The Political Economy of Narratives

This research programme proposes to examine the policy implications of political narratives. The programme consists of three interlinked parts. The first part offers a framework to study how governments can use narratives alongside policies to guide citizen behaviour—and when such attempts will fail. The second part analyses theoretically how political competition selects certain narratives at the expense of others, impacting policy stances across parties. The third part examines political narratives empirically by applying supervised machine learning tools to parliamentary speeches across eight European countries. The frameworks of the first two parts and the empirical measures of the third part are then applied to specific topics of policy relevance. Such applications include studying the interactions between science-sceptic narratives and climate change policy effectiveness; tax-policy narratives and economic inequality; and scapegoating narratives and immigration policy.

Dr Jason Gellis

University of Cambridge

Transitions in early stone tool technologies: a computer vision and machine learning approach

The enlarged brain and enhanced cognition of humans is the primary evolutionary trend in our lineage over the past ~2.5 million years. The emergence and increasing complexity of technology underpins this cognitive evolution. Of particular significance is the transition from the first technologies (Oldowan) to the more complex Acheulean (~1.75mya). This transition has been associated with hypotheses about the role of climate, changing subsistence behaviour, increased brains size and cognitive capacity, and other socio-cultural factors. To clarify and understand this transition however, we require an analytical framework that can account for the diversity of lithic data associated with this time-period. Emerging AI and machine learning (ML) approaches can greatly enhance identification of deeper structures and patterns underlying lithic assemblage variability and ecological contexts. This project will develop and apply ML, computer vision (CV), and AI methods to investigate and clarify patterns, relationships, and transitions between ancient technology and behaviour.

Dr Andrea Blomkvist

University of Glasgow

Re-making Mental Imagery

Scientific theories aim to tell us what the world is like. To do so successfully, they have to "cut nature at its joints”, i.e., employ useful categories for generalisation, projection, and explanation. These categories are natural kinds. A recent trend in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience uses the category ‘mental imagery’ to try to explain a host of apparently disparate phenomena, such as hallucination, dreaming, people’s understanding of others’ minds, and implicit bias. This – I maintain – raises the question of whether ‘mental imagery’ is a natural kind. My interdisciplinary project aims to address this question and show that the category ‘mental imagery’ is untenable. It will show that this category should be eliminated and replaced with two new categories – ‘high-level imagery’ and ‘low-level imagery’ – and it will demonstrate that these categories can be robustly conceived as natural kinds and thereby better explain phenomena central to human cognition.

Dr Natasha Robinson

University of Oxford

Belonging To The Difficult Past: The potential of history education to foster positive belonging among racially minoritized youth

Researchers have long noted the ways in which history education can marginalise racially minoritized students. As a result, recent campaigns (e.g., BLM, RMF, 1619 Project, Fill-In-The-Blanks) have advocated for more inclusive or ‘decolonized’ history curricula. Yet to date there are no studies which support the claim that history education can promote a sense of positive belonging. Is history education powerful enough to be a liberating force for racially minoritized young people?

My project addresses this question through an ethnography of schools which teach marginalised histories. In particular I focus on schools that serve the Cape Coloured community in Cape Town, and the Afro-Caribbean community in London. Both groups have complex, heterogenous, and racialised histories of enslavement and forced migration, which are largely ignored in national curricula. By embedding myself within schools which teach these challenging histories, I explore the potential and limitations of history education for shaping identity and belonging.

Dr George Stoye

Institute for Fiscal Studies

The health impacts of disruptions to the health and long-term care workforce

Governments around the world are facing shortages in health and long-term care staff. However, we know relatively little about how these shortages have fed through to patient outcomes, in part due to a lack of high-quality data on workers in these areas linked to patient outcomes. This research will use new individual administrative data on health and long-term care workers in England, linked to patient records at the provider level. I will exploit three natural sources of variation in the availability of staff: changes in the number and experience of hospital and nursing home staff following the 2016 EU referendum; disruptions to the composition of hospital doctor teams; and changes in the nature of the labour markets that nursing homes hire workers from. I will study the impact of these disruptions on the number and characteristics of workers in the affected sectors, and the health consequences for patients.

Dr Ozumcan Demir Caliskan

Imperial College London

The future of creative work: How virtual organizational spaces influence collaborative creative work

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of collaborative creative work? A group of people brainstorming ideas in front of a whiteboard full of sticky notes? People sitting around a table creating and testing prototypes? Until recently, creative work has largely required people to be in the same physical space to generate, select, and develop ideas because existing collaboration and communication technologies failed to provide the synchronicity needed for creative collaboration. However, with the recent advances in virtual tools, creative work is no longer limited by the boundaries of physical organizational spaces, and what constitutes a “creative workspace” is changing and expanding. Yet, despite the prominence of virtual creative work, we know little about how virtual organizational spaces influence creativity, learning, and collaboration. The proposed research program aims to advance the scholarly understanding of the future of creative work through ethnographic fieldwork and ethnography.

Dr Henrik Kugelberg

London School of Economics and Political Science

Liberalism after the Digital Revolution

Up until recently, every important decision-maker we interacted with was human. Bureaucrats were allocating child support, judges determined sentences, drivers drove cars, and newspaper editors chose what content the public should read and discuss around the breakfast table.

This is no longer the case. The digital revolution increasingly entails that decisions with profound consequences for our lives are outsourced to artificial entities. Technology ethicists and moral philosophers have developed important tools and methods for theorising this shift. However, even though these questions all have salient political dimensions, the mainstream approaches to political theory have had remarkably little to say about them.

My research develops a distinctive and innovative political framework for theorising digital technology. It is a new approach to liberal political theory that is uniquely well-placed for thinking through the complex interactions of power, technology, justice, democracy, and legitimacy to which the digital revolution gives rise.


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