The British Academy awards 44 new Mid-Career Fellowships to support outstanding SHAPE researchers

2 May 2024

An individual in the crowd gazes towards the stage

The British Academy has awarded over £5.8 million in Mid-Career Fellowships to 44 outstanding mid-career academics whose research will promote public engagement with, and understanding of, the SHAPE disciplines.

The Mid-Career Fellowships, worth a maximum of £160,000 each, will free researchers from normal teaching and administrative commitments, enabling them to pursue a major piece of research that advances understanding in their subject area.

These awards recognise researchers who have achieved distinction as excellent communicators and ‘champions’ in their fields. In previous years, the work undertaken by British Academy Mid-Career Fellows has led to critically-acclaimed documentaries, collaborations with art galleries, and BBC radio shows.

Image credits: Marcus Ginns

The 2024 Mid-Career Fellowships awardees are:

Please note: Awards are arranged alphabetically by surname of the grant recipient. The institution is that given at the time of application.

Dr Norman Ajari


The Philosophy of Vastey: Francophone Black Thought and the Colonial Affects

University of Edinburgh

Value awarded: £134,946.74

We must enrich and deepen our understanding of Black francophone intellectual history. The project aims to present the first systematic exposé of the philosophy of the leading Haitian intellectual of the early 19th century: Baron de Vastey. His main originality lies in his understanding of colonialism – as well as the enslaved revolutionary response – in terms of an affective politics. On the one hand, the project aims at providing a full-fledged theoretical assessment of Vastey’s original contribution to the history of ideas in general and Afro-diasporic thought in particular. On the other hand, it will highlight how Vastey’s work anticipated numerous contemporary conversations within the field of Black studies. Through Vastey, we demonstrate the often overlooked originality of the Black radical tradition in the history of nineteenth-century social and political philosophy. The endeavour will take the form of a monograph, an audio documentary, and a series of lectures.

Dr Penelope Anthias


Untapped Reserves: Mapping extraction and resistance in Bolivia's Protected Areas

Durham University

Value awarded: £137,081.44

In a context of global climate change, it is imperative to understand how new fossil fuel development is legitimised, territorialised and contested – and how this links to subaltern struggles to decolonise territory. I have 15 years of experience researching conflicts over territory and extraction in southeast Bolivia. My current research examines contestation over new hydrocarbon development in the Tariquía National Reserve of Flora and Fauna. In Phase 1 (2019-2023), I conducted ethnographic fieldwork on this conflict and made a pilot documentary. A BA Mid-Career Fellowship will enable me to produce a book manuscript and companion documentary. Untapped Reserves: Mapping extraction and resistance in Bolivia’s Protected Areas will offer a theoretically innovative geographical analysis of neoextractivist territorialisation and countertopographies of resistance at Bolivia’s extraction-conservation frontier. The documentary will reach public audiences in Bolivia and the UK, contributing to public debate around extractivism, community rights, and environmental futures in the Anthropocene.

Dr Laura Basell


Early human adaptations and landscapes of eastern Africa

University of Leicester

Value awarded: £129,042.22

This project investigates Quaternary landscapes and early humans of Lake Victoria-Nyanza, eastern Africa. The twelve-month fellowship will allow me to communicate exciting new discoveries from original geoarchaeological fieldwork I have directed at four locations around Lake Victoria-Nyanza, via open-access academic articles and a novel programme of public engagement. Today Homo sapiens is the only extant species of our genus. My research and others’, has proven that for most of our evolutionary history, Homo sapiens co-existed with different species of Homo in diverse, often ‘no-analog’ landscapes. Landscape dynamics, early human adaptations and interactions remain poorly understood. Four articles will explore early humans' adaptations in the context of Quaternary climatic fluctuations, present new dates and analyses. A fifth article will advance thinking by considering relationships between human evolution, ecocentrism and global identity. My public engagement strategy includes an open-access podcast series, practical workshop at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and seminar-series.

Dr Pritish Behuria


Varieties of African Capitalisms: The Contemporary Vulnerabilities of Developmentalism in a Neoliberal Global Political Economy

University of Manchester

Value awarded: £133,516.87

This project rethinks our understanding of the contemporary challenges of late development under 21st century globalisation. The project is a product of over 10 years of fieldwork on macro-economic trajectories and state-business relations across eight African countries, with time dedicated to finishing a ground-breaking interdisciplinary book that will maximise impact in academia and policy in Africa, Europe and North America. Most existing social science understandings of the challenges of late development have been determined by past European and East Asian experiences. However, there has been limited analysis of how the growing share of services (and deindustrialisation) globally has re-shaped the challenge of late development in African countries. The project highlights how precarious domestic state-business relations and the increasing share of rentier segments of service economies have combined to constrain economic diversification strategies. Benefiting from trans-continental networking building, the project will maximise policy impact through co-producing Political Economy Analysis.

Dr Monish Bhatia


Immigration, Location Tracking and Control.

University of York

Value awarded: £120,744.45

This project examines the rapidly increasing, but currently understudied, use of electronic monitoring (using GPS) of migrants. The technology tracks geo-location of migrants 24/7 and gathers a vast amount of sensitive trail data and has implications for civil liberties and fundamental rights. The project will help to understand how the use of monitoring connects with and is enabled through wider forms of criminalisation of migration. The project will uncover, first, the impacts of technology on migrants, second, the extent to which EM operates as a surveillance tool, and third, how it reifies race, and acts as an extension of punishment and confinement. It will build an information base for third sector/legal organisations, create public knowledge/awareness around the impacts of surveillance and technologies of control, and foster meaningful discussions and engagement with complex questions around ethics, the rights of non-citizens, and immigration controls – with an aim to build fairer/equitable society.

Dr Uilleam Blacker


Crossed Paths: Mapping Ukraine's Multicultural Literary Landscape

University College London (UCL)

Value awarded: £140,959.55

Ukraine has, for centuries, been a place where many cultures, literatures and languages have co-existed. In the 19th and 20th centuries, writers working in the lands that are today Ukraine wrote in more than half a dozen languages, from Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar and Yiddish to German, Polish and Russian. They did so in the context of shifting borders and the rise and fall of multiple empires and states. Ukraine’s literary heritage is, thus, extremely rich; yet this richness is almost never viewed as a coherent, if complex, whole. Instead, self-isolating national paradigms separate and limit the work of writers who, in reality, existed across and between languages and cultures. This project makes a groundbreaking attempt to synthesise this diverse landscape and create a more nuanced understanding of the cultural history of a country that is at the centre of the world's attention yet still poorly understood.

Dr Katherine Butler


'Sing you now after me’: Catch-Singing and Community in Britain, c.1550-1650

Northumbria University

Value awarded: £126,692.18

Unlike today, in early modern Britain singing together was ubiquitous entertainment for all ages and classes. The popularity of ballad-singing is well known; however, singing in harmony has largely been studied as an elite practice. In contrast, this first in-depth study of round/catch-singing c.1550-1650 (like ‘London’s Burning’) demonstrates the vital importance of polyphonic song across the social spectrum, asking: who sang catches and how were singers regarded? What social functions did catch-singing play and how did their singing define different communities? How did catches traverse oral/literate cultures, and adapt for use in homes, alehouses, and stages? The resulting monograph dispels notions of popular song as monophonic, redefines singing in harmony as socially ubiquitous not exclusive, and resituates such singing as a vital social practice in early-modern everyday life. Moreover, workshops will engage new publics in catch-singing and ask what benefits such social singing might bring for individuals and communities today.

Professor Rashedur Chowdhury


Towards a Theory of Economic Action in Noncooperative Spaces: A Study of Rohingya Refugee Camps

University of Essex

Value awarded: £136,805.60

Our understanding of economic activities in highly constraining social spaces is still limited. I choose Rohingya refugee camps as highly rigid, human-made places that can help to elaborate the idea of noncooperative spaces, where socio-economic structures benefit powerful actors while disadvantaging the majority. I suggest a novel insight that can highlight why most of our existing theories of economic actions are unable to explain noncooperative spaces effectively. I argue that the nature and role of financial and contextual factors, e.g., the need for start-up capital, access to debt, possession of prior business experience, and internal social ties – which conventional theories of economic action deem imperative – may not necessarily be the main contributors to socio-economic development in noncooperative spaces. A significant focus on untapped structural possibilities, external ties between locals and refugees, and inherent skills and resource specialization capabilities of refugees can drive economic development in noncooperative spaces.

Dr Piotr Cieplak


Image and (Dis)Appearance: photographic encounters in post-dictatorship Argentina

University of Sussex

Value awarded: £130,089.60

Image and (Dis)Appearance investigates the relationship between domestic and institutional photography and state-sponsored violence. For decades, repurposed images have been used as tools of protest and commemoration. They have been vital in demands for justice and recognition for the victims. Through examining current practices, the project seeks to challenge some of the established assumptions in memory, media and photography studies, as well as in the public perception of repurposed images' role in mediating traumatic pasts. The project centres on the experiences of the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983), which killed and/or disappeared 30,000 people. While rooted in this specific case study, it addresses the wider tensions between collective memorial/activist narratives and individual experiences related to the use of repurposed domestic and institutional photography in the context of political violence and forced disappearance. The project concludes in a book and a programme of public engagement activities spanning Argentina, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Chile.

Dr David Cox


Conjuring Race: Perceptions of Black Magic in Nineteenth-Century America

University of Southampton

Value awarded: £126,596.63

During the nineteenth century, representations of Black spirituality became a critical arena for racial politics. Emancipation precipitated an explosion of interest in the magical beliefs and practices of African Americans, which were evident in both African-derived spiritual matrices and Black Christianity. In this book project, I examine the ways this discourse constructed and contested the place of African Americans within the US. To do so, I draw upon a wide variety of voices, from abolitionists and proslavery ideologues to postbellum politicians and authors. The resulting monograph will track the emergence of Black magic as an object of white knowledge, the role played by this discourse in the racialization of African Americans, its transatlantic dimensions, and the ways in which Black writers sought to contest white representations. To promote public engagement, I will run a set of workshops during Black History Month, whilst producing an article for a popular history magazine.

Professor Fiona Edmonds


Brittany and the North: Cross-Channel Connections, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries

Lancaster University

Value awarded: £122,543.74

The names of Britain and Brittany reflect a long history of contact. This link fluctuated during the early medieval period, but it was never forgotten; Norman and Angevin rule added new dimensions c.1066–1203. Rooted in both medieval history and Celtic studies, my project offers a fresh perspective on cross-channel contact through the lens of the Honour of Richmond. This extensive and well-evidenced entity (with its core lands in Yorkshire) was under the authority of Breton lords. Despite the distance, there was persistent travel between these lands from the mid-eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. I ask how this shaped the two regions in terms of lordship, land management and culture, including literary and ecclesiastical links. The research will underpin an English-language monograph and two articles in French. The public engagement programme will enhance A-level studies and broaden knowledge of this little-known relationship in collaboration with regional history societies.

Dr Brett Greatley-Hirsch


Reproducing Renaissance Drama

University of Leeds

Value awarded: £145,280.80

The plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries have been edited continuously for four centuries, and different editions have reshaped and reinterpreted these texts for new audiences. Distinguished from previous scholarship in scale, scope, and methodology, this innovative two-stage project explores the editing and publishing of English Renaissance plays from the eighteenth century to the present, combining quantitative and qualitative methods for macro- and micro-scopic analysis. After constructing a comprehensive bibliographical database of editions, I will analyse the data computationally to identify latent patterns (in plays, authors, genres, editors, types of edition, and so on). To complement and contextualise these findings, I will then employ traditional literary-critical methods of close reading and archival research. A monograph of this research is contracted to the Arden Shakespeare, and the bibliographical database will be made open-access to enable new scholarship, streamline existing editorial processes, and help students, educators, and theatre practitioners locate suitable play-texts.

Dr Daniel Grey


Degrees of Guilt: Infanticide in England, 1860-1960

University of Hertfordshire

Value awarded: £131,833.73

What is the most just way for the state to deal with the killing of a baby? Between 1860 and 1960 in England, a consensus was gradually reached by both expert commentators and the lay public not only that infanticide was a ‘special’ crime demanding unique treatment by the criminal justice system and set apart from other homicides, but one requiring special legislation. The Infanticide Act 1938 still governs these cases today, despite periodic criticisms its premise is outdated. Combining the analysis of archival material and published sources with generating new community-produced oral histories of infanticide and its legacy for local ‘dark heritage’, the project will chart new avenues of inquiry, aiming to develop public engagement with and understanding of the treatment of infanticide. It will use public memory to stimulate interest by illuminating the history of this distressing crime for general as well as professional audiences.

Dr Melanie Griffiths


The Home Office in the Home: Mixed-citizenship families and immigration policing

University of Birmingham

Value awarded: £128,015.89

Contemporary UK immigration debates are dangerously divisive and reductive. Spreading immigration policing is also affecting expanding categories of people, resulting in rising ‘collateral damage’ to already-marginalised citizens. This ground-breaking project seeks to positively intervene by illuminating human interconnections and facilitating the inclusion of unusual voices. It focuses on families at the epicentre of these tensions: those straddling the citizen/irregular migrant binary. New in-depth, qualitative research with mixed-citizenship couples and immigration practitioners will be combined with unpublished material from 2015 to create a unique dataset spanning a pivotal political decade and exploring the enduring impacts of a partner/parent’s deportability. This will create the UK’s first longitudinal study of precarious mixed-citizenship families, and addresses multiple critical blind spots, including the family lives of illegalised migrants, and the implications for British children’s identity. Innovative coproduced public engagement initiatives work with families, social workers, lawyers, and NGOs to diversify, humanise, and better-inform immigration debates.

Dr Erika Hanna


Rainfall and the Irish Urban Experience, 1800-2000

University of Bristol

Value awarded: £139,328.76

In towns and cities along Ireland’s Atlantic edge, it rains on average more than 250 days a year. These are some of the rainiest places in Europe, but despite this, the urban history of Ireland has been written without any substantive engagement with how the weather has shaped urban forms and cultures. This project will uncover the story of urbanization and rainfall, focusing on three aspects of this history: how rainfall infrastructures were designed to enable settlements to develop; secondly, how these infrastructures functioned; thirdly, how these rainy landscapes created urban experiences for the city’s human and more-than- human residents. This will lead to a book, Rainfall and the Irish City, 1800-2000, which will foreground the experiences and the innovations of settlements along the western seaboard, overturning standard geographies and chronologies of Irish modernity, and a set of stakeholder workshops exploring histories of climatic adaption in the Irish city.

Dr Elvis Imafidon


The Non-Textuality of Knowledge: Orality and Symbolism in African Philosophy

School of Oriental and African Studies

Value awarded: £150,572.06

This project proposes a major shift from the dominant understanding of texts as the sole repository of philosophical knowledge by exploring oral and symbolic repositories in African philosophy. Textualism and individual authorship are major defining features that dominate the idea of a philosophical tradition. These features have been used to deny the existence of African philosophy prior to the postcolonial phase. The claim on these grounds is that a legitimate African philosophy began in the mid-20th century with the existence of African philosophy texts. I question the relevance of and sole dependence on texts as repositors of philosophical knowledge and investigate the dangers of doing so –erasure and denial of non-textual forms of knowledge production, The project thus investigates and analyses oral, symbolic and textual repositories of philosophy in sub-Saharan Africa focusing on the Benin, Yoruba and Akan traditions. It calls for inclusivity in the definition of a philosophical tradition.

Dr Antony Ince


Contesting the ‘good citizen’: The UK far right and local civic life

Cardiff University

Value awarded: £133,870.40

This project examines the under-researched relationships between far-right politics and local-scale civic life in peripheralised working-class communities. Research on the far right emphasises electoral performance or large-scale movements, and little is known about their role in communities and local citizenship practices. Building on an existing UK-wide corpus of quantitative data, I use two mixed-method ethnographic case studies in Bristol, UK, to investigate 1) how far-right actors operate in local communities, 2) community-scale pathways for disseminating and/or challenging far-right attitudes, and 3) how their presence influences local civic landscapes. I will collaborate with local voluntary and community organisations to coproduce a toolkit for supporting communities to navigate local political conflict and contest radical-right views. Thus, this timely project will advance understandings of how local citizenship is navigated and understood in times characterised by polarisation, not only investigating local far-right presences but also generating innovative ways to combat them.

Dr Pavel Iosad


Phonological microvariation in sound change: Mid vowel alternations in the Slavic languages

University of Edinburgh

Value awarded: £140,563.20

The project aims to deepen our understanding of how languages’ sound systems evolve over time. We have a good picture of mechanisms behind sound change in general, but currently lack an accepted theory of the phenomenon of ‘drift’. It occurs when languages undergo changes that are fundamentally identical, but happen after the languages’ separation from each other. Drift is often observed in practice, but satisfactory explanations that do not appeal to chance or some kind of ‘invisible hand’ have remained elusive. The project develops a theory of drift by examining in detail several related changes in Slavic languages, which are closely related and present an exciting laboratory for studying variation in sound systems. It draws on state-of-the-art linguistic theory to explicitly model how drift arises from subtle features of pronunciation that are shared by related languages, but becomes observable in sound change only in the course of their later histories.

Dr Erin Jessee


Writing women back into Rwandan history: A public oral history project

University of Glasgow

Value awarded: £139,856.80

This fellowship will allow me to produce an innovative new public-facing book, ‘Writing women back into Rwandan history,’ which uses graphic novels to engage students in African/Rwandan history, gender studies, and the use of qualitative methods in historical research. It is grounded in original research conducted since 2017 with Rwandan researchers, community stakeholders, and the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, and draws on archived oral traditions and interviews with elders and related experts about otherwise overlooked women who made significant contributions to the nation’s antecedent Nyiginya Kingdom (~1700-1962). The book will also include relevant primary sources and teaching materials co-created with Rwandan secondary school and university teachers. Its transformative potential for educators and researchers is two-fold: it adds much-needed nuance to current understandings of historic Rwandan gender norms; and it advances the Rwandan government’s gender equality policies by demonstrating the ample historical precedence that exists for women in leadership positions.

Dr Tom Johnson


The Reckoners: Economic Life in a Fifteenth-Century Fishing Village

University of York

Value awarded: £120,066.40

This project explores practices of economic exchange and valuation in fifteenth-century England, through a microhistory of Walberswick, a fishing village on the Suffolk coast. It makes two main claims. First it argues that the practice of ‘reckoning’, a form of reciprocal accounting in which people balanced out their mutual exchanges with one another, was central to economic life in this period. Reckoning allowed people to circumvent the chronic shortage of coin, to negotiate their credit relations, and to mitigate the decline of formal markets during a period of economic turmoil. Second, it argues that, as reckoning prompted rural people to quantify, calculate, and negotiate their everyday obligations, so it allows us to see how they conceptualized economic exchange for themselves. Placing everyday practice and vernacular concepts at the heart of its analysis, it presents an innovative socio-cultural history of the premodern English economy.

Dr Hyo Yoon Kang


The Role of the State in Intellectual Property Law in Times of Industrial Policy

University of Warwick

Value awarded: £136,459.63

During the Covid-19 pandemic, scholars disagreed about the adverse effects of intellectual property (IP) monopoly rights on access to vaccines, but most accepted the role of the state in fostering innovation, through funding research and awarding patents. The role of the state in IP law, however, remains undertheorised in current scholarship. Drawing upon my policy work during the Covid-19 pandemic and interdisciplinary scholarship, this fellowship will enable me to examine and outline the role of the state in IP law. The project will analyse the effects of the post-pandemic shift towards state-led industrial policy on existing justificatory frameworks of IP law that purport to balance private and public interests. It aims to advance more just meanings of innovation and public interest in IP law. The findings of the research will be disseminated to policymakers and academics and furnish them with a contemporary theory of IP law and its public function.

Dr Mark Langan


Understanding the impact of UK and EU trade deals on migration and food security in West Africa

King's College London

Value awarded: £138,921.98

The Fellowship will examine the trade-development-migration nexus in West Africa in relation to UK and EU officials’ recent pursuit of free trade deals. It adopts a decolonial political economy approach allied to discourse analysis to understand how UK and EU negotiators construct free trade as a solution to unemployment, outward migration and food insecurity in West Africa. By focusing upon lived experiences of African entrepreneurs and labourers within import-competing agricultural sectors, it explores alternative ways of viewing free trade in the region. Namely, it explores African business concerns about whether free trade deals may undermine jobs, stimulate inter-continental migration, and jeopardise food security under the weight of cheap foreign importations. The Fellowship will therein unpack possible counter-narratives aimed at resisting UK and EU free trade demands. It will generate two Q1 articles and inform African and European officials about how trade policies may act as ‘push factor’ for migration.

Dr Su Lin Lewis


Third World, Third Way: Socialist Asia and the Rise of the Global South

University of Bristol

Value awarded: £134,766.42

This project challenges bipolar perspectives of the Cold War in focusing on powerful Asian political leaders and activists who saw democratic socialism as a ‘third way’, distinct from the political models offered by America and the Soviet Union. In building networks that spanned the world, they advocated for an end to colonialism and to economic imperialism while envisioning just and equitable societies. While some experimented with socialism in governing post-colonial states, others used their activism to create an international voice for the Global South, leaving legacies for multiple generations. My proposed monograph recrafts the networks they built in an age of decolonization and provides an alternative history of socialism and internationalism centred in the so-called ‘Third World’. The project also brings together a new generation of activists and historians from across Asia to share ideas on the preservation, dissemination, and creative engagement with transnational histories of the left.

Dr Sergej Ljubownikow


Beyond Humanitarian Relief: The (Changing) Role of Human Service Organisations during the War in Ukraine.

University of Sheffield

Value awarded: £124,029.60

Military conflict or war brings widespread disruption, misery, and death. Human service organisations step in to provide immediate humanitarian relief and address gaps in state-provided services. As military conflicts become protracted, the roles and demands on such organisations change. This project examines these changes by studying how human service organisations fare, adapt, and emerge during a military conflict or war. Focusing on the war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing for nearly two years, my project will examine human service organisations to reveal how they maintain acceptance within their communities, what activities they engage in, and how they impact societies affected by military conflict. Hence, this project will produce an important study to provide meaningful insight for national and international policymakers on how human service organisations can be supported to enable them to contribute to societal resilience in the face of war.

Dr Heather Logue


World in Mind

University of Leeds

Value awarded: £146,618.66

It is common to suppose that our perceptual experiences of the world around us are entirely contained within our heads, and that one could have a hallucination that seems exactly the same as an ordinary perception just by stimulating the brain in the right way (as in the movie “The Matrix”). However, contrary to prevailing orthodoxy, I hold that perceptual experience extends to encompass the mind-independent world (i.e., that things like bananas and desks can literally be part of the mind), and that a hallucination that doesn’t involve perceiving the world around one could be easily told apart from an ordinary perceptual experience. These claims are typically dismissed as implausible because of certain theoretical prejudices, but I argue that giving up these prejudices enables us to dissolve longstanding problems concerning perceptual consciousness—such as the problem of how it arises out of physical entities like neurons.

Dr William Mack


Citizens ‘Equal and the Same’ – A New History of Ancient Greek Citizenship (c.650-27 BC)

University of Birmingham

Value awarded: £133,473.50

Political societies are characterised by the ways in which they define who the citizen is and distinguish citizens from non-citizens. This project will challenge local and teleological narratives of Greek citizenship by showing how definitions of the citizen and citizenship changed repeatedly across the network of c. 1,000 city-states over the long term (c.650-27 BC). Through systematic analysis of the inscriptional record, it will identify a series of key conceptual innovations relating to wealth, participation, and identity and reconstruct their often paradoxical histories. Telling these stories of political change and the human agents involved through a monograph and a programme of public engagement activities will highlight how personal rights can be generated almost accidentally and adopted more widely for diverse reasons. It will also demonstrate their significance in embedding a resilient culture of citizen equality and explore their impacts on the personal lives of citizens, women, and non-citizens.

Dr Barry Maguire


Live in Solidarity!

University of Edinburgh

Value awarded: £140,110.40

I am developing a solidarity-based approach to morality, based on a single moral injunction to care about one another. This injunction applies at every level of social organisation, from our intimate relationships with our families and friends, to the structure of production and our professional lives, to the organisation of our large- scale political and economic institutions. This approach draws inspiration from feminist theory, socialist theory, Catholic ethics, and the theory of flourishing. The positive proposal is intuitive to many people – outside of the philosophy seminar room, few deny that we should care about one another – and yet the theory is quite radical, and departs in significant ways from all the major approaches in contemporary moral and political theory. I will write a book that develops the moral theory based on mutual care in tandem with practical applications: to the workforce model in pharmacy, and community wealth building.

Dr Gema Martin Ordas


Flexible tool use in insects: bumblebees as a case study

University of Stirling

Value awarded: £124,412.15

Seeing an animal using a tool captures researchers’ and general public’s attention—probably because it makes us question what marks humans out as truly unique. However, we currently lack a complete picture of whether and how tool use evolved in other animals, including invertebrates. The aim of the proposed research is to investigate tool use in an invertebrate species of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). Bees display a sophisticated set of behaviours in a complex foraging context and, as such, provide an excellent study system to examine this behaviour in insects. This Fellowship will answer whether bumblebees understand that objects in the environment have properties and that can be used to achieve a goal. The findings will represent a step-change in tool use research, and, more generally, in human cognition research by exposing whether species which diverged from vertebrates over 550 million years ago are able of such a cognitive achievement.

Dr Peace Medie


Women Traditional Leaders: Power, Politics, and Change

University of Bristol

Value awarded: £134,079.48

In many African countries, traditional leaders are key actors in ensuring the security and rights of people in their communities. Though female traditional leaders are more likely to prioritize women’s concerns, the literature has focused on male leaders. How do women traditional leaders impact girls’ and women’s lives? This mixed methods project answers this question. This fellowship will enable me to complete data collection and write a monograph that examines the impact of women traditional leaders on girls’ and women’s security and wellbeing, with a focus on gender-based violence, education, and healthcare in four countries (Botswana, Ghana, Liberia, and South Africa). This project is of significant interest to policymakers and organizations that seek to include local community actors in programs that advance women’s security and rights. The fellowship will allow me to bring this research to the public through a documentary, for which I have conducted filming in three countries.

Dr Aruna Nair


Priorities: Adjudicating Rights Conflict in Property Law

University of Oxford

Value awarded: £150,632.75

This research project proposes a principled account of a body of English property law conventionally referred to as ‘priority’ rules. ‘Property law’ is a contested category, but can be broadly defined as that area of law that determines who is entitled to make decisions in relation to assets: for example, one person may want to draw on a bank account and the other want to stop them, or one person may be in possession of land while the other wants them evicted. “Priority” problems arise when both sides have valid rights over the contested asset, but these rights are mutually incompatible. Similar but distinct rules apply to land, chattels, securities, and intangibles. My project seeks to provide a systematic account of this

fragmented field, addressing problems of urgent importance to homeowners, fraud victims, and market participants as well as addressing fundamental questions about the meaning of ‘property’ as a category.

Dr Noreen O'Meara


Shaping Plastics Governance: UK, European and International Perspectives

University of Surrey

Value awarded: £144,921.60

Plastics pollution has harmful impacts on marine, land and air environments globally. Fossil fuel-based plastics production stands to triple by 2060, driving a plastics lifecycle that is deepening the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental pollution. This project would inform current UN negotiations drafting a Global Plastics Treaty, proposing a rights-oriented model for governance that would reshape the plastics lifecycle. Negotiations will be at a critical stage during the fellowship, with scope to inform the ambition of the treaty, promote public understanding of its substance and facilitate optimized treaty implementation across countries and regions. My project research (i) proposes a rights-based non-toxic circular economy model, compatible with core environmental principles, to mitigate grave health risks posed by plastics; (ii) reframes prevailing governance narratives of marine litter, conceptualizing plastics waste as a multifaceted form of environmental pollution; (iii) identifies barriers to and opportunities for context-sensitive treaty implementation. implementation.

Professor Nuno Palma


In fiat we trust: a monetary history of the world

University of Manchester

Value awarded: £118,493.86

This Fellowship would enable me to consolidate several years of research into a book about global monetary history. My proposed volume will draw on decades of research on financial history, monetary economics, comparative development, and historical political economy to produce a book with interest beyond academic audiences. While there are monetary histories of specific countries, and numismatic works, no work of a similarly global scale, extensive timeframe and comparative ambition currently exists. I argue that money matters as a necessary condition for modern economic growth to take place; and it can affect the growth process positively or negatively. This is a novel point as economic historians emphasize other aspects such as technology, geography, or institutions, while macroeconomists typically believe that money cannot influence long-run outcomes. In addition to advancing the field of historical economics, in which I am an emerging leader, this book will present timely and relevant policy implications.

Dr Nicola Palmer


Race, Refugees and International Crimes: Rwanda’s role in the global legal ordering of migration

King's College London

Value awarded: £126,972.09

Rwanda’s global pursuit of genocide suspects is increasingly embroiled in the immigration regimes of Europe and North America. In the UK, it has signed a controversial asylum treaty while pushing for domestic genocide-related trials. In France, the revocation of individuals’ refugee status has foreshadowed criminal trials for genocide. Meanwhile, in the US, Rwandan nationals are being convicted of immigration fraud, based on allegations of their involvement in international crimes. This project aims to analyse the social functions of these legal processes, examining what is being expressed, to whom and with what material effects. It draws on an original dataset and ethnographic work to track the deportation, extradition and trials around the world of Rwandan nationals alleged to have participated in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Focusing on Rwanda illuminates global patterns in which international criminal law (ICL) is renationalised in ways that potentially reinforce and racialize state borders.

Professor Carolyn Pedwell


Speculative Machines and Us: Intuition, AI, and the Making of Computational Cultures

Lancaster University

Value awarded: £135,520.75

This study contextualises the development of 'artificial intuition' in relation to historical, atmospheric, techno-social interactions in the United Kingdom and North America from the 1930s to the present, spanning the introduction of digital computers and the consolidation of machine learning architectures. As self-taught software and context-aware sensors in computational infrastructures attune to our moods, habits, and desires, algorithmically mediated intuition has become crucial to everyday life. Using archival research to build an 'affective genealogy' of twentieth-century human-machine relations with salient political and ethical implications for modern AI, I bring social theories, affect studies, and speculative philosophies to bear on computational cultures. The research will be disseminated through ambitious scholarly and engagement activities, including a major monograph establishing intuition as critical to digital histories and futures, a multi-media website, and a high-profile public event, solidifying my position as a leading scholar and public communicator in digital media, affect, and critical theory.

Dr Anthony Pickles


Prediction, Predation, Politics: Political Gambling Markets and the Gamification of the Future

University of Birmingham

Value awarded: £122,870

Prediction, Predation, Politics realizes the first qualitative study of gambling on political outcomes (e.g., who will win the election) and the resulting 'prediction markets'. Set amid profound democratic and political crises within the UK and US, surging political betting markets convert ideological beliefs, historical trends, and national moods into prices, turning political understanding into a game. Through interviews, participant observation, and ‘netnography’, I study the market-makers, bookies, bloggers, academics, politicos, punters, and arbitragers who co-construct expertise in political markets around volatile currents of opinion, interests, and insider knowledge. I will assess the implications of this gamification of the future, encompassing moral and practical issues alongside questions of political thought, and develop an innovative framework for examining the intersection of politics and market economy. Publications and public dissemination will uncover how political betting during our snowballing ecological, democratic, and economic crises enacts a profoundly financialised anxiety about our fragile future.

Dr Agnieszka Rydzik


Evolving worker agency in the increasingly automated and digitalised hospitality workplace

University of Lincoln

Value awarded: £123,047.98

Hospitality employers are increasingly seeking technological solutions to address staff shortages, achieve cost savings, and increase productivity. However, little is known about how these changes are affecting workers, and what can be done to minimise sector-specific workforce challenges. This timely research addresses this gap by examining the ways in which technology is transforming how power is negotiated in hospitality workplaces and how workers exercise agency. Taking a multi-method approach to gather data from workers, employers and key stakeholders, the study will provide the evidence base to problematise and anticipate consequences stemming from digital transformation to avoid furthering precarisation of largely non-unionised workers in a sector where mechanisms for worker voice are limited. Findings will inform debates in Sociology, Hospitality Studies and HRM on worker agency, management control and the future of work, and will be used to influence public debates and provide thought leadership around digital transformation’s workforce implications.

Professor Mohamed Saleh


Intra-Elite Conflict and the Reluctant Democratization of the Middle East and North Africa

London School of Economics and Political Science

Value awarded: £128,517.60

Why has democracy struggled to thrive in the Global South? This research program aims at developing a new economic history of the Middle East that explains the economic roots of authoritarianism in the region. It will theoretically and empirically investigate how demands for democratization could emerge from intra-elite conflicts in an agrarian economy, despite the lack of an industrial bourgeoisie that was crucial in the Global North, and how elite politics shift with colonialism and postcolonial regimes. While elite conflicts can lead to democratization, they can alternatively result in autocracy. Furthermore, colonialism and postcolonial military coups could curtail these developments leading to episodes of democratic opening and authoritarian backsliding. The research program tests this by examining elite politics in Egypt, using a novel database on parliament members from 1824 to 2020, and applying sentiment analysis on parliamentary speeches. This program will inform current debates about (failed) democratization of the region.

Dr Florian Scheding


Staging Migrant Voices: Cabaret and Transnational Networks in 20th-Century Britain

University of Bristol

Value awarded: £137,704.80

While migration has long been at the forefront of public debates, the voices of refugees themselves are frequently absent. But migrants have a long history of making themselves heard. In mid-20th-century Britain, numerous refugee organisations staged hundreds of cabaret performances to audiences totalling thousands. In a hostile wartime environment that sought to prevent refugee voices from participating in public discourses, cabaret was uniquely positioned in providing entertainment and escapism while also allowing refugees to make their political voices heard. Combining musicology, exile, migration and theatre studies in a chronologically and geographically focussed and multilingual manner, I will uncover a hidden aspect of 20th-century culture that had a considerable creative output and socio-cultural reach, but that has been absent from historical investigation. An accessible monograph will explore this lost history of migrant voices on stage and a series of podcasts and blog posts will disseminate my research beyond academia.

Dr Ala Sirriyeh


Britain's Child Migrants: Nation and Connected Migrations

Lancaster University

Value awarded: £139,092.30

From declared refugee and migrant crises to the public inquiry into post-World War Two child migration schemes between Britain and Australia, child migrants have featured prominently within emotive public debates in Britain on rights, citizenship, and Britishness. This is evidenced again with the recent passage and controversy surrounding the Illegal Migration Act 2023. Through the intersection of child welfare and immigration policy discourses, child migrants are subjects through which the values and boundaries of national belonging are interrogated. Yet limited connection has made across cases involving different categories of child migrants moving to and from the British Isles. Britain’s Child Migrants addresses this gap through investigating what thinking across cases of child migration to and from Britain (1938-2024) through a conceptual framework of ‘connected migrations’ reveals about the evolution and shaping of a national politics of identity and citizenship in the context of Britain’s journey from empire to ‘Global Britain’.

Dr Jelena Stojkovic


Illumination: Transnational Routes of Abstract Art in the Cold War

Oxford Brookes University

Value awarded: £113,565.60

This research project provides a new art historical model for thinking about transnational routes of abstract art during the Cold War. It is the first academic study about Illumination, a cross-cultural group of abstract artists from Japan, former Yugoslavia, the US, and Italy that was active in Rome during the 1960s. Combining archival research with analysis of socio-political specificity of artistic work, it will allow me to further develop my award- winning interdisciplinary research to examine individual artistic trajectories of the group’s members and reassess the nature of abstract art from the previously disregarded perspectives of both diasporic and women artists.

Dr Patrycja Strycharczuk


From speaker-specificity to structured variability - the role of articulatory strategy in language variation

University of Manchester

Value awarded: £134,386.40

Individual human voices are thought to be unique, largely due to individual differences in anatomy. However, this individual variation coexists with group-level variation, for example speakers from the same area sound alike. Speakers need to partially overcome individual differences in order to signal group membership, but little is known about the specific strategies that are used to achieve this. My project uses a recently collected uniquely rich articulatory dataset to shed light on individual and systematic variation in speech production. The goal is to derive a taxonomy of articulatory strategies for producing vowel sounds, to establish whether such strategies leave subtle traces in the resulting sound, and to illuminate the connection between articulatory variation and social variables, such as gender. The project probes the limits of individuality in speech production, and investigates whether reliance on particular articulatory strategies creates systematic structure in language variation.

Dr Stefania Travagnin


An Inclusive Bodhisattva Path: The Taiwanese Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and their Global Trans-Faith Humanitarianism

School of Oriental and African Studies

Value awarded: £145,622.17

The Taiwanese Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, established by the nun Cheng Yen in 1966, has proposed a new model of humanitarianism. Besides becoming the first faith-based organization that is present in 129 countries, and operates long-term in/with multi-cultural and multi-faith environments in all continents, Tzu Chi is especially unique for their inclusive membership and community building overseas. In fact, they have been able to attract hundreds of thousands of non-Buddhists and non-Asian volunteers and members, becoming a global trans-faith humanitarian foundation where differences of belief do not undermine but enhance charity missions; and have also invested in empowering the vulnerable, especially women. This project unveils the reinvention of religion and Buddhism that are the bases of the “Tzu Chi model” of humanitarian action, analyzes Tzu Chi tactics of women’s empowerment in non-Asian and non-Buddhist communities, and reflects on the potential of Tzu Chi trans-faith humanitarianism in informing charity work worldwide.

Dr Aakanksha Virkar


T. S. Eliot and Beethoven: Aesthetics, Music and Politics 1870-1945

University of Brighton

Value awarded: £94,264.32

This project interrogates the aesthetics and politics of T. S. Eliot’s engagement with Beethoven during the interwar and World War II years, focusing on his monumental 'Four Quartets' (1936-1942) and lesser-known 'Coriolan' (1931-1932). Bringing together literary and musicological analysis, the project radically proposes that Eliot's turn to Beethoven in 1931 was not only a response to the 1927 Beethoven centenary, but a powerful critique of Nazi cultural ideology and rhetoric during these years. This research examines Eliot’s Beethoven series as deliberately satirising and resisting the arguments of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf', through a celebration of fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Jewish artist as creator of culture. The stakes could not be higher: far from the politically disinterested or reactionary poet imagined by the public and scholarly community, this project repositions Eliot as a poet whose engagement with Beethoven’s legacy was an artistic and philosophical defence of art against Nazi 'Kulturpolitik'.

Dr Tim Vlandas


Ageing Democracies: Grey Power and Economic Performance

University of Oxford

Value awarded: £149,890.40

Nearly one in ten people in the world is now aged 65 and over. This project will theorise and explore the political consequences of ageing for economic performance. As countries age, the political priorities of a growing share of the electorate might shift, and elected governments may be forced to prioritise certain policies at the expense of others, which could in turn affect economic growth. Quantitative methods on a wide range of datasets will examine these political economy consequences of ageing. First, I will analyse the policy preferences, economic priorities, and voting behaviour of elderly voters using several cross-national surveys. Second, I will investigate whether ageing changes government policy allocation across various domains, notably prioritising pensions instead of investments. Third, I will examine how ageing may as a result negatively affect economic performance. I have already signed a contract with Oxford University Press to publish a monograph on this research.

The awards listed are those for the 2024 Mid-Career Fellowships. Previous award announcements can be found on the Mid-Career Fellowships past awards page.

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