We have listed all our current students on this page, under their Pathway Groups. Please click on a Pathway to see what they are researching for their PhDs.

Business and Management Studies

2017-18 Student Cohort

EIRINI BERSIMI (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Ekaterini Panopoulou; second supervisor: Dr Nikolaos Voukelatos

Research project: Volatility forecasting and asset allocation in portfolio management.

Research description: In the first part of my project, I will review and examine the forecasting power of large number of univariate and multivariate volatility models. I will produce volatility forecasts using various models and approaches. I will also use linear and non-linear combinations of forecasts produced by different univariate models and assess the gains in forecasting accuracy. The second part of my research will shift the emphasis to the choice between volatility forecasts derived from historical models against option implied volatility measures. Finally, the third part of my research will move to Markowitz’s framework of portfolio selection. More specifically I will examine how we can optimize asset allocation in a portfolio through the use of multivariate volatility models. I will focus on shrinkage methods estimators of the covariance matrix.

CHRISTY HEHIR (University of Surrey)

Main supervisor: Professor Caroline Scarles; second supervisor: Dr Joseph Kantenbacher

Research project: Beyond good intentions: tourism as a driver of emotion and philanthropic behaviour change

Research description: Climate change for some provides a rationale to visit areas, like Polar Regions, before they disappear (Dawson et al., 2011), but the act of travelling to threatened areas raises the spectre of tourists loving an already dying destination to an early death.

Partnering with leading tour operators and international wildlife charities, this research uses an innovative combination of biometrics, interviews and surveys to understand whether travelling leads to increases in conservation-oriented philanthropy. Outcomes of knowing how people’s relationships with nature form, and what behavioural implications they may have, could provide critical insight into how destinations can effectively meet conservation goals and facilitate greater collaboration between the tour operator and non-profit sectors.

YOO RI KIM (University of Surrey)

Main supervisor: Professor Allan Williams; second supervisor: Jason Chen

Research project: The impact of spatial clustering on the labour productivity of hotels in the UK

Research description: With the recent Brexit, awareness of the persistent issue of the labour productivity gap has intensified in the UK service sector, especially in the tourism and hospitality industry. Given its strong reliance on migrant and transient labour, and high turnover rates, both academics and the industry have long been aware of the gap, but new ways are required to address this. The productivity problem has both internal and external dimensions, and there has been relatively less focus on the external, especially on the role of spatial clustering in relation to productivity, which this research will investigate. The implications of spatial clustering are especially important in the context of tourism and hospitality due to its inter-sectoral nature, which leads hotels, restaurants and bars, tourist attractions, etc. to cluster in tourist destinations. This generates externalities, in the form of agglomeration economies, that can influence labour productivity. However, these are often taken for granted; the actual effects of spatial clustering on labour productivity remain uncertain. Thus, this research will contribute to the operationalisation of agglomeration economies in the tourism and hospitality labour market.

The research aims to investigate the impact of spatial clustering on the labour productivity in the UK hotel sector. The research objectives are:

  1. To examine the impact of the degree of clustering of tourism and hospitality firms within a spatial unit on hotel labour productivity.
  2. To examine the impact of agglomeration economies – labour pooling and knowledge spillovers – of a spatial unit on hotel labour productivity.
  3. To examine the non-economic locational characteristics within a spatial cluster and their impact on hotel labour productivity.

STEFANO MAIANI (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Professor Michael Lamla; second supervisor: Jason Cen

Research project: The impact of monetary policies and the risks of carry trade speculation

Research description: I conduct an analysis of the effects of non-FDI capital flows to China that spillovered from prolonged unconventional monetary policies held by advanced economies. In particular, I analyse to what extent these capital flows can be associated to global carry trade speculations, associated to positive interest rate spreads arising between advanced economies and emerging markets, and to the so-called global financial cycle. Finally, I will perform a firm-level analysis of the way in which capital flows influence firms' financing and the implications of this for their profitability and risk exposure.

SIMON OLDHAM (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Laura Spence; second supervisor: Dr Diego Valzquez-Brust

Research project: How does organisational growth affect the construct and practice of values within small and medium sized enterprises?

Research description: The preponderance and accompanying study of ethics, but specifically values, within corporations has received much attention within the academic literature. Per contra, rather less research and investigation into the practice of values within Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) has been conducted. Yet the SME sector provides a unique and compelling opportunity to undertake research on values, due to the antipodean nature of these organisations to their corporate cousins; particularly, SMEs possession of a plethora of unique characteristics, in tandem with the economic and the financial turbulence they frequently endure. Given SMEs particular propensity for change this research seeks to investigate the construct and practice of values within SMEs as they grow, evolve and adapt, from start up to maturity.

2018-19 Student Cohort

BEN DAVIES (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Carola Leicht; second supervisor: Professor Dominic Abrams

Research project: Changing business: Reactions to innovative and transgressive organisational leaders

Research description: My research uses a social-psychological perspective to investigate how people react to organisational leaders who deviate from organisational norms. Sometimes this deviance is positive, as business leaders must often diverge from the status quo in order to innovate and take their company in new directions. However, such diversion away from company norms can disrupt the company’s identity and organisational culture, evoking harsh reactions from an organisation’s members. My research examines ways that organisational leaders can effectively handle these challenges to successfully innovate.

My research also explores negative forms of workplace deviance in the form of transgressive leadership. Company leaders may engage in negative behaviours such as expenses fraud, bribery, or blackmail. Whilst these behaviours often benefit the company in the short term (securing contracts etc.), they typically result in significant economic and social backlash in the long term. Therefore my research also explores how support for transgressive leaders can be restricted, and support for ethical leaders increased

JONATHAN FEARNE (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Dr Dan Unger; second supervisor: Professor Kevin Daniels

Research project: Digital health promotion in the workplace: A study into workers experiences with mobile health technologies

Research description: Wearable activity trackers are commercially available tools designed to promote, nudge, and reward physical activity. These devices are part of a range of mobile health technologies (mHealth) presented as enabling individuals to take accountability and responsibility for their personal health. As a result, businesses are beginning to engage with mHealth as an avenue to promote employee wellbeing. A strategy which companies hope will help combat issues of absenteeism and presenteeism. Indeed, Fitbit, the market leader in activity tracking technology, offers a wellness program to businesses which they state has enrolled seventy Fortune500 companies.

Whilst the ideology underpinning wearable trackers and mobile health is presented by technology enthusiasts as a positive one, research undertaken over the last five years has painted a clouded picture. Quantitative data suggests that mHealth attracts a younger, well-educated, and affluent customer, with issues of access and literacy, indicative of the digital divide, potentially excluding and alienating non-users. Moreover, at least half of all users disengage with an activity tracker after six months. Meanwhile, qualitative research suggests that for some users the technology can be motivating and useful, for others it heightens feelings of anxiety, stress, and guilt.

This is the point of departure for the research to be conducted. Increasingly businesses are beginning to offer activity tracking technologies to their employees in an effort to sustain a healthy workforce. However, from an organisational studies perspective, introducing new and innovative technologies premised around health and wellbeing raises a number of important questions. How does the technology shape the social relations within the workplace? Furthermore, to what extent does activity tracking technology (designed to operate 24/7) promoted by a place of work have an effect on wellbeing at the home? Whilst the technology is designed to promote wellbeing, does the additional pressure of physical activity to an employee’s workload increase stress and anxiety? Previous research has addressed theoretical issues around activity tracking technology, drawing on topics of digital labour and surveillance. There is now a pressing need to capture and understand the experiences of users engaging with activity technology in different environments, notably within the workplace.

Given the importance of employee wellbeing it may be incorrect to assume that such technology will have a universally positive impact amongst employees, with ramifications for both social interactions and personal introspection. Furthermore, companies producing consumer health technologies have notoriously developed both the hardware and software in the silos of Silicon Valley and ignored important consumer-based research. The present research therefore has multiple pathways to impact. In seeking to identify the benefits and pitfalls of mHealth based wellbeing programs the findings of this research may be utilised to offer best practice guidelines for employment practices to companies seeking to promote and disseminate activity tracking technologies to their employees. Furthermore, the research has the potential to inform the production of future health technologies issued as part of wellbeing initiatives.

MIRUNA-DANIELA IVAN (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Dr Chiara Banti; second supervisor: Professor Neil Kellard

Research project: Essays in seasonal anomalies and market efficiency

Research description: The field of finance has long debated the concept of market efficiency. The level of market efficiency is of high importance to investors for return predictability and investment decision-making. Financial anomalies are of particular interest because their existence violates the weak-form of market efficiency. The weak-form efficiency implies that current prices fully reflect all information contained in the historical prices of the asset and trading rules based on past prices cannot be used to identify miss-priced assets. Examining the persistence of financial anomalies in emerging markets would provide important implications for the capital market efficiency. Other areas which can benefit from this study are the capital market theory, the distribution of stock returns and investment decision-making.

JILL JUERGENSEN (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Dr Rajneesh Narula; second supervisor: Dr Irina Surdu

Research project: A multi-level analysis for examining the diffusion of entreprenurial and innovative strategies for growth and global competitive advantage

Research description: The aim of my research is to conduct a multi-level analysis of the diffusion of entrepreneurial strategies of companies to grow and gain competitive advantage in domestic and foreign markets. Inspired by Dess, et al.’s (2003) notable paper, one of the main propositions of this research project is that the relationship between entrepreneurship, capabilities renewal and internationalisation is an important one and highly topical.

Companies can generate entrepreneurial rent through risk taking and entrepreneurial ambitions in a complex environment that is full of uncertainty (Mahoney & Pandian, 1992). This applies to today’s business landscape more than ever, where the largest taxi company (Uber) does not own a single taxi and the largest hospitality service (AirBnB) does not own a single hotel. These two examples certainly highlight the shift from the importance of tangible assets to the increasing importance of in-tangible ones, including technical knowledge and branding. This in turn illustrates the decreasing barriers of entry to a growing number of industries due to the wide diffusion of technological knowledge utilised by innovative start-ups to disrupt their respective sectors, without having to struggle with the initial investment in tangible assets. Therefore, engaging in entrepreneurial activities is vital for established organisations if they want to grow and sustain their advantages.

My research aims to uncover some of the inherent complexities of entrepreneurship and innovation in established firms using mixed methods, such as statistical analysis of secondary data, as well as case studies. In fact, a case study on the innovation-aimed activities within an organisation would be the ideal research methodology. However, aware of the difficulties of gaining access to internal company data, I aim to remain flexible by starting with a statistical analysis of a suited data set to better understand certain relationships and outcomes of firms' innovation and entrepreneurial activities. Overall, the increased competition in international markets forces companies to constantly innovate in order to remain competitive. Therefore, it is of profound interest to researchers and practitioner to better understand the complexities and challenges of innovation-aimed strategies, such as the question of where to source internal and external knowledge and how to use if effectively.

NIKOLINA ROSKO (City, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Charles Baden-Fuller; second supervisor:

Research project: "Internet of Things" alliances: Conflicting cognitive frames in new product development

Research description:

Development Studies

2017-18 Student Cohort

RACHEL CLAYDON (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Nick Nisbett; second supervisor: Dinah Rajak

Research project: Selling nutrition? Reception and impact of fortified packaged foods in Odisha, India

Research description: My project will research the reception and impact of recent market-based interventions in nutrition from the perspective of the household in peri-urban India. Fortified packaged foods have become a key means of addressing micronutrient deficiencies amongst undernourished people. They are both celebrated as an example of the market’s ability to address the pressing development challenge of malnutrition, and criticized as part of corporate capture of the development agenda, and as a potential gateway to a lifetime dependency on processed/packaged foods, with attendant health consequences. However, relatively little is known about how fortified packaged foods are received in practice by poor households, nor about how they impact upon people’s understandings of nutrition and food consumption practices more broadly. Empirical investigation of the intended and unintended effects of this highly topical nutrition intervention is urgently needed given the short time within which the “nutrition transition” can take place, and problems of undernutrition be replaced with those associated with overweight/obesity. The research will use critical anthropological techniques and other qualitative methodologies interrogate how this highly topical nutrition intervention is playing out on the ground in Odisha, India. The findings will provide development researchers, policy makers and practitioners with grounded insights into the potential and limitations of fortified packaged foods in improving nutrition outcomes, as well as contributing to these wider, critical debates.

JESSICA GOODENOUGH (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Dr Hilary Geoghegan; second supervisor: Giuseppe Feola

Research project: Citizen science in the global South: effects on participation in urban agriculture in Rio de Janeiro’s informal settlements

Research description: Taking the informal settlements of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as my focus, this PhD asks: (1) How is knowledge about urban agriculture projects currently produced and transmitted in Rio’s favelas? (2) What are people’s motivations for participation in urban agriculture in informal settlements? (3) What role can citizen science approaches play in enhancing, sustaining and advocating for participation in urban agriculture in informal settlements? (4) How can grassroots organisations, NGOs and state-led organisations embed citizen science in their urban agriculture projects in the global South?

PAUL FENTON VILLAR (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Dr Edward Anderson; second supervisor: Elissaios Papyrakis

Research project: Investigating the impact of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

Research description: Advocated by the international community for 15 years, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is recognised as a leading anti-corruption scheme concerning public receipts from oil, gas and mining activities. Today, hosting a membership of 31 countries (with a further 18 countries applying for membership), it practically promotes institutional accountability and financial transparency by demanding that member countries enforce contract and revenue disclosure standards, forgo regular independent audits, and maintain a national multi-stakeholder group to promote public dialogue.

Yet, despite EITI’s long-lasting international prominence, a recent evidence review has highlighted a deficiency in quantitative evidence assessing either the direction or magnitude of the possible impacts of EITI. Meanwhile, other critics have further suggested that the quantitative evidence that is available uses insufficient evaluation approaches to adequately control for selection bias. As such, building on my previous research (Fenton Villar and Papyrakis (forthcoming)) on the effects of EITI on corruption in Zambia, this research offers to extend the application of an innovative quasi-experimental technique, called the Synthetic Control Method (SCM), in order to more broadly investigate the effects of EITI across other member countries and outcome domains (including accountability, economic growth, FDI and aid) in addition to corruption.

Furthermore, given that the SCM approach is a relatively recent methodological development, it has been subject to limited review to date. Thus, beyond the thematic contributions of this investigation, this research offers to compile a review of methodological developments and practical guidance surrounding the implementation of the approach.

JONATHAN FRANKLIN (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Dr Ben Jones; second supervisor: Professor Adrian Martin

Research project: Putting climate change to work, the case of Tanzania

Research description: My research explores how climate change is being interpreted, contested and put to use by different groups in Tanzania - and how this is shaping the response to the issue. To do this I will undertake ethnographic fieldwork in Tanzania, placing my first-hand insights in perspective with wider social and economic transformations taking place alongside climate change.

2018-18 Student Cohort

BELEN MARTINEZ (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Geert De Neve; Second supervisor: Dr Anke Schwittay

Research project: Women's empowerment in India: A comparison of microfinance and transport sector initiatives

Research description: The 'empowerment of women' is often identified as an important aim of international development policies, and many donor agencies now include women's empowerment in their strategies. Many of these projects in developing countries aim to promote women's empowerment by using microcredit. The assumption that microfinance embodies aspects of social capital that enhances women's empowerment status is implicit in most advocacy literature on microcredit. While much academic research supports microcredit as a development strategy, a growing number of researchers are critical and suspicious about microcredit's ability to correct longstanding social ills, fill the void of formal wage work, and empower women within existing patriarchal structures (Scully, 2004, cited by Norwood, 2014). Kabeer (2001) suggests that access to economic resources alone is not necessarily sufficient to address inequality and to empower women. To locate women at the centre of the empowerment process, some authors suggest that the concept of women's empowerment should change from a welfare-oriented approach to an equity approach, seeking to end gender discrimination (Nayak and Mahanta, 2009). However, most initiatives are still trying to respond to the needs of poor women by making relatively small investments in income-generating projects (Badola et al., 2014). Often such projects fail because they are motivated by welfare and not development concerns, offering women temporary and part-time employment in traditionally female skills such as knitting and sewing that have limited markets (ibid.). The question arises as to whether women would be more empowered if they had the option to leave traditionally female-dominated work roles and enter other economic sectors. This research will shed some light on this debate by comparing two projects. It aims to open new conversations around ways to empower women, focusing on the effect that women working in environments where they have traditionally been excluded will have not only for themselves, but also for their communities.

The study will analyse two programmes using differing economic models that aim to promote women's empowerment. One case study will look at a microcredit programme for women in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, India, managed by the NGO Fundación Vicente Ferrer (FVF). The other will look at the Female Electric Rickshaw Driver programme run by the Karuna-Shechen organisation, a programme that provides disadvantaged women with the skills and the means they need to work as e-rickshaw taxi drivers in Bodhgaya, India. By comparing these programmes, the research will examine two economic models intended to empower women, and the resulting effect of each intervention on the women involved.

Focusing on current debates around how development agencies can engage in changing patriarchal structures rather than accommodating women within the inequitable existing order, the research will ask how this can be achieved, and what facilitates change in women's lives. It will analyse the impact that working in a traditionally male environment can have, not only in terms of income generation, but also as a way to change how women see themselves, in turn enabling them to step away from the expectations that limit them.

KARA SHEPPARD (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Dr Ben Jones; second supervisor: Dr Shelia Aikman

Research project: Educating young women: An ethnographic study of secondary school students in Tanzania

Research description: Drawing on the growing body of work on education and identity within the field of development studies, this research proposes to explore how female identities are developed through school, guided by the research question ‘how is educated femininity produced and performed?’ The study takes the form of an ethnography of an all-girls state secondary school in Arusha, Tanzania and makes a contribution to a wider literature that looks at the value young women place on education in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. The research is premised on the idea that rather than there being a generalised ‘educated femininity’ the production and performance of identities, while patterned, varies across time and space. The research, therefore, explores the lives of a group of female O-level students both at school and at home over a twelve month period, redressing a historical bias towards the experiences of primary schooling within development studies. What has been termed ‘educated femininity’ is not produced in isolation, therefore interactions with young men, old men, women and comparisons with those who have had less or no schooling are also considered. Additionally, the research proposes to explore the performance of these identities across a variety of sites (church, home, classroom) and through a range of behaviours (style of dress, consumption)


2017-18 Student Cohort

MARTA ALVARO-TAUS (University of Surrey)

Main supervisor: Dr Cristiano Cantore; second supervisor:

Research project: The sustainability of public finances given an ageing population.

Research description: The proposed approach follows a three step-process. Firstly, I will undertake an in-depth study of the demographic structures and the functioning of labour markets in European countries. This will involve a literature review of outstanding work on labour economics, business cycle and dynamic macroeconomic models. At this stage, I will also conduct an empirical analysis on the effects of immigration on public finances at national level, given that in the past decade there were significant migration flows both intra-EU and from outside into the EU. For instance, while Southern European countries were net receivers of generally low skilled migrants from North Africa and Eastern Europe, other countries like Germany and the UK have received many highskilled European immigrants.

Secondly, I will carry on a theoretical analysis of the effects of migration on macroeconomic variables by using a multi-region overlapping generations (DSGE) model within the incomplete market approach with the aim of understanding how different shocks affect the steady state and the transitional dynamics to a new equilibrium. The model will account for life-cycle dimensions as identified in my initial analysis (i.e. age productivity profiles, savings distributions, demographic structures), fiscal authorities and open-economy properties (Auerbach & Kotlikoff, 1987; Börsch‐ Supan, Ludwig, & Winter, 2006; Storesletten, 2000).

Finally, I will undertake an empirical analysis of spatial correlations between immigration and regional government deficits in Germany using instrumental variables.

VICENC ESTEVE (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Kai-Uwe Kuhn; second supervisor: Professor Bruce Lyons

Research project: Thirty years of water privatization: What have we learned?

Research description: Assessing the experience of the water privatization of England and Wales. Exploring the relative success of the price cap regulation scheme that was put in place. Scotland and the introduction and competition on the downstream market of water distribution. The tendency towards re-nationalization around the world.

ANTHOULLA PHELLA (University of Surrey)

Main supervisor: Professor Valentina Corradi; second supervisor: Dr Vasco Gabriel

Research project: Factor augmented quantile autoregression

Research description: Quantile regression (QR) has emerged as a powerful alternative to standard least squares regression in a variety of econometric applications including labour economics, demand analysis and finance (Koenker and Hallock, 2001).The QR approach enables a researcher to analyse a continuous range of conditional quantile functions which provides a more complete picture of the conditional dependence structure of the variables examined rather than a single measure of conditional location. The more detailed description of the conditional distribution of the response variable that can be obtained through QR proves to be extremely helpful in the case of inflation where policy makers need to consider not only the most likely path but the whole distribution of outcomes that inflation can take.

Parametric quantile regressions in particular, have been shown to be a useful and flexible modelling strategy in the case of economic and financial variables, especially in the context of forecasting. QR has been the primary tool in the estimation and forecasting of Value-at-Risk, a standard tool for measuring market risk (Engle and Manganelli, 2004) and studies of the wage and income distribution (Koenker and Xiao, 2002),(Machado and Mata, 2005) among others. The presence however of time dependent data in economic and financial scenarios deems the Quantile Autoregression (QAR), as proposed by (Koenker and Xiao, 2006), the more suitable framework for relevant studies.

Nevertheless, it is well understood that inference regarding parametric quantile models critically depends on the validity of the parametric functional form that is specified for the quantiles under consideration. Therefore, in the case of QAR any post-estimation inference is heavily dependent on the implicit assumption that the linear quantile specification is correct. In accordance with the developments in the empirical field, tests for the correct specification of conditional quantiles functions over a continuum of quantile levels have been proposed by several authors (Escanciano and Goh, 2014) ,(Escanciano and Velasco, 2010).

Meanwhile, in an empirical context another development has been the increased use of factors in different macroeconomic models as a way to summarize large amounts of information into a smaller subset of variables. Factors have therefore been proven useful in overcoming the limited information bias arising from the fact that the information sets of decision makers is sufficiently larger than the information set captured by conventional empirical models. Particularly in the context of inflation, a substantial portion of the literature also supports that (average) inflation forecasts based on such factors seem to outperform univariate regressions (Stick and Watson, 2002), (Bernanke et al., 2005). Nevertheless, to the best of our knowledge nobody has examined whether the above also holds in the case of conditional forecasts of the distribution of inflation through the QAR approach.

Therefore, in accordance with the developments in these two strands of the literature I am working on the development of a new consistent test for the correct specification of the linear QAR against the alternative of a Factor-Augmented QAR(FA-QAR) conditional on a given information set, with an empirical application to the distribution of inflation.

ERKIN SAGIEV (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Dr Jayant Ganguli; second supervisor: Professor Christian Ghiglino

Research project: Information design for tax competition in post-BEPS world

Research description: The aim of my project is to develop policy relevant analysis of information exchange in the context of recent activity of global organisations against tax avoidance practices of multinational enterprises. Existing information asymmetry among countries is of key importance since national governments have incentive and opportunity to exploit it for financial gain. Own tax base can be expanded by attracting foreign taxpayers providing them tax benefits. Government can do so through actions such as secret tax rulings and cooperation with tax havens, while demonstrating full commitment to fight against harmful tax practices. Moreover, such scenarios provide clear incentives to national government to manipulate any information being shared with other countries. Existing information exchange agreements bear the same problem. The most efficient of them are closed with limited participant numbers. The private nature of the cooperation vehicles further proves the prevalence of information asymmetry among countries. Only a couple years ago the World Bank and OECD created the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes opened to all countries. However, the question is still the same, whether such global agreement can be really working mechanism to achieve transparency. The existing literature does not provide analysis of such scenarios as it developed almost entirely in settings with complete information and where government actions are restricted to the setting of publicly observable tax rates and basic interactions. This gap is what my proposed research aims to fill. The result of the research will be the model, which will reveal conditions and limitations of global collaboration against tax avoidance.

2018-19 Student Cohort

ASHLEY BURDETT (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Professor Melvyn Coles; second supervisor: Professor Marco Francesconi

Research project: An equilibrium analysis of the decision whether to date, cohabit or marry

Research description: In stark contrast to 60 years ago, it is now commonplace for people to cohabit with a partner to whom they are not married. Despite its pervasiveness, there has been little research into what triggered the rise in cohabitation, the behavioural impacts of cohabitation and how it fits into the standard economic theory of the family. I will investigate these questions empirically considering both the UK and the US using advanced quantitative methods, and theoretically using a search framework. In this process, I will address whether cohabitation is a distinct state from marriage, how behaviour differs in cohabitation compared to marriage, whether cohabitation is temporary or long-term and what institutional change led to the rise of cohabitation. With cohabitation continuing to grow in popularity this research will be useful for both social scientists and policymakers who are interested in future family formation and stability. Importantly, it will try to inform debates regarding child welfare as increasing numbers of parents are choosing to cohabit.

ANNALIVIA POLSELLI (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Professor Marcus Chambers; second supervisor: Professor Marco Francesconi

Research project: Robust inference in panel data models. A theoretical and empirical analysis

Research description: My current research project focuses on evaluating the effect of heteroskedastic standard errors on inference when the data set contains highly influential points, in panel data models. This issue is relevant from both a purely theoretical and applied analysis, because overly-inflated t-statistics and significance levels may lead to unreliable results in empirical works. My main objective is to develop a new estimator of the sampling variance for linear panel data models - i.e., a tool that applied economists can use in their empirical studies - in order to account for both issues: heteroskedasticity and the presence of leverage points. This method will find several applications in applied Microeconometrics.

SIDHARTH RONY (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Arnaud Chevalier; second supervisor: Dr Melanie Luhrmann

Research project: Ageing, automatization and the future of skills in the labour market.

Research description: Most OECD countries are experiencing an ageing of their population. This impacts on their labour force as large cohorts of retiring workers are being replaced by smaller cohorts of younger workers. To maintain economic growth, the productivity of workers needs to increase, or additional workers need to be attracted. Increased productivity relies on increased capital, partially in the form of robots, and increased human capital; i.e. workers need to acquire new skills. This project specifically focuses on how the interaction of an ageing population and increased automation alters the supply and demand of skills in the working age population.


2017-18 Student Cohort

ROSA MARVELL (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith; second supervisor: Dr Louise Gazeley

Research project: Exploring postgraduate taught (PGT) trajectories through the narratives of first-generation students enrolled on Master's Programmes in England

Research description: This project is focused on how social (dis)advantage influences trajectories into Master's-level study, explored through life-history narrative interviews and visual timelining with first-generation scholars. It is particularly interested in what structural, material and symbolic resources, networks and moments help, hinder or otherwise shape those journeys. It is also interested in the intersection between Widening Participation research/practice and higher-level study.

MICHAEL ROY (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Mario Novelli; second supervisor: Professor Yusuf Sayed

Research project: Macedonia: Policy disjuncture between global education, ethnicity and conflict

Research description: With the increasingly complex nature of violent conflict today, there is renewed interest within the international community in the ameliorative role of education. Hence, Western organisations export education and development projects to non-Western countries, which have significantly different socio-historical contexts, but share in common a struggle to balance diversity and unity in efforts to counter the danger of ethno-religious conflict engulfing the nation. A case in point is the post-communist and post-conflict states of the former Yugoslavia, and primarily the small and troubled state of the Republic of Macedonia, the site of this study. Following the armed insurgence in 2001 involving the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the state’s education programme was significantly altered. Driven by Western intervention a number of liberal multicultural policies were adopted: to actively encourage Macedonia to employ education as a tool to manage its diverse populaces in constructing a secure form of national unity. Nevertheless, this appears to have faltered and has only reinforced existing ethnic divides and contributed to the escalation of tensions and political controversy in recent years. This is mirrored by an increasingly segregated education system as a consequence of decentralisation and language policies.

Underscoring the importance of this research is the lack of empirical research concerning supranational education agenda setting, its legitimacy, and its ability to address the needs of conflict-affected societies. Greater analysis is now needed regarding policy disjuncture between the powerful multilateral institutions involved in these interventions in Macedonia with regards sustainable ‘peacebuilding’. Whilst education interventions may represent Western modernity, under closer scrutiny they not only hold conflicting and competing education agendas, but also often overlook the contextual indicators concerning ‘difference’ in the way they handle ‘the Other’. This has a significant impact on the success of such initiatives being realised, particularly in contexts affected by armed conflict and its legacies. As Macedonia well illustrates, such disconnect and oversight can actually contribute to creating a more ethnically entrenched and segregated education system. Therefore, this research will be built around the questions of what has been the logic behind Western intervention in the reform of curricula in the compulsory education system of the Republic of Macedonia since 2008 and in what ways has this contributed to sustainable peace building? But also what can this tell us of the role of Western interventions in the education systems of ethnically divided conflict affected contexts?

At the core of this project will rest a prism fashioned from three education interventions, to provide ‘tangible’ access to a micro to macro level understanding of the factors constraining the design and implementation of global education reforms in facilitating long-term conflict resolution within this consociational context.

CAITLIN SHAUGHNESSY (Roehampton University)

Main supervisor: Professor Adam Ockelford; second supervisor: Dr Arielle Bonneville-Roussy

Research project: Music, autism and learning: a transdisciplinary approach to autism interventions using theories and practices of interaction, pedagogy and perception

Research description: For those with autism, music is widely regarded as an effective means of engagement, and there are numerous examples of the unique relationship between autism and musical talent. Music provides a unique platform for interaction as it encourages reciprocity within an environment separate from the social and environmental cacophony autistic individuals often encounter in everyday life. Within such a setting, a mutual musical relationship can be developed, where imitation and turn-taking can encourage musical dialogues and interaction in a situated musical space. As these behaviours are often linked to social development in early childhood (Meltzoff and Prinz 2002), they could have positive implications for behaviour outside musical environments. Therefore my current project proposes to investigate how through the observation of existing educational and therapeutic practices of music with autistic children in conjunction with practice-based research of musically interactive games, it may be possible to identify which specific aspects of music can promote social engagement, and how these may be utilized to develop social skills more widely.

JAMES WAGSTAFFE (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Dr Suzanne Graham; second supervisor: Dr Holly Joseph

Research project: Processing cohesive devices as a second language reader: A mixed method study

Research description: This research aims to investigate the ways in which second language (L2) users of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) process cohesive devices in written academic texts. Specifically, it will firstly use eye-tracking technology to identify to what extent L2 readers engage with grammatical and lexical cohesive markers during reading, as well as areas where comprehension difficulties may occur. Secondly, it will use stimulated recall interviews to investigate potential causes for any processing difficulties identified through analysis of the eye-tracking data.

This research seeks to make contributions to both practical pedagogy as well as theoretical understandings of L2 reading processes. In terms of pedagogy, it aims to investigate whether there are differences in the ways that successful and less successful readers process cohesive devices in academic texts, in the hope that such insights may be used to inform the development of materials and class room approaches used to help struggling readers achieve their academic goals.

In terms of its theoretical aims, this research intends to build on the work of linguists and written discourse analysts, such as Michael Halliday, Eugene Winter and Michael Hoey, to investigate the extent to which their findings regarding grammatical clause construction, inter-clausal grammatical relationships, as well as extended discourse patterns and their grammatical or lexical signaling, appear to have psychological reality to second language readers.

As a corollary, this research further intends to shed light on the ways in which L2 readers use lexical and grammatical cohesive markers to establish relationships of coherence between ideas in adjacent sentences, paragraphs and extended passages of text as they attempt to develop an extended cognitive model of the text being read.

2018-19 Student Cohort

HELENE BINESSE (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Anna Robinson-Pant; second supervisor: Professor Nitya Rao

Research project: Digital literacy and women in a Senegalese community

Research description: My thesis will explore what it means to be ‘digitally literate’. I will concentrate on Senegal, an emerging digital environment where initiatives and the will to promote Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in adult literacy, in particular among girls and women, have inspired other countries like Kenya and Nigeria. The empirical data I will collect could provide a critical perspective on the context of intervention and insights regarding implications for pedagogy in the area of digital literacy.

Digital literacy is of growing importance in all areas of the world. It is not only a question of mastering the digital devices themselves but crucially, to know how to engage with meaning in the digital environment. Therefore, in this digital age, the major concern has become the gap between those who are digitally literate and those who are not. Indeed, UNESCO has highlighted that mastering higher-order literacy skills is a key element in the development of knowledge societies.

In the educational arena, the adoption of ICTs has been at the core of the debates for the past twenty years. Many questions on pedagogical implications have been raised, education policies reviewed and financial investments made in schools and home; however, the outcomes do not seem to meet the promise to address the digital needs of 21st century education. Much research on ICTs and education has underpinned the continuity of traditional methods in teaching and learning practices. Educational researchers pinpoint that the curricula do not encompass the features of the information and communication media used by 21st century learners in their everyday practices nor reflect the speed with which these are evolving.

Most studies on adult learning and technology seem to be conducted in the North. The few studies in the Global South, seem to mainly look at quantitative aspects. At the policy level, these studies are limited in how far they can provide in depth insights into the uses and meanings of literacy practices with ICTs. To fill this gap, my study attempts to answer the following question: What are the individual aspirations and experiences of community members in Malika with regard to digital literacy? I will approach community members of Malika, a town in the large suburb of Dakar, some of them may be engaged in an adult literacy programme using ICTs. The analysis of digital practices in Senegal will be multilevel and aimed at contextually defining digital literacy and analysing the ethnographic data within the promotion of ICTs at policy and adult literacy programme levels.

STEVEN DIXON-SMITH (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Vally Lytra; second supervisor: Professor Rosalyn George

Research project: The discursive construction of identities for 1st year BA architecture students

Research description: In a political climate where tensions around race, ethnicity and social class have surfaced as separate but increasingly urgent questions of social justice, universities are faced with addressing stubborn racial, ethnic and class-based inequalities in outcomes for students from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. However, the fixed and separate identity categories employed in statistically-driven efforts to address inequalities are at odds with the fluid intersectional understandings of identity provided by contemporary social and cultural theory (Fraser, 2000; Hall, 1996; Gilroy, 2001). Furthermore, at a policy-level, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) note that the causes of different outcomes involve a complex mix of wider socio-historical structures, the social contexts of individual Higher Education (HE) providers, and day-to-day communication between staff and students at the level of micro-interaction (HEFCE et al, 2015:ii). The need for research into the complexities of identity has been highlighted in a number of recent reviews of inequalities in Higher Education and Architectural Education. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) report, Causes of differences in student outcomes noted ‘appetite for more research understanding the intersectionality of different student characteristics and their link with progression and attainment outcomes’ (HEFCE et al, 2015:95). The Higher Education Academy highlight the importance of treating the BME category as a non-homogeneous group and dealing with disciplinary specific inequalities, (Finnegan & Richards 2015). Meanwhile, reliable reporting of socio-economic classification has been unavailable due to high percentages of missing data (Woodfield, 2014:22).

Research within the architecture profession shows particularly stark inequalities. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA, 2017) show the Black/Black British percentage of student population at entry to undergraduate study to be 6.8%, dropping to only 1.2% on full qualification. RIBA-commissioned reviews into architecture and race have suggested the need for longitudinal studies (CABE, 2005:5) and the need to ‘review and address language and communication issues’ (CEBE, 2005/6:22).

The research project aims to explore processes of identification beyond and across categories of race, ethnicity and social class using sociolinguistics. It will do this by working with first year architecture students to explore the different ways in which identities emerge in interaction over the first year of study. The project takes a linguistic ethnographic approach that connects day-to-day interactions with wider social structures and processes. It will use interviews, linguistic analysis of audio recordings and observations of architecture studio interactions to better understand the ways in which these identifications correspond to, resist, and rework the identity categories used in policy initiatives aiming to address inequalities in education. The analysis of these accounts will draw on and inform relevant social and cultural theory with the aim of providing research capable of contributing to policy initiatives responding to inequalities in HE.

REBECCA MATTHEWS (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Dr Daisy Powell; second supervisor: Professor Carmel Houston-Price

Research project: The effects of dialogic reading on spoken language at school entry

Research description: As poor spoken language in early childhood is a precursor of poor literacy in later life (Law, Charlton & Asmussen, 2017; Law, Reilly & Snow, 2013), early language interventions may offer a protective measure against long-term literacy difficulties and academic failure (Roulstone et al, 2011; Catts et al, 2002). Shared reading between parents and young children has been shown to offer a range of benefits to young children, including advances in language and cognitive development. The nature of the shared reading experience appears to determine its effectiveness. Dialogic Reading (DR), in which the adult uses questions, conversation, positive feedback and motivational strategies when sharing a book with a child, has been shown to promote language development, with particularly strong effects for children younger than three years (Mol et al, 2008; Senechal & LeFevre, 2001; Whitehurst et al, 1994a). Although it is clear that parents of young children need support in fostering language development during this critical period, few studies have explored the benefits of DR in children under three (Huebner & Meltzoff, 2005; Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992).

The present study hypothesises that DR experiences between a parent and child provide a unique context within which a child’s vocabulary knowledge can be expanded and receptive language skills supported. Using the vehicle of a picture book, it is thought that exploratory conversations about the pictures and elaborative reminiscing (Reece et al, 2010) will enable the child to map new vocabulary to existing semantic concepts (Wilkinson & Houston-Price, 2013), supporting their lexical growth and language comprehension. To explore this hypothesis, a longitudinal DR intervention will be delivered by parents of 24-36 month old children over a 6-month period. In a randomised controlled trial, participants will be randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups (TG-DR/ TG-SR), or to a control group. Both treatment groups will be encouraged to engage in daily shared reading with their child, but parents in the TG-DR group will additionally receive initial and refresher training sessions in standardised DR procedures (Whitehurst et al, 1994a). Children will be assessed on a range of vocabulary and receptive language measures at baseline, post-intervention, and after a delay (prior to school entry).

The study will aim to explore the impact of shared reading, particularly DR, upon children’s receptive and expressive language outcomes at school entry. It will focus on how DR supports the mapping of new vocabulary to semantic concepts, as well as the influence of demographic characteristics on the effectiveness of the intervention. This research has clear implications for evidence-based policy and practice. As DR is relatively cheap and easy-to-implement, findings from this study may directly inform new family-focused interventions used by early childhood education initiatives, as well as community-based projects, including library programmes and book-initiatives. The findings will also have implications for ante- and postnatal guidance provided to parents on how to support and promote language development.

Human Geography

2017-18 Student Cohort

MIMI MCGANN (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Fae Dussart; second supervisor: Carl Griffin

Research project: How the folk resurgence in England is influenced by recent changing conceptions of national identity i.e globalisation, multiculturalism, nationalism, Brexit and the breakup of the British Empire

Research description: I'm going to be doing fieldwork at locations and events of recently revived or created folk rituals in England. My methods will include participant observation, in which I will attempt to analyse the representations contained within the rituals, and individual interviews, through which participants will give me their own beliefs about the representations within the rituals, after which I will ask wider questions about nationality, race, Brexit and the English political climate, folk history and what it means to be culturally from the region in which the ritual takes place (and wider, England). I'll also be doing archival research to create an understanding of the motivational context in which each ritual was originally revived or created.

EMILIA MELOSSI (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Russell King; second supervisor: Ben Rogaly

Research project: Black labour: African migrant networks and agricultural work in the south of Italy

Research description: This project is an analysis of the cultural and socio-economic impacts of undocumented labour migration from Africa to Europe. The aim of the research topic is to investigate and analyze the political and economic issues that the illegal entry and stay of migrants produces on European local economies and labour standards. The case study takes into consideration the labour migration flows from Sub-Saharan African countries to Europe with Italy as the first step in the migration project towards Northern European countries.

The research topic focuses, more precisely, on seasonal Sub-Saharan African migrant labour in the agricultural sector in the South of Italy. The research project analyzes the “caporalato”, the migrant labour contracting system based on ethnic and kinship ties. The “caporalato” labour contracting system originated in the 1950s and spread throughout the Southern part of Italy among local Italian workers until it was fought back by trade unionist and slowly disappeared.

Since the 1970s however there has been an increase in migrant flows from Sub-Saharan Africa toward Italy, changing Italy’s role in the migration patterns from solely a departure country to a destination country. The increase in Italy of low-skilled African migrant labour has coincided with the re-emergence of the phenomenon of the “caporalato”, which has taken resurfaced since the 1980s, with undocumented migrants as its main target labour force, and rendering the agricultural sector in the South of Italy completely reliant on the migrant labour contracting system.

The function of the “caporalato” is to offer high numbers of temporary seasonal workers in a very short time, sometimes even just overnight. In fact, most of the migrant workers are contracted on a daily basis and will offer their labour in the early hours of the day. I will be conducting ethnographic field research in the province of Foggia in the “pista” shantytown in the outskirts of Borgo Mezzanone, in the Puglia Region, where there is a high density of migrant work force contracted in the agricultural sector.

While undergoing field research I will be investigating the legal and economic system that allows for the exploitation of the migrants’ “illegal entry and stay” status in Italy and their reasons and willingness to leave Italy and its exploitative conditions and proceed “North” in order to better their lives. I will investigate the modes of action of systemic structural undocumented migrant exploitation in Italy and the reasons behind a South-North internal European migrant flow trajectory. In fact, throughout ethnographic participant observation and interviewing processes, I will address the rhetorical construction of migrant utopias and destination countries, such as England and in particular the London area.

I believe that understanding the dynamics and limits of this system of structural illegality represents the first step in bringing about a change in the ways in which migrants enter Europe, are subsequently “allowed” to remain, and are forced to contend with myriads of constraints and impediments along the way. This type of research is fundamental for the management of migration throughout Europe.

SASKIA PAPADAKIS (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Phil Crang; second supervisor: Professor Ben Rogaly

Research project: Northerners in London: Englishness, place and mobilities

Research description: In my PhD, I am researching the identities and experiences of people from the North of England who have migrated to London. I aim to contribute to understandings of issues of migration and locality and how they play into the formation of national identities and cultural distinctions. My research interests are in nationality, culture and identity; the English North-South divide; and transregional migration within England.

2018-19 Student Cohort

ALEX FUSCO (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Tahir Zaman; second supervisor: Professor Micheal Collyer

Research project: Understanding exclusion and integration in European camp spaces

Research description: Encampment has been a central pillar of migration governance in the Global South for most of the 20th century. Since the turn of the 21st, camps and other spaces designed to contain certain sectors of the population have proliferated across the Global North, notably along and within the borders of Europe. The policy of refugee encampment, born in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, then implemented throughout the Global South from the 1960s onward has once again become the primary strategy of dealing with ‘undesirable populations’ across the Old Continent.

Those living in camp spaces are physically excluded from the communal ‘We’ of the nation-state in which they reside, and of the wider ‘We’ of European citizens; the camp reifies and maintains this distinction.However, to reduce camp space to a purely exclusionary device, a ‘space of exception designed to maintain bare life’ would be to ignore the social reality of the camp. Within camp spaces, logics of exclusion interact with logics of normalisation, integration and transformation.The central research question is therefore: How are the contradictory logics of integration and exclusion manifested, articulated and experienced in a camp setting?

JOSIE JOLLEY (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Carl Griffin; second supervisor: Professor Ben Rogaly

Research project: Precarious dwellers: Creating place and self in the in-between

Research description: Working from the performance of being-in-the-world as a precarious dweller, my research walks-with homeless individuals in a critical recasting of the flâneur and dérive. Bringing the embodied performances of homeless dwelling and their spatial contexts to the fore, I seek to disrupt the dominant and homogeneous discourse portraying a singular homeless city and reveal the ways in which both people and places are created in and through precariousness.

ALICE REYNOLDS (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Katherine Brickell; second supervisor: Dr Alex Dymock

Research project: The zemiology of student housing in Dublin

Research description: Debates of new student geographies in political, policy and media discourses have surrounded discursive themes of an increasing lack of affordable housing (Kinton, 2013). Founded upon a study of student housing in Dublin, this research aims to advance student geographies by utilising a social harm perspective to explore the experiences of Higher Education (HE) students within Dublin’s housing crisis, cited as being at “absolute crisis levels” (McSorley, 2014). Through in-depth research utilising a mixed methods approach, this research aims to address the gap in existing literature and produce insights relevant to universities and higher education institutions (HEIs), policy makers and property developers alike. The research aims to advance the burgeoning field of zemiology and in doing so arguing for a social harm approach within geographical studies. The research will sit at the intersection of a number of interrelated bodies of literature, drawing new connections between work on student geographies, urban change, housing studies and zemiology, whilst seeking to position the Irish experience within emergent literature.


2018-19 Student Cohort

DANIEL OSWIN FRYER (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Professor Douglas Saddy; second supervisor: Dr Arpita Bose

Research project: Artificial grammar learning, language processing and language impairment

Research description: Human language is a complex phenomenon which comprises several distinct aspects, including semantics (meaning), phonology (sound system), pragmatics (context) and syntax. Syntax is the part of language that relates to its structure and the (formal) rules of how words are put together. For the majority of speakers, syntax is processed unconsciously and effortlessly, but there exist language impaired-populations whose linguistic deficits relate, in the main, to syntactic processing. Examples are children with developmental language disorder (DLD) and adults with aphasia (where language difficulties arise following stroke or brain injury).

Much remains to be understood about how syntax is processed in the brain as well as how it is acquired in childhood development (i.e. how children learn the grammar of their language), how impairments in grammatical processing arise and how therapies might be developed to assist people with language impairments.

It is difficult to study syntax in isolation using natural language in experiments since confounds arise from semantic and pragmatic elements of the language. For this reason, this study adopts the use of artificial grammars to study learning and processing of syntax. Artificial grammars are artificially constructed sets of rules which are used to construct sequences of symbols (which may be short sounds, syllables, coloured shapes or letters). Sequences generated by such grammars do not carry any meaning, and are therefore particularly useful for studying learning of rule-based structures such as those found in natural language. A further benefit in adopting artificial grammars in the proposed work is that, as has been found in numerous studies, learning of artificial grammars is typically implicit: participants unconsciously learn the rules or patterns associated with the grammar, in the sense that they can distinguish grammar-generated sequences from other sequences (not generated by the grammar) without being able, explicitly, so say why one sequence is acceptable and another is not. This appears to reflect the unconscious knowledge of the rules (the grammar) of language that humans possess and the unconscious way in which these are learned in childhood.

The initial part of the proposed PhD project will investigate implicit learning of a particular grammar (known as an L-grammar) in healthy adults. Theoretical work has suggested that this grammar is particularly suited to the investigation of cognitive processes related to language and learning. The study will incorporate a brain imaging technique (electroencephalography, EEG) to identify the relationship between brain activity and the learning that is taking place during acquisition of the artificial grammar.

The study will also investigate learning of the artificial grammar in language-impaired adults. It is hoped that this, by opening a window onto the brain processes underlying language, this will deepen our understanding of the learning and processing of syntax in both healthy and impaired brains and, it is hoped, provide insights which will be able to inform developments in therapy for language-impaired populations.

DEBRA PAGE (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Professor Ludovica Serratrice; second supervisor: Dr Naomi Flynn

Research project: The Young Interpreters scheme: Linguistic features of peer-to-peer input and educational experience of participation

Research description: Young Interpreter Scheme

EMILY WRIGHT (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Professor Ludovica Serratrice; second supervisor: Professor Vesna Stojanovik

Research project: The development of language and cognition in oral bilingual deaf children

Research description: This study will investigate language abilities in English of bilingual deaf children (who use spoken language) compared to age-matched monolingual deaf children (who use spoken language), and bilingual hearing children. The children’s second language will be assessed indirectly. The study will also examine whether a bilingual advantage for cognitive skills (Theory of Mind (ToM) and Executive Function (EF)) exists in bilingual deaf children compared to age-matched monolingual deaf and bilingual hearing peers. As a complementary strand, the project will provide a comprehensive overview of the advice given by UK professionals to bilingual parents of deaf children on their communication choices, and their professional opinion on whether a deaf child can acquire more than one spoken language.

Approximately 50,000 deaf children live in the UK. Various sources report that between 12 to 28% of these children use two spoken languages. The newborn hearing screening programme and medical advances in Cochlear Implant (CI) technology have resulted in improved language outcomes for deaf children. Ample research exists on how language and other cognitive skills develop in deaf children who use one spoken language; however no research conducted in the UK has investigated language development in deaf children acquiring two spoken languages. Advantages in some cognitive skills such as ToM and EF are reported in bilingual hearing children. Furthermore, a significant relationship is reported between these cognitive skills and language development in deaf children acquiring one language. It is not known if deaf children acquiring two spoken languages have an advantage in these cognitive skills. This is relevant because it may be related to advice given to parents on raising their child to speak two languages.

The majority of deaf children are born to hearing parents with little or no knowledge of deafness. Therefore, professionals can be highly influential in decisions regarding the child. Research conducted outside the UK reports that parents are often advised to only speak English with their child. However, insufficient proficiency in English to provide rich language models can have significant implications for a child’s language development. Despite the influence professionals can have, no identified studies in the UK have explored the advice professionals give to parents regarding a deaf child’s ability to acquire two spoken languages.

Politics and International Relations

2017-18 Student Cohort

REBECCA DOBSON (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Dan Hough; second supervisor: Liz David-Barrett

Research project: An analysis of policy intractability: Can institutional corruption shed light on the climate change mitigation challenge?

Research description: As 2016 claims the title of the hottest year on record, this study asks why the challenge of counteracting climate change has proven so intractable. In particular, given scientific assessments of the devastating consequences of the planet’s changing climate, it seeks to understand how discrepancies arise between governments’ stated intentions to tackle climate change and their actual performance.

With a focus on the UK – which with the 2008 Climate Change Act styled itself as “an example to the world of what ambitious climate action looks like” (Hansard 14 Dec. 2015) – this study assesses whether government policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and meet carbon budgets) lives up to its aspirations, and where discrepancies can be found what their causes might be.

Is climate change mitigation simply the quintessential “wicked” policy problem, difficult to resolve and so understandably slow to develop and deploy? Can discrepancies be explained by political compromise, unintended consequences, government incompetence or inefficiencies? Or is it possible to identify another more disturbing root to its insolvability: one best explained by corruption and more specifically institutional corruption (IC)?

GOZDE HUSSAIN (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Jonathan Seglow; second supervisor: Dr Michael Bacon

Research project: Are Islamic doctrines compatible with Political Liberalism?

Research description: The rapidly growing Muslim presence in Europe makes more urgent the longstanding conflict between Islamic and Western understandings of the political world. Islamic scholarship advocates a political order grounded in faith, which is in tension with liberal democratic ideas that reject the legitimacy of political systems established on the basis of religious principles. This research seeks to address the question of the compatibility of Islam with liberal values by conducting a comparative analysis of the moral language of Islamic faith and the liberal democratic ideas articulated in John Rawls’s theoretical framework. As the pre-eminent liberal political philosopher, John Rawls, articulates a fundamental set of liberal ideas and optimistically assumes that the moral and religious doctrines of a pluralist society would not conflict with the principles underlying a liberal democratic political culture. This project assumes that a liberal democratic society requires the support of different doctrinal traditions in order to enjoy legitimacy and political stability. Furthermore, it criticises the scholars who seek a liberal/Islam reconciliation for underestimating the significance of political stability or over-estimating Islamic doctrines capacity for radical change. This project proposes to reinterpret Islamic scholastic theology (ilm al-kalam) and moral theology (usul al-fiqh) in a way of which is supportive of a fundamental set of liberal ideas, as well as re-assess key Rawlsian liberal ideas to avoid being needlessly demanding on the Islamic doctrinal tradition. The reconciliation of Islamic doctrinal tradition and fundamental political liberal ideas could assure that Muslims would not withdraw their support to liberal societies as the presence of Islamic faith becomes more prominent, thus, the political stability can be sustained. This original reconciliation of Islam and Rawlsian Liberalism will enrich both the Islamic and liberal intellectual traditions, deepen their understanding of each other and engender respect for the doctrinal pluralism that characterizes liberal democratic societies.

LAURA JUNG (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Cynthia Weber; second supervisor: Dr Synne Dyvik

Research project: Caring for the body, crafting the state - analyzing the treatment of “failed soldiers” in late Wilhelmine and early Weimar Germany

Research description: My thesis explores how the concept and practice of “care” functions to uphold and reproduce sovereignty. It focuses on the treatment of “failed soldiers” – deserters, malingerers, so-called war neurotics, revolutionaries, and gender non-conforming individuals – in Germany during the First World War, the revolutionary period, and the early Weimar Republic. Their role in collective renegotiations of national identity and the rise of fascism shows how their various “failures” had not just personal but collective resonance. Therefore, the subjection of failed soldiers to different forms of medical, psychiatric, and disciplinary treatment aimed to both stabilize the state and increase the health of the body politic.

I investigate these technologies of power empirically and analyze theoretically the complex ways in which care functions as a technology of security. Crucial here is how care is not necessarily a benign practice but operates primarily to constitute a nation by means of discipline, exclusion, and exposure to precarity of those deemed risky to the well-being of the larger collective. Drawing on queer, feminist, poststructuralist, critical disability, and de-/postcolonial approaches to sovereignty and the human, I develop an understanding of care as an ambiguous yet powerful technology of statecraft and sovereignty.

MORVAN LALLOUET (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Professor Richard Sakwa; second supervisor: Dr Adrian Pabst

Research project: Being a liberal in contemporary Russia

Research description: Since 2013, the crisis in Ukraine has exposed an important feature of Russian politics: the relation to the “nation” has become crucial in shaping and deepening political cleavages. One is either a “liberal” or a “patriot”, two fundamental categories in Russian politics. A “liberal”, in broad terms, designates proponents of democracy, the rule of law, and the market economy. The term is not limited to those opposing Vladimir Putin’s regime: some liberals have moved from critical support into opposition, others have moved in the opposite direction. They are divided in their ideology, from free-market economic liberals, to “civil society” liberals focusing on the defence of civil liberties and the establishment of the rule of law. Though marginalized, they still form a crucial part of the the Russian political field.

In the 2000s, Russian authorities have increasingly resorted to a form of “patriotism” centred on the Russian state. The question of patriotism is related to a set of issues concerning: the national identity of Russia; its borders; its ethnic minorities and the form of the state; its relationships with neighbouring states and the West. I will therefore examine how Russian liberals have raised and responded to the “national question”.

This research is concerned with the social history of political ideas. It seeks to understand where and in which context liberalism is produced in Russia, and how have Russian liberals adapted to the uses of “patriotism” and “nationalism” as tools of social consensus? I argue that the idea of the “nation” structures the main political cleavages in Russia and propose to study how liberals relate to this concept, with reference to the Russian political field, following the conceptualization of Pierre Bourdieu.

The central methodological claim will be that political positions are produced though competition within the field. The analysis should therefore focus on how political actors react to other positions: whether these positions come from actors close to or distant from them. In order to study these positions, I will form a corpus of political texts gathered from the Russian liberal press, from discussions on social networks, and from political parties. This analysis will be supplemented by interviews with key liberal actors that will provide insight into the context of the events discussed, and the strategies of those involved. The purpose of these interviews will be to identify more closely the defining issues that provoked the cleavage between “liberals” and “patriots.” Strategies and interpretations of events by actors will be understood by the consideration of their positions within the field.

Well represented in the Western media, Russian liberals have not received the attention they deserve. This research will contribute to the knowledge of a fundamental group in Russian politics, present both in power and in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s regime. It will shed light on the cleavage between “liberals” and “patriots, crucial to the understanding of Russian politics as a whole.

LAURA SAAVEDRA-LUX (University of Essex)

Main supervisor: Professor Kristian Skrede Gleditsch; second supervisor: Professor Han Dorussen

Research project: Dynamics of violence and peace in post-conflict societies

Research description: More than 60% of all armed conflicts recorded by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program reignite after they initially terminate (Gates, Nygård, and Trappeniers 2016). Explanations as to why warring parties return to violence have mainly addressed unresolved grievances, the commitment problem, or low opportunity costs of violence. In essence, scholars have argued that removing these ‘threats’ to peace will successfully end conflict. One of the most prominent propositions is that political inclusion (e.g. political power-sharing or the ability for former warring parties to compete in the electoral arena) will help former warring parties overcome the above-mentioned ‘threats’ to peace. Yet, there are various cases in which political inclusion might have halted violence temporarily or not at all. Further, current quantitative studies assume that peace equals the absence of intrastate conflict, although many post-conflict countries are characterised by sporadic violence, rather than peace.

Across different papers and using different methods this PhD project explores the dynamics behind violence and peace in post-conflict societies and disaggregates the rationale behind choosing violence or peace across the elite level and broader society. In broad terms, it highlights the role of inequalities within the population and its interaction with the political envioronment in which elites act, to understand why some post-conflict societies return to conflict, while others consolidate peace and manage to lower levels of structural violence all together.

THOMAS SHIPLEY (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Dan Hough; second supervisor: Liz David-Barret

Research project: Comparing Nigerian states: Anti-corruption and the sub-state environment

Research description: My research project will consider how corruption varies across different states in Nigeria and what implications this has for we approach anti-corruption reform.

2018-19 Student Cohort

DAVID ABBOTT (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Alan Finlayson; second supervisor: Dr John Turnpenny

Research project: Quality, economic reason and state classification: A rhetorical political analysis.

Research description: My research project is concerned with a study of the politics of ‘quality’, using the case of public education in England and Wales. Quality has been a pervasive and dominant concept in public policy since the late 1980s, yet despite this there is relatively little critical academic literature on the topic. This research is premised on the notion that a good part of the explanation lies in the fact that ‘quality’ is an ideological concept, in the sense that it has been thoroughly normalized, naturalized and institutionalized. The chief aim of this project is to examine the veracity of such an explanation and to examine if, how and why such processes have occurred.

If quality is best understood as a concept that is the product of argument and processes of normalization, it is these very processes that should be the object of political analysis. The research proposed here is therefore conceptualized as a study in interpretive political analysis, in particular, rhetorical political analysis, a perspective which makes the analysis of how “commonsense is constituted and altered” a matter for research rather than “an unexamined and foundational given” (Finlayson 2007:560).

From these theoretical underpinnings the research proposal sets out a core of generative research questions. These are centered firstly, on investigating the ideological and political provenances of quality, and how and why political actors have defined and constructed the concept rhetorically. However, an important further aspect of the research will be concerned with the relationship between collective interests and state structures. The theoretical scope of the planned research is therefore broad; it is contended that quality has to be understood in the contexts of the state, competing collective interests and political power. Any significant attempt to understand quality, moreover, requires a genealogical element; preliminary research indicates that ‘quality’ is simply the most recent manifestation of economic reasoning at work within state structures, and can be traced back to roots in scientific management and the efficiency movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. Balancing and resolving the tensions between interpretive and structural approaches will be a key theoretical task in this project. While such theoretical work is challenging, these two theoretical elements are by no means incompatible and the study of discursive shifts at periods of crises will enable investigation of key moments of state re-structuring.

LUKE COUGHLAN (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Kaat Smets; second supervisor: Professor Oliver Heath/ Dr Sofia Collignon

Research project: Networked partisanship: Using framing to measure polarisation on social media

Research description: The continuing integration of social media into political life seems to be concurrent with increased political polarisation. Examining how social media platforms have expanded, diversified and intrinsically altered the practice of political communication is crucial to investigating this perceived effect.

On social media, we observe politicians building loyal followings, a myriad of ideologically-diverse news sources, and vocal collectives of public users, united by shared responses to political issues. In this information-rich environment, social media users (and the platforms themselves) curate a personalised version of political reality. It has been argued that this “echo chamber” or “filter bubble” effect polarises social media audiences.

From a national perspective however, evidence for polarisation through exposure to different channels of political communication remains limited. British social media audiences significantly overlap in terms of the news sources they use and the issues they debate.

A number of questions arise: what is the extent of political polarisation on British social media? How can it be measured? On issues of collective importance, what opinions characterise the debate? Which actors drive those opinions?

This project seeks to address these questions through approaching polarisation as a consequence of competing “frames”: shared interpretations of political issues reciprocally developed between political actors, news media and the public. Using content/discourse analysis and a range of digital research methods, frames will be analysed on a macro-level to assess the overall extent of polarisation in political discussion. Furthermore, the composition of frames will be examined, with a particular emphasis on whether arguments propagated by partisan sources characterise the wider public understanding of political issues

ALEX NTUNG (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Nadine Ansorg; second supervisor: Dr Harmony Toros

Research project: Religious beliefs, modern politics and conflict resolution in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Research description: My project questions whether international efforts to build peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) omit the dimensions of traditional religious beliefs and how far do such omissions undermine the efficacy of these peace-building efforts. My research project seeks to investigate the interplay between religious beliefs (the African Traditional Religions (ATRs), ‘modern Africanised forms of Christianity’ and other supernatural beliefs) and modern politics in the DRC, looking at their significance, influence and place in the modern peace processes. The project will seek to better understand the role that these religious beliefs play in modern political processes and peacebuilding.


2017-18 Student Cohort

JESSICA DAWSON (University of Essex)

Main Supervisor: Dr Tom Foulsham; second supervisor: Dr Geoff Cole

Research Project: Signalling cues in social interaction: an exploration using real world stimuli

Research Description: Eye gaze during a social interaction is not only a mechanism for taking in information, but also a signal which can direct attention and influence others. This “dual function” of human eye movements has only recently been studied and is often overlooked in controlled experiments on attention that use pictures of people rather than real people.

For this reason, recent work has stressed the need for more realistic experiments, particularly those involving interaction between individuals The proposed series of experiments will test the conditions under which people signal to each other using eye and head movements. State-of-the-art eye-tracking will be used in a well-designed, incremental series of experiments with results analysed using advanced time-based analysis.

The research fits into recent work on social attention which has begun to explore the differences between real, face-to-face interactions and the static stimuli usually used in psychology experiments. The research will also lead to advances in our theoretical knowledge about how people interact, which will have a wide range of applications in different social and digital settings and has considerable potential impact at a time when the analysis and interpretation of behaviour from video is a challenge in a range of industries. By encompassing the considerations highlighted in this review, the proposed research will have significant impact within the field of social cognition and beyond.

THOMAS HEIN (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main Supervisor: Dr. María Herrojo Ruiz; second supervisor: Dr Jan De Fockert

Research Project: Neuro-computational mechanisms underlying the effects of anxiety and motivation on biased attentional and learning processes.

Research Description: Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health problems worldwide, costing the UK an estimated £77 billion a year. Computational models in combination with neuroimaging techniques are increasingly being applied to the study of psychiatric disorders. However, their application to healthy individuals that may represent a population at risk to develop these disorders remains unexplored.

By combining neuroscientific and computational modelling techniques, the research aims to further our understanding of the mechanisms which construct cognitive biases within healthy individuals that lead to these problems in well-being, and reveal the neuro-computational mechanisms subserving cognitive biases in healthy individuals that can generate serious and debilitating symptoms through anxiety and depressive disorders.

This research intends to show that the predictive nature of perception runs in tandem with our long-term memories, motivations and emotions, creating cognitive biases that can transform computational parsimony, into computational pathology. Analysing neurophysiological and behavioural data in combination with Bayesian modelling will provide a mechanistic understanding of this previously unexplored non-optimal inference process.

KATIE CARPENTER (University of Kent)

Main Supervisor: Professor David Williams; second supervisor: Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Research Project: Are mindreading and metacognition underpinned by a common cognitive process?

Research Description: The capacity for metarepresentation (i.e. for representing and reasoning about the mental states of oneself and others) is vital for many aspects of everyday life. This research project will examine the relations between the two aspects of this capacity: metacognition and mindreading.

Metacognition is the awareness of one’s own mental states or cognitive activity, and is essential for daily functioning. Only by accurately monitoring internal states can we regulate them. People with diminished metacognition almost certainly have diminished self-control, adaptive decision making, and emotional stability.

Mindreading is the capacity to think about the thoughts of others. When it is diminished, most aspects of human social life suffer. For example, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder of social-communication and behavioural flexibility, partly underpinned by an unambiguous diminution of mindreading.

Much is now known about these two capacities. But there remains a major theoretical dispute about their relationship. The two-systems approach argues for two distinct or partly distinct mechanisms and holds that metacognition evolved first, to aid self-control. In contrast, the one-system approach claims that metacognition consists simply in turning one’s mindreading capacity toward oneself.

This research project will address this debate from multiple angles, by investigating the development of metacognition and mindreading among young neurotypical children, and children and adults with ASD.

KATIE GOODBUN (University Of Kent)

Main Supervisor: Professor Dominic Abrams; second supervisor: Dr Lindsay Cameron

Research Project: Developing and testing the psychology of the Anne Frank Trust's prejudice program

Research Description: The Anne Frank Trust (AFT) run a schools based program which aims to challenge prejudice, reduce hatred and encourage positive attitudes, responsibility and respect for others. In conjunction with the AFT the current project has three main focus points:

  1. To examine the psychological processes that enable children to generalise their knowledge from one context, to prejudice more generally.
  2. To understand the development of prejudice in children.
  3. To examine how it is possible to build children's capacity to recognise and resist prejudice of all types.

GRACE POCOCK (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main Supervisor: Dr Jeanne Shinskey; second supervisor: Dr Jessie Ricketts

Research Project: Are Preschool 'Educational' Apps Really Educational?

Research Description: Apps are becoming increasingly popular, and are being used as educational tools by parents and educators alike. Many apps are branded ‘educational’ and aimed at children as young as 3 months. Despite this, little research into what children under 5 years old learn from apps has been conducted, and so their educational value is widely unknown.

Professionals are calling for systematic independent research to test the educational claims made by apps, enabling parents to make informed choices about their child’s app usage. The Science of Learning provides a guide for educational principles from empirical research, with several ‘pillars of learning’ at its core. Apps may support learning through the following pillars: ‘active learning’, dynamic involvement in the task; ‘engagement’, focusing attention on the educational content; and ‘social interaction’, connecting with others around the new material.

The current research aims to address these issues at preschool age, investigating whether apps have added educational use compared to traditional materials (eg. picture books), and which unique app features promote the learning of school readiness skills, an essential focus of this age group and skills that are predictive of later achievement.

Literacy is a 10 / 25 key subject, with the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum outlining letter recognition, letter-sound mapping, and reading and writing one’s own name as school readiness skills that should be learnt in nursery. These literacy skills will form the focus of three studies. Preschoolers aged 36-48 months will be recruited from private and school nurseries.

This research is imperative due to the prevalence of apps, their educational claims, and the lack of research on them in this age group. It aims to ascertain which app features aid learning and how best to use them, as well as providing an experimental paradigm for further app research, and informing parents and app developers about the educational use of apps.

2018-19 Student Cohort

MADDIE ATKINSON (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Dr Katie Gray; second supervisor: Professor Bhismadev Chakrabarti

Research Project: How the encoding and learning of unfamiliar faces is affected by their similarity to already-known faces

Research Description: Unfamiliar faces are extremely difficult to process: when we encounter a number of new people at the same time, we can find it difficult to remember their names and tell them apart. Conversely, familiar faces are trivially easy to recognise over a huge range of different conditions, including different emotional expressions, lighting conditions, and hairstyles. What happens as an unfamiliar face becomes a familiar one is an important question, but this process is poorly understood. Current theoretical models of face learning suggest that unfamiliar faces are not faces, but they become faces when observers have accumulated sufficient visual experience with an identity. Consequently, most research in this area has examined how individual faces are learned, with little regard for how unfamiliar face encoding might interact with previously learned faces. Interestingly, in everyday life, we are often struck by how similar a newly-encountered person is to someone whom we already know. Using a variety of explicit and implicit methodologies, I will explore processing differences between familiar, similar-to-familiar, and unfamiliar faces. I make the novel prediction that the encoding of unfamiliar faces is performed in relation to pre-existing face representations.

The proposed project has three aims. The first is to extend preliminary findings to help elucidate how unfamiliar faces become familiar within the context of existing facial representations. The second is to investigate whether learning a new face is affected by its similarity to an already known face. The third is to investigate whether the nature of the representations underlying the processing of faces are affected by differing ‘classes’ of familiarity (including one’s own face, personally familiar faces, and celebrity faces). I will use some tried-and-tested research methods alongside more innovative methods to explore my questions.

This work is theoretically informative and innovative. The ‘Interactive Activation and Competition’ (Bruce & Young, 1986) model posits that identity and identity-related information are processed separately. While unfamiliar faces rely on visual representations, theoretically, familiar faces could also be processed through conceptual information. Speculatively, if the encoding of unfamiliar faces is performed at least partly in relation to pre-existing face representations, this could have interesting implications for how predictive coding (e.g. Skipper, 2014) might work. This work may be able to test particularly strong existing theories that suggest unfamiliar faces are not faces (Megreya & Burton, 2006), and begin to develop a satisfactory account of face learning.

A better understanding of the perceptual, cognitive, and neural mechanisms involved in unfamiliar and familiar face learning will inform existing theories. In the longer term, this work may identify a collection of predictors of facial familiarity. This could have important implications for the social problems faced by an inability to recognise faces (as in developmental prosopagnosia, experienced by about 2% of the adult population) and the legal problems caused by suspect misidentification in eye-witness settings.

MELISSA BARKER (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Rebecca Brewer; second supervisor: Professor Manos Tsakiris

Research Project: Investigating interoceptive abilities in eating disorders

Research Description: Interoception refers to the sense of change in internal states within the body and can include a wide range of sensations, from being aware of one’s own heartbeat, to experiencing feelings of hunger or thirst. Individual differences in interoception have been proposed to underlie a variety of psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety, as well as psychological processes such as decision making, empathy and memory. Recently, it has been proposed that interoception may play a role in the development of eating disorders. Specifically, atypical processing of interoceptive signals could lead to disruption in the ability to detect cues of hunger and satiety. Furthermore, given evidence that atypical interoception may contribute to difficulties in emotional regulation and awareness, factors which have also been implicated in eating disorders, it is possible that altered interoceptive processing may lead to development of emotional disturbances for which individuals use disordered eating behaviour as a coping mechanism.

The current project aims to explore the link between interoception and eating disorders further using a longitudinal study examining developmental changes in children considered at risk for developing an eating disorder compared to children not at risk. By examining children both pre and post puberty, we can explore whether atypical interoception is predictive of body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms. The project also aims to use a variety of methods to measure interoceptive awareness to further explore whether interoception is unitary and can be measured using a single test, or whether it is a fractionated construct that is dependent on the modality being tested. In addition to testing children at both pre and post puberty stage, we also aim to examine interoception in adults with and without a diagnosis of an eating disorders. The results of this research will not only contribute to the current methodological debate regarding the validity of unitary measurement in interoceptive research, but will also provide valuable insight into the development of interoception and eating disorder symptoms in adolescence. If atypical interoception is a significant contributor to eating disorders, either directly by producing dysfunction in hunger and satiety cues, or indirectly by contributing to emotional difficulties, then it is essential that future treatments are developed which directly address this issue.

CHLOE CHESSELL (University of Reading)

Main supervisor: Professor Cathy Creswell; second supervisor: Dr Brynjar Halldorsson

Research Project: Improving access to psychological treatments for children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Research Description: This project aims to improve access to psychological treatments for children with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). First, a systematic review will be conducted to establish the psychological mechanisms which maintain OCD in childhood. Qualitative interviews of parents of children aged 7 to 12 years old with OCD will also be conducted. The results of the systematic review and qualitative interviews will inform the development of a parent-delivered treatment for children with OCD, based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Once developed, a preliminary evaluation of the parent-delivered CBT approach will be conducted.

RICKY GREEN (University Of Kent)

Main supervisor: Professor Karen Douglas; second supervisor: Dr Aleksandra Cichocka

Research Project: Attachment, coping, and belief in conspiracy theories

Research Description: Research suggests that conspiracy theories have important social consequences. Specifically, conspiracy theories have been associated with the erosion of trust in politics, media, and science, and these outcomes can be harmful. That is, although conspiracy theories often promote healthy scepticism, they can also damage democratic values and fuel populism, as well as decrease vaccination intentions, for example. The current project aims to provide more psychological understanding to this phenomenon.

My PhD project is concerned with the psychological antecedents of belief in conspiracy theories, including attachment in interpersonal relationships, and the coping strategies people use in stressful situations. I am interested in knowing why people come to believe in conspiracy theories and whether they are endorsed as a coping strategy to meet unfulfilled psychological needs. Using principles drawn from attachment theory, I am especially interested in knowing whether people with an insecure attachment style endorse conspiracy theories as a way of fulfilling the need to feel secure.

SAMUEL HALES (University of Kent)

Main Supervisor: Professor Theresa Gannon; second supervisor: Dr Caoilte Ó Ciardha

Research Project: Reducing sexual aggression in male university students: A study of self-help interventions

Research Description: Compared to national averages, the incident-rate of male-perpetrated sexual offences is alarmingly high on university campuses (Gidycz, Orchowski, King, & Rich, 2008). In the UK alone, it is estimated that 25% of female students are sexually assaulted each year (National Union of Students, 2010; Revolt Sexual Assault, 2018), and often by a student at their university (Stenning, Mitra-Kahn, & Gunby, 2013). Despite this, there is a dearth of empirical research assessing the treatment needs of sexually aggressive male students, and to date there have been no established interventions to help lower sexual offence rates amongst this population. This is surprising given the wealth of knowledge available on the characteristics of incarcerated sexual offenders (e.g., Gannon & Ward, 2017; Thornton, Beech, & Marshall, 2004) and the empirically-based treatment programmes available for them worldwide (Olver & Wong, 2013).

My PhD intends to inform this research gap in the literature through three novel empirical studies assessing campus-based sexual aggression. Specifically, there will be two overarching aims to my research: first, to examine the treatment needs of sexually aggressive male students; and second, to develop, implement, and evaluate an evidence-based self-help intervention to lower their sexual aggression. The practical value of my studies is shown by the current high level of public interest in sexual assault research, which has proliferated through media campaigns such as #MeToo.

It is expected that my PhD will generate valuable academic knowledge and result in a novel evidence-based self-help intervention. Studies One and Two examining the characteristics and treatment needs of sexually aggressive male students will promote the generation of theory in this poorly researched field and provide impetus for continued empirical investigation. Moreover, the development of the self-help intervention for sexually aggressive male students in Study Three, if effective, could later be adopted by universities in the UK and US to combat the high rates of sexual assault on their campuses.

CLARE MUTZENICH (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Polly Dalton; second supervisor: Dr Sean Helman

Research project: Situation awareness in remote vehicle operators.

Research description: If a problem arises in an automated vehicle that prevents it from navigating independently to its destination, a remote human operator may be required to intervene. Using information second hand” from the scene will unavoidably result in reduced situational awareness (SA). This research considers what level of awareness is sufficient to remotely control a vehicle safely, how long is required to build up this level of awareness and whether SA would be improved by the provision of additional information (e.g. VR, auditory relay). Bespoke video stimuli, taken using cameras mounted on the front, rear and sides of a manual-control vehicle will be stopped without warning and participants probed about their awareness of the environment. Experiments will evaluate whether SA is improved, relative to a baseline test, by the inclusion of additional windows showing footage from the side camera or a larger field of view provided from the front camera.

MONICA REIS (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Caoilte O Ciardha; second supervisor: Professor Theresa Gannon

Research project: Self-regulation in the path from childhood adversity to problem sexual behaviour

Research description: Meta-analysis shows that 57% of individuals will experience at least one type of adverse experience (e.g., maltreatment or household dysfunction) during childhood, and 13% will experience four or more (Hughes et al., 2017). Experiencing greater adversity in childhood has been associated with a number of problematic outcomes, and is strongly associated with problematic sexual behaviours, including risky sexual behaviour and sexual violence (Hughes et al., 2017; Levenson, Willis, & Prescott, 2014). I propose to look at the possible psychological consequences of adverse experiences and systematically test whether they appear to be causally linked to problematic sexual behaviour. By problematic sexual behaviour I am referring to sexual behaviour that represents a risk of harm to the individual or others, including unsafe sex, harassment, sexual coercion, and other forms of sexual aggression. Specifically, I am interested in looking at psychological constructs relating to self-regulation as mechanisms that may explain how early adversity translates into sexual behaviour problems.

Self-regulation refers to the processes (internal and external) that allow the individual to achieve their goals and manage challenges (Ward, Hudson, & Keenan, 1998) and is associated with a variety of problematic sexual behaviours (Crockett, Raffaelli, Shen, 2006; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). Identifying mechanisms of action will present public health professionals with feasible intervention targets. In other words, interventions targeting the self-regulation of individuals may provide a strategy of secondary prevention where primary prevention efforts to reduce adverse childhood experiences have been unsuccessful.

The project can be split into four subsections or strands. The first strand will examine the relationship between my variables of interest using a cross sectional methodology - further examining the exact relationships between them. The second strand will use experimental social psychological methods to manipulate the salience of negative childhood experiences to test whether engaging with these negative experiences reduces self-regulation efficacy and increases outcomes on proxies for problematic sexual behaviour. The third strand will move forward a step in examining the casual model by manipulating self-regulation. Using transcranial direct current stimulation, I will attempt to improve self-regulation, and examine the effect on the same proxies for problematic sexual behaviour. In the final, fourth, strand I will build on the findings of strand 1 by following up on the same participants after a period of 30 months. The use of a longitudinal design will strengthen the causal inferences I can make. A subset of the longitudinal study will keep a diary of self-regulation data and sexual behaviour allowing me to examine the temporal proximity of any dysregulation and problematic behaviour.

The multi-method approach I propose in this study will allow for greater confidence around the true relationships (and direction of relationships) between these variables. This triangulation should appeal to high quality journals. Not only will this benefit my own development and career, but also it will yield the maximum exposure for this important research. My hope is that the results I obtain will help identify targets for intervention leading to a reduction in problematic sexual behaviour.

ALISON ROBERTS (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Richard De Visser; second supervisor: Dr Clara Strauss/Dr Helen Startup

Research project: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for emotion regulation (MBCT-ER) for people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder: Development and preliminary evaluation

Research description: People diagnosed with ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ (BPD) have severe, distressing, and hard to manage experiences. Difficulties with emotion regulation are core to the condition. The existing ‘gold standard’ treatment is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). This is costly, not implemented by many NHS trusts, not well tolerated and has modest outcomes and poorly understood mechanisms of action. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a brief group intervention with a strong evidence base for depression and other mental health conditions. MBCT has potential to target emotion dysregulation, the core problem of BPD. The research has two initial objectives: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the role of emotion regulation in BPD and exploring the effects of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on emotion regulation outcomes; To conduct a qualitative study exploring service user and therapist experiences of MBIs for people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Findings from objectives 1 and 2 will be used to refine the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) therapy manual. The secondary objectives are: Assess the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial of MBCT-ER; Exploring the acceptability of the trial and therapy using qualitative methods.

Science, Technology, and Sustainability Studies

2017-18 Student Cohort

ALBA PRADOS PASCUAL (University of East Anglia)

Main Supervisor: Professor Andy Jordan; second supervisor: Dr Irene Lorenzoni

Research Project: Adoption of climate policies in the EU multi-level system

Research Description: The international climate change regime started out more that 25 years ago as a very advanced tool to combat the growing problem of the anthropogenic originated climate change phenomenon. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol were one of the first global level legally finding environmental regimes with quantitative targets to deal with a global challenge.

Even that has been progress over these years; governance responses from the international climate regime have been widely critiqued in failing to achieve sufficient responses to the increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the range of impacts on ecosystems, socio-economic sectors and human health caused by a changing climate.

Many have suggested that the “governance gaps” in the international climate arena needs to be filled in by new and more innovative forms of governance. Moreover, recent research is revealing that these “new” and more dynamic forms of governing are appearing around, below and to the side of the UNFCCC, producing a much more complex, polycentric pattern.

This research aims to examine the role of the European Union (EU) -as a group of nation states and their governmental emanations- in the new climate change governance and the dynamics of adoption and diffusion of climate change mitigation policies in the context of multi-level of governance.

2018-19 Student Cohort

OLIVIA BLAIR (University of Kent)

Main Supervisor: Dr Robert Fish; second supervisor: Dr Joseph Tzanopoulos

Research Project: Barriers to building community resilience to the impacts of climate change

Research Description: My research focuses on building resilience to the adverse effects of climate change, such as natural disasters and sea level rise. Climate change adaptation is a vital aspect of our response to the climate crisis, but I believe that building resilient communities involves a more holistic approach to ensure that communities in vulnerable areas can respond swiftly to and recover quickly from climate shocks. In the literature, resilience and adaptation are often used interchangeably, but in fact are very different concepts. An aim of my research is bring more clarity to the differences to improve accuracy and impact of research.

CHRISTINE CORLET WALKER (University of Surrey)

Main Supervisor: Professor Angela Druckman; second supervisor: Professor Tim Jackson

Research Project: Investigating potential trade-offs between economic growth, societal welfare and environmental sustainability

Research Description: The primary aim of this PhD is to investigate potential trade-offs between societal well-being, environmental sustainability and economic growth. Considering degrowth (or ͚planned recession͛) as a potential route to achieving environmental sustainability, I propose using a comparative case study approach to develop a detailed understanding of the mechanisms which allow some regions to navigate periods of recession with fewer negative impacts on societal well-being than others. This will be augmented by an econometric analysis to understand how these relationships scale up to the country-level. Finally, I will conduct a policy appraisal, evaluating specific degrowth policies using a range of social, environmental and economic criteria. This PhD will contribute to the literature by deepening our understanding of how we can achieve environmental sustainability and societal well-being ina low- or de-growth economy.

Social Anthropology

2017-18 Student Cohort

TOM BELL (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr David Henig; second supervisor: Dr Jonathan Mair

Research project: Taking responsibility for climate change: The ethical foundations of New England-based climate change activism in Trump-era USA

Research description: Responding to the need to investigate the creative responses of civic actors to an issue of such profound complexity and severity, this project will examine the ethical foundations of New England-based activism about climate change in Trump-era United States. Primarily engaging with debates within the anthropology of ethics, a burgeoning field of research, I will study the ways in which climate change and energy come to matter as issues of especial ethical concern for particular actors. In particular, I seek to provide unique perspectives on the forms of social, economic and political transformation advanced by activists by examining how they attempt to ascribe responsibility for ‘taking action’ to themselves and to others, including institutions, states, and nations. I also want to understand how these issues, especially activist attempts to respond to discourses oppositional to their aims, such as those of the fossil fuel industry and the Trump administration, relate to longer cultural histories of democratic practice, active citizenship, and progressivism in New England.

JASON IRVING (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Anna Waldstein; second supervisor: Dr Raj Puri

Research project: The trade in medicinal plants between Jamaica and the UK

Research description: This PhD will investigate the wild harvesting of medicinal plants traded from Jamaica to the UK. It will provide a case study to contribute to research questions of ethnobiological knowledge systems, plant conservation, value chains of herbal medicines and migrant medical ethnobotany. It will ask “How is local ecological knowledge about the wild harvesting of medicinal plants developed within the context of global trade and social networks, and what can this tell us about human-environment relationships?”

To answer this I will carry out an ethnography and ethnobotanical survey of harvesters in Jamaica. I will investigate and document their motivations for the selection of medicinal plants, their choice of harvesting techniques and methods of knowledge transmission. This focus responds to a call for medical anthropology to focus on the materials used in healing and the environmental context in which they are sourced. The research will explore how harvesters influence and are influenced by their local environment, and the implications this has for the use of herbal medicines.

Recognising the global influences of trade on local knowledge and practice (and therefore on the environment), I will document different stages of value chains from harvesting to processing to sale from Jamaica to the UK. By exploring the actors involved and their relationships, I will provide a fuller picture of the trade by situating it within the cultural and socio-economic context of the people involved.

Through undertaking ethnobotanical field work, I will discover which plants and plant parts are traded, providing the first such study of wild harvesting in Jamaica. This will support research in migrant medical ethnobotany by overcoming the challenge of accurately identifying the ingredients of medicines in study locations remote from where the plants are sourced and processed.

The PhD will focus on ‘root tonics’, a common preparation method in Jamaica and the Caribbean, made from a base decoction of roots and barks mixed with other plant parts. Though often marketed as an aphrodisiac, a wide range of health benefits are reported by users and producers. Root tonics are the focus of this project because of the local environmental importance of their ingredients, their recent commercialisation and their historical and contemporary significance within the Black Atlantic.

These medicinal preparations are relevant to questions of diasporic processes of cultural hybridity in the colonial and postcolonial context raised by Black Atlantic studies, as they have an origin in West Africa and have travelled with migrants from Jamaica to the UK. Contextualising the selection of species and the medicinal value associated with them within this network will contribute to research into change and continuity of healing practices under conditions of globalisation and migration.

CATHERINE NUGENT (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Massimiliano Mollona; second supervisor: Professor Sophie Day

Research project: Engineers at work: the practices and politics of transforming the UK's internet infrastructure

Research description: Government, industry and experts claim ultra-fast fibre optic telecommunications are essential to deliver the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution of big data applications, cloud computing, the “Internet of Things” and automation of work. Yet at the heart of the upgrade is an intricate task for engineers working in a congested urban landscape — replacing copper wiring, and threading fibre optic cables under pavements and roads. My ethnographic research will follow the changing work conditions and livelihoods of the London engineers involved in upgrading broadband to “ultrafast”. The research will examine what these infrastructure workers produce, how they produce it, the perspectives they have on bringing connectivity to society, and how these perspectives impact on trade union organising. A parallel oral history project will examine working lives in telecommunications, looking back at the industry since its 1984 privatisation.

The research will: investigate the socio-economic role of the often invisible labours of the people who maintain and renew a complex network; look at how the valorisation of private corporate and consumer interests reconfigure perceptions of telecommunications as a public good; trace the material complexities of “rewiring” — how do the skills and knowledge of workers interact with the likely resistant materials, as legacy technologies are combined with new ones?

CHLOE PLACE (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Rebecca Prentice; second supervisor: Dr David Orr

Research project: Investigating kinship care in dementia: an ethnography of dementia in families in Andalusia

Research description: This research will critically unpack cultural meanings behind dementia care within families in Andalusia, Spain. A demographically ageing world population has led dementia to become a global health crisis, with the World Health Organization urging governments to prioritise dementia public healthcare strategies. More countries and families are turning to institutions to care for their relatives with dementia. Andalusia, however provides an intriguing local cultural context to explore dementia care, as despite the ‘western’ status of Spain, an EU country rooted within advanced processes of economy, politics, media and technology, people are adapting care-giving into long-established patterns of family life rather than turning to modern private/state-run institutions. Andalusia, a region whose culture is embedded with strong family networks and kinship ties, forms a useful case study to explore how family structure, public health and dementia care interplay, contributing to global debates on dementia care.

RICHARD THORNTON (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Filippo Osella; second supervisor: Dr Geert de Neve

Research project: Teaching and learning in contemporary Delhi

Research description: This research will explore the contemporary landscape of primary education in India, with a focus on Delhi. The research will be ethnographic and conducted among teachers, children and educationalists. The broad aim will be to understand the institutions, conditions, organisation and ethos of primary education. The specific focus will be on the role of the teacher in the neo-liberal classroom: how they perform, adapt or resist in schools oriented by neoliberal rationality, and how this response is experienced by the children they teach.

The research focuses on the explosion of education social enterprise 'start-ups' in India, and especially Delhi, and questions how these projects both carry neoliberal rationality and aesthetics, and yet have the potential to instigate learning environments based on emotional reflection that derail the individualist subjectification inherent to neoliberal schooling. The research follows relational, queer, feminist ontologies as imagined by theorists such as Gilles Deleuze, Karen Barad, and Bronwyn Davies as a way to reconceptualise the moments of interaction between teachers and students within the classroom.

As method, I will be working as a full-time teacher in a start-up schooling project in Delhi; I will use previous teacher training experience in India joined with further training provided by my employer to examine my own teacher-subjectification process. This emotional self-examination will be conducted alongside an exploration of the relations I build with the children I teach, and the forms of knowledge and imagination we discover. The aim is to construct an image and analysis of what social and political possibilities these new teacher/schooling initiatives could hold, and ultimately explore what such projects mean for neoliberalism and individualism in India more widely.

YATHUKULAN YOGARAJAH (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main supervisor: Professor Rebecca Cassidy; second supervisor: Dr Massimilliano Mollona

Research project: A Derridean perspective on uncertainty in finance

Research description: As politicians, economists, and social scientists have alluded to, the way finance deals with uncertainty raises important ethical issues. The treatment of uncertainty, especially the uncertainty that the future brings, as something that can be reduced by mathematical models and financial analysis has played a key role in allowing finance to make huge sums of profit, whilst at the same time also playing a critical role in recent financial crashes. Explanations for this mishandling of uncertainty by the financial world, from the main interpreters of the financial markets, mainstream economists, have been found wanting. In light of this, this project proposes an anthropological perspective to examine the workings and decision-making process of finance, to complicate the rational actor, to take a social and cultural approach to the understanding of finance; to reveal the perspectives that mainstream economics suppresses. To this end, this project utilises Jacques Derrida’s concept of ethics and justice to explore the ethical landscape created by finance’s interaction with uncertainty.

2018-19 Student Cohort

QUDRA GOODALL (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Cecile Jackson; second supervisor: Dr Ben Jones

Research project: Community, identity & intergenerational dynamics: An ethnography of British Muslim women in Norwich

Research description: This project is an original study of the long-term practice, culture and every-day experiences of British convert Muslim women and their non-or post conversion families, who originate from the first European convert Sufi community established in the UK. Adopting a feminist anthropological framework to examine the intersectionality of race, gender and religion, this ethnographic research will explore place and belonging, intergenerational perspectives and embodied identities. Female converts to Islam and their progeny challenge fixed dichotomies and by traversing social systems, have the capacity to initiate new discourses. Furthermore, by analysing how identities are performed and produced alongside dominant and static views on the Muslim subject, the research will provide rich data and greater understanding of embodied and subjective knowledge regarding British Muslim women’s narratives of lived experience and ways of being in the world.

ASHLEIGH JACKSON (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Rebecca Prentice; second supervisor: Dr Paul Gilbert

Research project: An ethnography of cryptocurrency trading

Research description: My research seeks to examine cryptocurrency trading in the United Kingdom, using the emergent crypto market as a lens to unpack contemporary understandings of money, value and speculation within the socio-economic context of political austerity, Brexit and the 10-year anniversary of the global financial crisis. In so doing, this research will contribute to urgent theoretical debates regarding the nature of money, value and speculation and provide timely and critical research into the formation of new institutions and socio-technological arrangements, as investment, speculation and trading in cryptocurrencies proliferates under political and economic uncertainty.

I plan to undertake ethnographic fieldwork among cryptocurrency traders in the UK over a 12-month period, engaging in both online and offline participant observation as well as personally trading cryptocurrencies, immersing myself in the community as much as possible in order to gain insights into the perceptions, practices and actions of those involved with the market

CATRINA SCHWENDENER (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Massimiliano Mollona; second supervisor: Professor Victoria Goddard

Research project: Adapting to the new normal: Economic reforms and livelihoods in the Chinese steel industry

Research description: The steel industry has been the backbone of China’s economic development. Now, as China is changing its model of growth from a focus on manufacturing and heavy- industry to a knowledge-based, innovation-driven, ‘green’ economy, the Chinese steel industry is due to change. While this has led to localised de-industrialisation, the Chinese government continues to strengthen state-owned enterprises. Thus adapting industrial policies, which differ significantly from the deindustrialisation processes of steel industries in post-Fordist and post-socialist contexts. The study reflects on Chinese steel workers’ and their families’ place within this unique model of development. It asks what the implications of China’s changing industrial policy might be for the ways in which workers devise socially, economically and culturally valued livelihoods and how this may influence workers’ expectations of the future.

Social Work and Social Policy


PAUL SHUTTLEWORTH (University of Sussex)

Main Supervisor: Barry Luckock; second supervisor: Dr Russell Whiting

Research Project: Child experiences of kinship care

Research Description: Kinship care arrangements are when children become looked after by their relatives or non-related extended family members. This is because their primary carers, usually birth parents, are unable to care for them. Many of these children have been placed in the arrangements through social work intervention due to experiencing abuse or neglect. Although the exact figures are unknown, 2011 UK Census data suggests that there were 152,910 children living in kinship care placements.

Literature reviews show that research has been ambiguous about the benefits of kinship care over non-relative foster care. This has caused ambivalence, yet policy preference for kinship care has seen a dramatic increase in kinship arrangements in the UK over the last 10 years. Furthermore, recent data suggests that 51% of these carers are grandparents, typically lone females, many of whom live in poverty, belong to an ethnic minority group, and/or have health issues. It is, therefore, essential that kinship care research is critical and placed in historical and socio-political context.

This research examines kinship care from the viewpoint of children using a multi-method mosaic approach so that we can begin to understand kinship care, in each of its forms, from the perspectives of those most affected. By utilising a critical realist methodology, a deeper understanding of specific kinship care placements will be achieved. The study will, therefore, look for the underlying mechanisms and specific contexts required for the successful outcomes that the children view as important. Themes that emerge will then be examined using feasible theories, which can be transposed into various contexts to provide the outcomes that children themselves view as beneficial.

Two leading organisations, CoramBAAF and Grandparents Plus, will collaborate in the research. Along with Sussex University, they will help ensure dissemination and effective impact to influence policy and practice.

CASSIAN RAWCLIFFFE (University of East Anglia)

Main Supervisor: Dr Georgia Philip; second supervisor: Professor Elsbeth Neil

Research Project: Narrative identity of male victims of intimate partner violence

Research Description: Narative interview looking at the narative identities of male victims of intimate partner violence

2018-19 Student Cohort

VICTORIA BROMLEY (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Tish Marrable; second supervisor: Professor Charles Waters

Research Project: The road to temporary accommodation and the social identity of the single mother.

Research Description: My research will look specifically at female single parents living with their children in temporary accommodation. In doing so it will consider the social construction and representation of the single mother and the impact of this on identity and positioning in wider society. In order to bring depth of understanding to the experience of marginalised single parent mothers, it will consider the ways in which societal institutions as governmental representatives have presented to the mother as she traversed the road to homelessness. The communications that have been received, face to face, remote and written, with authorities and with services, will be documented and examined in a Foucauldian discourse analysis.

The research will be rooted in an examination of the link between the reduction of the welfare element in policy and homelessness for single mothers. The most common cause of eviction in the UK is rent arrears (Burnett and Whyte, 2017) and single mothers have been disproportionately affected by the benefit reforms. A qualitative research methodology will explore the every-day experience of single mothers in their communications with the institutions implementing homelessness policy. It will consider whether single parent mothers are being met with attempts at solutions or assistance as they slip through the welfare net into homelessness. Are these mothers feeling at all supported or are they received by compassionless bureaucracy at welfare service level? How do mothers reclaim a positive identity and rebuild hope once they have experienced being pushed to the very outer realms of society and left to raise children in poverty and without any sense of security for themselves or their children?

I will consider the policy and institutional processes that have been put in place that enable the trajectory towards homelessness. What are the wider implications of these policies and processes? What purpose and whose interests do the instruments and discourse employed throughout the process serve in the governing of an advanced capitalist society? Is there an ideological drive conducted by institutions on behalf of the government towards the discouragement of dependence and the self-regulation of behaviour in individuals? The sociologist Loïc Wacquant (2010) asserts that neoliberalism is codified with discourse of stigmatization.

In a world in which the advanced capitalist democracy is held in unquestioning emulation there has emerged a worldwide political status quo in which versions of reality and the representation of events are reduced and simplified and yet are shifting and multiple (Monbiot, 2016). Representations of ‘truth’ are now made to the public on the basis of ‘common sense’ and often function to stir up deeply held biases and prejudice in the general population. It is therefore increasingly important to understand more about how ‘truth’ is being represented by government and in doing so attempt to give voices to those not benefiting from advanced capitalism and instead living in increasingly harsh conditions and poverty.

ANNE MURPHY (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Elsbeth Neil; second supervisor: Dr Laura Cook

Research Project: Preparation to adopt: the experiences of the group preparation course for prospective adopters

Research Description: MRes Study: An evaluative review of the content of preparation programmes from 3-4 Adoption Agencies, including Voluntary Adoption Agencies, looking at content relating to child development, and how this is presented.

This could involve:

  • reviewing the available training notes and material for the programmes, to identify common themes, and shared exercises.
  • interviews/ observations with adoption workers delivering the programme to understand input they bring to the training, such as additional material, and use of own case experience.

EMMA SPEER (University of East Anglia)

Main supervisor: Professor Gillian Schofield; second supervisor: Dr Christine Cocker

Research Project: Enduring relationships & commitment: Experiences of adolescent entrants and foster carers

Research Description: Adolescent entrants are a significant and growing population within the English care system and their journeys within and out of care are a key area of social work and foster care policy and practice. Adolescent entrants are defined as young people who enter, or re-enter care through reasons of abuse, neglect and/or family breakdown aged ten or above. There remains a lack of sufficient research acknowledging the unique challenges of fostering adolescent entrants. There is particularly limited research relating to the experience of foster carer commitment to adolescent entrants.

This proposed research builds on the researcher’s MRes dissertation research which explored the experiences of foster carers caring for adolescent entrants. Key findings revealed the importance of relationship-building and suggested foster carers often experience a high level of commitment to the adolescents in their care. Being able to ‘stick’ with the young person was evident through a commitment which enabled an enduring relationship which transcended the initial foster placement, including in some cases continuing beyond a difficult disruption. The nature of enduring relationships and commitment have been researched with regards to foster carers’ experiences of caring for young infants, or adolescents who have grown up in foster care (adolescent graduates). The differences in levels of commitment between foster carers and residential care providers who care for adolescents has also been examined in research. However, these concepts have not been examined specifically in relation to the experiences of adolescent entrants and foster carers. This research aims to develop conceptual and theoretical insights into how relationships and commitment are experienced by adolescent entrants and foster carers. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with 10-15 adolescent entrants and the same number of foster carers.

Though the aim is not to corroborate experiences, some matched pairs may be interviewed. Grounded theory will be used for analysis and to yield new theory from the data generated. This exploration of an undervalued and under-researched area of foster care practice will challenge the current policy preoccupations with organisational and service outcomes for children and young people in care, which equate placement endings with the end of relationships. Instead this study will assist in broadening, re-framing and re-conceptualising the notion of foster care for adolescent entrants by positioning care-giving and outcomes through the lens of committed relationships.

2017-18 Student Cohort

LEE MARSONS (University Of Essex)

Main Supervisor: Dr Richard Cornes; second supervisor: Gabrina Pounds

Research Project: The role of emotions in human rights proportionality analysis before the UK Supreme Court

Research Description: I am researching the extent to which, and how, the emotions of the Justices of the UK Supreme Court influence their decisions regarding the assessment of the proportionality of an interference with a human right. Particularly, I am making use of a linguistic model to analyse a number of the judgments of the Supreme Court along with the video footage of oral argument to make this evaluation. I am also drawing upon psychological theory, such as emotional intelligence theory, to consider how emotions may be involved in judicial decision making.  

NICK MILLS (University Of Reading)

Main Supervisor: Professor Paul Almond; second supervisor: Dr Beatrice Krebs

Research Project: Assessing the efficacy of the UK's position towards Anti-Bribery and Corruption within the commercial sector.

Research Description: The essence of the project ultimately seeks to discuss the efficacy of anti-bribery and corruption provisions within the UK, with a focus on the commercial sector. Namely, this will be to analyse the s.7 adequate procedures defence as contained within the Bribery Act 2010, that being the defence available for commercial entities if it can be shown that adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

To do this, the current state of play has formed the obvious background. This preamble creates three questions to consider throughout the reasearch: how are corporations regulated when it comes to bribery and corruption, is the UK approach towards prevention and corporate regulation an effective one and what approach/methodology is used to control this problem and why.

Within this assessment, the research has uncovered that some necessary topical sub-headings come to light. Those being regulation and governance. In other words, how are they regulated and governed. The reading to date has covered a vast spectrum of sources, including the two aforementioned umbrella concepts and then in turn, a number of regulatory sub-theories including self-regulation (a form of regulation).

The research will move into a critical assessment of the UK's practical approach towards anti-bribery whilst considering the array of standards and guiding principles from across the globe and international bodies and will aim to contribute to the bigger picture that is corruption, to make and create an impact and to go beyond simply advocating an ideology.

ANNA GUMUCIO RAMBERG (University Of Sussex)

Main Supervisor: Dr Bal Sokhi-Bulley; second supervisor: Dr Tom Frost

Research Project: Interrogating Rights and Routes, Vessels and Violences, and the Spatialities of Struggle(s) in Mediterranean Maritime Migration

Research Description: The vessel has come to occupy a central role in readings of, and responses to, what has been termed the European ‘migration crisis’ – a purportedly newly emergent and unprecedented ‘crisis’ playing out in the Mediterranean and at the shores of southern Europe. From migrant-bearing vessels and the military-humanitarian vehicles deployed to simultaneously “assist and deter” them (Juncker 2016), to the boats deployed by NGOs or the extreme right, the vessel is of key significance to the understandings, imaginaries, discourses and politico-legal ‘management’ associated with the migrations and movements seen as constituting this ‘crisis.’ Alongside – and often in conjunction with – the deployment and mobilities of these vessels, there has been a (re)turn and (re)invigoration of discourses and discussion of rights.

This thesis resists treating conceptualisations of rights; the routes, materialities and productive elements of vessels; and the spaces in which these vessels move as discrete objects or fields of study. Little scholarship has explicitly sought to understand the intimate connections between the space of the Mediterranean (commonly understood as ‘the’ backdrop or ‘the’ delineating matter between Global North and South against which the ‘migrant crisis’ plays out); the space(s), vehicles and routes of mobility (commonly understood as that which merely ‘moves', ‘arises’ or 'happens’ in the Mediterranean); discourses of right(s) (commonly understood as ‘things’ differentially invoked, operationalised or limited depending on space and those peopling it) and power (commonly underinterrogated in the context of migrations).

By bringing these fields of enquiry to bear on one another, interrogating their contents, and by problematising them in light of the violent and colonial legacies at work in both the historical production of the Mediterranean as ‘the’ site of the migration crisis and the univocal understanding of rights discourse as a benevolent or stable epistemology, this thesis seeks to explore how rethinking the control and contestation, securitisation and struggle at work in – and through – the materialities and routes of vessels in the Mediterranean can challenge some of the governmental knowledge practices common in much migration and rights scholarship. It argues that reading, understanding and analysing rights, vessels, space and history together as productive, co-constitutive sites and processes allows for a critical socio-legal or, perhaps even militant (Garelli and Tazzioli, 2013) socio-legal rethinking and interrogation of the political potency of rights; the stability of the ‘migrant’ subject; the neutrality of the vessels, its routes and materialities; the role(s) of struggle along the process of mobility and the method(ologies) relied upon in much academic scholarship on migrations.

JENNIFER YOUNG (University of East Anglia)

Main Supervisor: Professor Michael Harker; second supervisor: Dr Paul Bernal

Research Project: UK media regulations: Fit for purpose?

Research Description: Television, the internet and newspapers are all regulated differently. Content which is 'allowed' on one of these platforms might be censored on others. Given that there is easy access to the internet, and many people are getting information and news from sources which are not always verifiable or deliberately there to mislead the audience (fake news!), should there be a 'one size fits all' approach to media regulation?

The research will examine the principal rationales for regulation. If regulation is there to ‘protect' the public can it be effective given the multitude of media platforms and if not, can it be done effectively whilst still protecting freedom of expression? The research will compare UK media regulations across broadcast (including aspects of audio visual media on the internet), press and political advertising and include empirical research with editors/regulators and content producers/writers to examine attitudes to statutory regulation, self-regulation and in-house editorial policy. The latter may affect editorial decisions which lead to a 'chilling effect' on content producers which could then negatively impact on the audience’s right to receive information.

RUTH FLAHERTY (University of East Anglia)

Main Supervisor: Professor Morten Hviid; second supervisor: Dr Nick Scharf

Research Project: The Rise of Self-Publication Platforms and The Implications for the Publication of Fanfiction in Relation to UK, EU and US Copyright Law

Research Description: Fanfiction, “any prose retelling of stories & characters drawn from mass-media content” is a particular expression of the adage that “novels [can only be made] out of other novels”. It is a highly current form of media – in December 2016 Fanfiction.Net held more than 2 million registered users & 8 million published items.

This mixed-methods research project builds on works of seminal economic academics in order to fill the research gap about the application of intellectual property (IP) law to fanfiction. It makes a new contribution to socio-legal research by providing an answer to this question, focusing on fair dealing/fair use exceptions within copyright laws of the UK (s29-30 CDPA 1988) & US (s106 US CA 1976).

2018-19 Student Cohort

ELENA CARUSO (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Professor Sally Sheldon; second supervisor: Dr Julie McCandless

Research Project: A socio-legal experience: The case of abortion in Italy

Research Description: In Italy, women find themselves in the paradoxical situation of holding a right to legal abortion and – at the same time – having to overcome an enormous number of obstacles to fully exercise it. The proposed research focuses on feminist engagements with Italian abortion law, aiming to locate these current problems within a broader history. It explores how the Italian law was introduced with particular attention to the role played by the 1970s Italian feminist movement in securing its passage; and the inevitable compromises involved in negotiating with other actors, including the Roman Catholic Church and a range of political parties. It also considers how Italian feminism is shaping (and is shaped by) current abortion law and policy, considering how Italian feminist campaigns influence interpretation and application of the law, as well as women’s strategies for avoiding restrictions on legal abortion (most commonly through the online purchase of abortion pills).  

SIOBHAN COLLINS (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Professor Helen Carr; second supervisor: Dr Julie McCandless

Research Project: Parents with learning disabilities: Reimagining care proceedings in family law

Research Description: The Department of Health in ‘Valuing People Now: A new three year strategy for people with learning disabilities’ (2009), emphasised the rights of people with learning disabilities to become parents. Yet these parents are over-represented in child protection proceedings; more likely to have their children made the subject of care applications by Local Authorities and to have their children taken into care and adopted than other parents. A sample study found parents with learning disabilities made up over 15% of the total child protection cases but as parents with learning disabilities make up less than 1% of parents in the general population, this demonstrates a clear over-representation of parents with learning disabilities in care proceedings (Booth & McConnell, 2005).

This research will expand the evidence base on the involvement of parents with learning disabilities in care proceedings. It will identify aspects of the law and legal process which particularly disadvantage these parents with the focus on adults with mild to moderate learning disabilities who are more likely to be living in the community therefore, more likely to be involved in intimate loving relationships and to become parents. To date, most of the research on parents with learning disabilities has been undertaken from a clinical psychology or social care perspective rather than a socio-legal perspective. This research will fill that gap.

The emergence and development of ideologies underlying the law of parenthood will be explored and the extent to which theories of responsibility and the post-liberal subject, have arguably expanded outside the area of divorce law into the concept of parenthood (Reece, 2003). This will be contrasted with Eckstein’s communitarian theory of responsibility which argues that law’s emphasis on individualism and autonomy removes individuals from ties with others by emphasising ‘separateness over connectedness’(Eckstein, 1990). Martha Fineman’s recent work on the concept of vulnerability may be more useful as an underlying principle to improve the disadvantage experienced by parents with learning disabiliites and offer alternative ways to reimagine the current law on child protection (Fineman, 2012; Wallbank & Herring, 2014).

The research will address the following four questions:

  1. How do emerging and contemporary ideologies of parenthood in the 21st century impact on the current legal framework in relation to care proceedings?
  2. Does the current law as a result, with its focus on the paramountcy of the welfare principle, systematically disadvantage parents with learning disabilities in care proceedings?
  3. What are the views of parents with learning disabilities and the professionals working with them in the legal system of the law?
  4. Are there more creative ways in which the law could understand family life and parenthood which would be more inclusive of parents with learning disabilities? If they are being systematically disadvantaged as parents, would reframing the law prevent this and empower parents with learning disabilities to enjoy the right to be parents that most people in the general population take for granted?

THOMAS EBBS (University Of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Dr Charlotte Skeet; second supervisor: Dr Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Research Project: The tactics and strategies of civil society organisations: A critical analysis of feminist legal responses to transactional sex

Research Description: My research focuses on how law is configured as a strategy and tactic in feminist problematisation and responses to transactional sex (particularly pornography and prostitution). I investigate the role that civil society organisations have held in shaping such configurations of law through a methodology of governmentality. By examining archives and carrying out analysis on online communities, I aim to situate the past differently and to show how conceptions of radicalism have become shaped by law and rights discourse.


2017-18 Student Cohort

IULIA-ALEXANDRA NEAG (University of Essex)

Main Supervisor: Dr Darren Thiel; second dupervisor: Dr Anna

Research Project: The Socio-Legal Construction of Organised Crime in Romania

Research Description: Considering current trends towards global policy and internationalisation of policing serious threats such as terrorism and organised crime, there is need for careful analysis of the benefits and pitfalls of transnational policy. This project will explore how organised crime was constructed in post-communist Romania and whether current anti-organised crime strategies are successful in maintaining the stability of the country. Considering the present context in which the role of the EU and its policies are being questioned, this project could help understand how Romanian organised crime and corruption threaten the stability of the country and, by extension, that of the EU. Romania’s communist past and current EU membership could enable an analysis that goes beyond the US-inspired models of constructing and combating organised crime, by considering how it plays out in specific, local ways within Romania.

The project will address questions about the extent to which western organised crime policies were transferred to Romania, how they influenced its activity, and whether current anti-organised crime policies are perceived to be effective. I will conduct an ethnography of criminal justice agencies involved in anti-organised crime policing in Romania, qualitative interviews with criminal justice experts and an analysis of organised crime legislation, in order to chart the socio-legal construction of organised crime in Romania and to discuss the broader effects of criminal justice policy transference.

JACK WARNER (University of Kent)

Main Supervisor: Professor Tim Strangleman; second supervisor: Dr Dawn Lyon

Research Project: From A "job for life" to a gig economy: Rethinking Work, Time and Economic Life.

Research Description: This research aims to investigate the ‘new economy’ through an analysis of precarity, uncertainty and increasing automation within the labour market. It will examine the impact of the temporalities of the new economy on social interaction and the social structure of working life.

The proposed methodology is mixed, and includes an interrogation of current quantitative and qualitative secondary data about the experience of contemporary work; a large participant observation 8 / 22 auto/ethnography will involve working within one or more aspects of the ‘gig’ economy and a number (=20) of semi-structured interviews with workers of the new economy.

The research will act as a reflexive probe into the effectiveness of this methodology for studying the new economy. In addition, it will evaluate the usefulness of twentieth century sociology of work concepts in explaining contemporary work. It will consider how our inherited frameworks and concepts that explore labour structures and workplace dynamics, for instance, can be used to analyse the new economy or whether they must be rejuvenated to fit the new economic field.

Overall, this project will contribute to our understanding of the contemporary labour market through outlining the social implications of the ‘gig’ economy, in addition to offering insight into the lived experience of working in a ‘gig’ economy. Finally, through the testing of traditional conceptual and methodological tools, we will see to what extent they are able to grasp and explain these new forms of work.

MARIE TULLEY (University of Sussex)

Main Supervisor: Dr Linda Morrice; second supervisor: Dr Laura Morosanu

Research Project: The Gendered Impact of Integration Policies and Practices on Refugees in two sub-state EU regions: Scotland and Flanders

Research Description: This research will examine the gendered and intersectional impact of migrant integration policies at a regional and local level. By looking at two case studies, the sub-state regions of Flanders and Scotland, it will fill some gaps in the literature about the different ways integration impacts on different types of men and women, and add to our knowledge about the process of ‘integration’. Furthermore, it will investigate, on the one hand, how sub-state regions use their devolved powers over migrant integration to draw boundaries between migrants and nationals, and further propagate gendered regional identities and national myths, while on the other hand, it will investigate how migrants themselves navigate these new narratives they encounter and the impact on their own sense of gendered identity and belonging.

The research methods include feminist Critical Discourse Analysis to analyze the first part of the research questions, and in-depth interviews as well as participant observation, to answer the second part. The project will make use of a feminist post-structural theoretical framework and a psycho-social approach to producing and analyzing interview data.

2018-19 Student Cohort

PAUL JACKSON (University of Sussex)

Main supervisor: Professor Susie Scott; second supervisor: Professor Tim Jordan

Research Project: Structures and interaction: A micro-sociological analysis of online harassment

Research Description: This project investigates the relationship between patterns of digital sociality and the micro-sociological structure of the setting of online interaction. It does so by conducting an in-depth case study of a single computer mediated communications website, focusing upon the orchestration and evaluation of campaigns of harassment, which are frequently cited as originating within this particular online setting. To investigate this phenomenon, the project will employ methods of virtual ethnography and qualitative content analysis to produce an in-depth study of the relationship between online interaction and socio-technological and micro-sociological structures. This will enable analysis of the relationship between the site’s specific structure and the purpose, meaning and conduct of campaigns of online harassment, which has direct consequences for which experiences, discourses, and persons are able to exist peacefully online.

GEORGE SIMPSON (University of Kent)

Main supervisor: Dr Elke van Hallemont; second supervisor: Dr Caroline Chatwin

Research Project: Impression management in bottom-level UK drugs markets. A case study of multifaceted dealers in Kent’s coastal towns.

Research Description: This project aims to offer an in-depth understanding about the role conflict irregular opportunist (IO) drug dealer experience when moving between legitimate social environments and bottom level (BL) drug markets. As such, this study wants to challenge the prevailing view of the archetypical drugs dealer (being dealers which are violent and involved in other crime), problematise its use in drugs policy development and contribute to the ongoing theoretical debate about the fragmentation of drug dealer identities and markets.

So far, several scholars point out that archetypical conceptions not only relieve dealers of their humanity (eg. Schlesinger et al. 1983), they tend even to be of ‘little practical use’ in the development of drugs policy (Kleiman & Smith 1990: 84). These critiques are especially valid when taking the characteristics of BL drugs markets ad dealers into consideration. Therefore, not denying the potential overlap with traditional dealer typologies, there are strong indications that the archetypal dealers’ dominance as the overriding concept of dealers should be, at least, moderated, if not, altered all together.

As BL opportunist dealers have to manage and maintain successful social performances and roles despite their illicit dealings, there are good reasons to assume that the demands of impression management (Goffman 1959) as well as more moral considerations play a role. As such this project will focus on the extent IO drug dealers experience conflict between socially legit and illicit roles and how this conflict impacts their activities within BL drugs markets. In other words, the focus of this project is on the way IO drug dealers deal with conflict between the different roles they perform whilst moving between legitimate social environments and drug markets.

Methodology: Year I: Literature Review + Media Analysis + Explorative Fieldwork Year II. A Close-to-home Ethnography Including Repetitive Interviewing Year III. Triangulating Data and Writing the Final Product

Research Aims: The main aim is to deliver an innovative theoretical contribution to the literature surrounding drug dealer identities whilst delivering a substantial empirical contribution to our knowledge of drugs dealing activities in a non-urban environment. It intends to do so in two ways: First, by focusing on an often neglected segment of drug supply (the BL markets), this project will contribute to our understanding of the fragmentation of drug dealer identities and markets. Secondly, through shifting the focus away from the rational actor perspective and conceiving of drugs dealers as social agents in the first place, this project will be unique in exploring the relevance of non-criminal roles in the development of criminal activities (here IO drugs dealing).

Finally, this study aims to contribute to the development of drugs policy by pointing at the found discrepancies between the use of the archetypical drugs dealer by media and repression agencies and the lived realities of Kent’s IO drugs dealers. As such this project aims to assess to what extent the archetypal dealers’ dominance as the overriding concept of dealers is justified when taking the characteristics of IO suppliers in BL drugs markets into account.

ZOE WALSHE (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Main supervisor: Dr Michaela Benson; second supervisor:

Research Project: Children and families’ experiences of housing insecurity in London today

Research Description: