Posted on 4 August 2021 in awards, fellowships, independent scholars, news

Eighth Independent Scholar Fellowship Competition – Awards Announcement

In January 2021, the ISRF launched its eighth Independent Scholar Fellowship competition. Having received a number of strong proposals, a selection panel met in July 2021 and nominated six projects for funding.

Eighth Independent Scholar Fellowship Competition

Independent scholars from within Europe were eligible to apply for funding, for projects of up to one year. Awards were made to:

Thank you to everyone who participated in our selection process, across long-listing, external assessment, and the final selection panel. We are indebted to the academic community who continued to lend their time and expertise in these challenging times.


Project Abstracts

Historical rights and humanitarian dilemmas: caring for children in offshore detention

Eleanor Davey

This project explores how, after a century of work based on the notion of childhood as sacred and outside of politics, the world’s pre-eminent child rights organisation wound up cooperating in the indefinite, traumatic detention of children. It proposes that immigration detention facilities and other sites of racialised violence reveal the fragility of the universal norms of childhood associated with progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As the incarceration of asylum-seeker children by democratic countries expands, this project shines a light on the compromises into which humanitarian organisations are drawn when they seek to offer care in such settings.

Specifically, the project analyses the role of Save the Children Australia (SCA) in Australian-run detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru from 2012-2015. Australia has been an influential pioneer in the global trend towards detention and criminalisation of asylum seekers and refugees. SCA’s offshore operations represent a particularly controversial example of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working as service providers within this system. Yet this moment remains shadowy and poorly researched, obscured by reticence, censorship and judgement. The project focuses on organisational decision-making and ethics, tracing the successive challenges that arose as SCA’s operations expanded and the organisation and its staff came into conflict with both their government employers and their own principles.

The project applies concepts from anthropologies of violence and humanitarianism alongside historical methods to create an empirically grounded account, analysing NGO and government materials, personal testimonies, and public debates. It places these within the long arc of histories of humanitarianism and childhood. It aims to shed light on the possibilities and limitations of mitigating damage when governments inflict harm on individuals in the name of national security. The resulting book will contribute to understandings of a perpetual humanitarian dilemma: where is the line between care and complicity?

Building (in) a New World: Constantinos Doxiadis, Urban Development and the Pacification of the “Third World”

Christos Filippidis

This research will focus on various U.S. urban development initiatives in selective regions of the capitalist “periphery” during the Cold War. The Greek architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis was from the very beginning at the centre of these initiatives. The aim of this project is to investigate Doxiadis’ role, examining his relations with the U.S. staffs, exploring the basic principles of his theory and evaluating his work not only in terms of applied architecture and urban planning but firstly in terms of its ideological-political context. More specifically, this research aspires to shed light on Doxiadis’ involvement, highlighting the strong influence of the then dominant theory of modernisation on his thinking and interpreting his work as a particular implementation of the U.S. national security policy and the U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. These urban development initiatives have to be understood as part of a broader Cold War strategy, given that the modernisation of the “developing” world, as a method for containing the communist threat, was the primary goal of the U.S. cadres.

The research will be based on an interdisciplinary approach, utilising critical tools from the fields of architecture, urban studies, human geography, critical geopolitics, international relations, development studies, postcolonial studies, and critical security studies. Regarding research methodologies, the project will rely on primary sources and archival research, combining them with secondary data analysis. Through this study, data from Constantinos Doxiadis Archives and Ford Foundation Records will come to light, highlighting the geopolitical dimensions of the U.S. urban development interventions in the “developing” world. The reading of these interventions through the U.S. national security doctrine lens will enrich with valuable historical evidence the ongoing research on the urbanisation of the Global South and its genealogies. Both the interdisciplinarity and the aims of this research lie at the heart of the ISRF goals.

Beekeeping in the End Times

Larisa Jasarevic

Beekeeping in the End Times is an ethnographic film project that conveys Bosnian Muslim apicultures and stories about the world’s imminent ecological collapse. It shows how Islamic apocalyptic lore informs human-apian relations with ecological insights that, surprisingly, inspire hope. The ISRF fellowship proposal aims to secure funds for the films’ post-production as well as for online and on the ground distribution. The film is currently shot at the anthropologist’s apiary and compiled from the footage and findings of a postdoctoral research project on local beekeeping under the conditions of climate change. Conducted from 2014 to 2019 across Bosnia and Herzegovina the ethnographic research study has been written into a book intended for general audience. Also entitled Beekeeping in the End Times, the book is under contract with the Indiana University Press. Because, however, the implications of climate change on honeybees are surprisingly underresearched while the ecological tones of Islamic eschatology—the end time myths—are rarely acknowledged, the anthropologist has embarked on production of a film intended to reach wider audiences.

The film presents three popular tales paired with events of extreme weather:

1. About angels watching for the signs of the End, including animal endangerment;

2. About planting on the eve of apocalypse; and

3. About a flower named “shame,” whose disappearance is said to signal “shameless” environmental irresponsibility.

The film blends beekeepers’ storytelling with fieldwork footage from former battlegrounds and industrial zones, which are new forage frontlines. Tales are retold around apicultural predicaments in anthropogenic environments and atmospheres. The environmental message of the film is inflected by the Islamic ideas of ecology and cosmology. Rather than depict the local ways as romantic or presumably glum–in keeping with the environmental or Islamic apocalyptic (Kirksey 2015; Filiu 2011)–the film explores an eco-eschatological sensibility of broader relevance.

The Carceral Campus: Understanding the Nexus between Marketised Higher Education, Surveillance and the Hostile Environment

Sanaz Raji

The proposed research seeks to understand how bordering processes within UK higher education transforms the nature of the university. Specifically, this project is interested in understanding how migrant students and staff (academic & non-academic), experience the interlinkages between UK marketised higher education, and surveillance associated with border regimes within universities. This study will build on the preliminary data collected by Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC). 

The border regime in UK universities predates the current hostile environment policy, associated with 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts. It was the Labour government’s Points Based Immigration System (PBIS), introduced between 2008 and 2010, which first required universities to monitor international staff and students in order to maintain their license as immigration sponsors. Fearing difficulties in sponsoring international students, who bring millions of pounds into universities and local economies, university administrators complied with the implementation of increasingly stringent immigration controls within their institutions.

McGettigan (2013) has explored the effects of marketised higher education in the UK but has only briefly touched upon the experiences of migrant university students and staff. Mavroudi & Warren (2012), Dear (2019), and Collier & Ross (2020) have also sought to explore different realms of border policy, race and colonialism and surveillance affecting migrant students and university staff. My proposal will be the first study to consider the relationship between marketised, neoliberal higher education and bordering processes inside the university, and the differential impact on international students and staff depending on their social location. 

This project will employ qualitative interviews to explore how bordering processes within UK universities function and change over time. The pandemic has starkly illustrated the need for such research, and, this study will make an important contribution to scholarship, while also having an important impact outside academia by producing research that can inform migrant activist strategies.

Darkness and Disorder: Refugees, Humanitarian Agencies, and the Struggle to Provide Sustainable Energy Access in Refugee Camps

Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen

Energy powers us, it is the electricity in our computers, our light in the evenings, and the fuel in our stoves and cookers. Without it, our social rituals and professional outputs start to fall away. Energy is often viewed as a technical or quantitative subject, but it is also embedded within our everyday social practices of making a cup of tea, sending emails, cooking supper, and driving to the supermarket. In refugee societies, energy is a much-needed resource to support resilience in displaced communities. 

Within refugee camps, energy has been neglected by both humanitarian organisations and academic research. This Fellowship aims to change that by developing an ethnography of the humanitarian energy world and telling the stories of refugees in their own words. The research will produce a book titled ‘Voices in the dark: Energy Access and the Politics of Living in Refugee Camps’ to demonstrate how energy is used by refugees. 

Building on existing data collected during my 10 years as a humanitarian, my research uses ethnographic methods to explore the political narratives and ethnographic uses of energy. Refugee voices, their energy needs and priorities are placed at the heart of this enquiry, demonstrating how important electricity and clean cooking access are for vulnerable households. The project will also work with policymakers at UNHCR and UNITAR to embed learning on how humanitarian actors support refugees in accessing sustainable energy. 

Outputs of the Fellowship will include the ‘voices in the dark’ book, as well as a peer-reviewed academic journal article in Cultural Anthropology. The results of my research will be published as a blog with the UN-led Global Platform for Action (GPA) for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement.

Media, communications and people with learning difficulties and autism – lessons from the pandemic

Alison Wilde

The intention of the proposed research is to use inclusive methods to seek understandings that people with learning disabilities/difficulties and/or autism (PWLDA) have gained during the COVID 19 pandemic, focusing on their understandings of media, health-related communications and network information, (e.g. from family / carers / friends/ social care agencies). The vast range of commentaries on health, risk, care, science, and wellbeing, pose multiple and (largely) unknown problems for PWLDA in allowing them to know which information to trust. At a time where services have struggled to provide basic support, they are an exceptionally high-risk group, with a range of new communication needs, potentially generating greater uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and risks to self and others. There is an urgent need to understand how PWLDA have accessed information and interpreted the communications and conditions of rapidly changing pandemic rules, in the face of a vast array of information from all media, and alongside diminished forms of support. There has been no systematic analysis of how PWLDA have experienced communications and used information during the crisis, and there is little consideration of PWLDA in media and communications studies.

The researcher will use qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the in-depth experiences of 30 PWLDA within their networks. Semi-structured episodic interviews will be used to gain insights into into how participants to recollect different stages in their understandings of and reactions to significant periods (e.g. lockdown), producing data which will inform a wider survey. The aim is to inform effective ongoing communications about guidance, wellbeing, and social support. Key outputs of the study will include written publications, a conference for PWLDA, practitioners and academics, the development of an interactive toolkit for the use of PWLDA, their networks, media and public health services which anticipates media and political communication needs in future.

Contacting Grantees

If you would like to contact any of our Grantees to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at lars.cornelissen@isrf.org.