Posted on 23 March 2023 in awards, fellowships, news

Mid-Career & Political Economy Fellowship Competitions – Awards Announcement

In 2022, the ISRF launched its sixth Mid-Career Fellowship competition as well as its fifth Political Economy Fellowship competition. Having received a number of strong proposals for each call, selection panels met in December 2022 and January 2023 and nominated a total of ten projects for funding.

Sixth Mid-Career Fellowship Competition

Scholars from within Europe – more than 10 years post-PhD – were eligible to apply for funding, for projects of up to one year. Awards were made to:

Fifth Political Economy Fellowship Competition

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 processes, across long-listing, external assessment, and the final selection panels. We are indebted to the academic community who continued to lend their time and expertise in these challenging times.

Project Abstracts

An Archaeology of reproductive subsumption: classing the household, women and ecology in Senegambia

Dr Elena Baglioni

Women in the global South experience multiple forms of oppression, irregular, low-paid work at the bottom of global value chains (WB 2020; Barrientos 2019) and are among the most vulnerable to climate change (Nellemann et al. 2011). Their work of social reproduction – the regenerative work at home and in fields, including child and family care and gardening – makes them the quintessential ‘meta-industrial labour’, i.e. historically the cheapest form of energy supply after horsepower (Salleh 2009). At the same time, through their reproductive work women are perceived as the last bastions of fading biodiversity, a beacon of social and environmental sustainability (UNDP 2016; Barca 2020). This project argues that to better understand the contradictions and the tensions, limits and potentials of women’s work for the necessary ecological transition we must comprehend how the process of social reproduction and, in particular, the reproduction of labour power and of the environment changes with the development of capitalism (Federici 2004). Thus, this project will undertake an ‘archaeology of reproductive subsumption’, i.e. a theoretical and historical investigation of how reproductive work became ‘women work’ from the late-17th, through the 18th and 19th centuries in Senegal, the region which pioneered the insertion of sub-Saharan Africa within global markets via the development of the Atlantic slave-trade and incipient global commodity chains. To do this, the project will explore the household as a territory of class relations and investigate how market pressures transformed households’ internal structures leading to the marginalisation and gendering of reproductive activities, i.e. how by this process women were reconstructed as unpaid and invisible members of the global working class. By developing a novel theory of reproductive subsumption and tracing its particular archaeology in Senegal, the research offers new grounds to explore how women are included in capitalism elsewhere in the global South.

Constitutionalising Anarchy: an Anarchist Constitutional Politics for the 21st Century

Professor Ruth Kinna & Dr Alex Prichard

Typically, anarchy is considered the opposite of a constitutional order. This project complicates that picture. This project reveals how anarchists constitutionalise: how and why they develop declarations, rules, institutions, and democratic decision-making procedures within anarchist groups to transform in the world in which they act. The research has a theoretical, empirical and practical/normative element. We examine the history of anarchist political thought to show how anarchists engaged critically with republicanism to detach constitutionalism from its conventional association with the state and private property. We explain how anarchists conceptualised ‘anarchy’ as an alternative to prevailing bourgeoise constitutions, and how they adopted constitutional principles of the division of power and federalism to resist tyranny. The second part uses this history to examine the constitutional practices of contemporary anarchistic movements: the US and UK Occupy Wall Street movement, the syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and a UK federation of anarchist cooperatives called Radical Routes. Using innovative coproduction methods, we investigate how effectively anarchists constitutionalise today. The third part utilizes critical insights from this learning process to describe anarchist constitutionalising practices that are adaptable to the needs of diverse community and horizontal grass roots movements, while also helping us rethink the meaning of and value of anarchy today.

Cripping the Exhaustion Economy: Radically Reimagining the Neoliberal Academy from the Sick Bed

Dr Bethan Evans

This project will develop a ‘Crip’ Political Economy approach to understand the dual problems of burnout and ableism in the UK neoliberal academy. Responding to the crisis of chronic overwork, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the rise in long-term chronic illness due to Long Covid, this project’s central thesis is that academics living with Energy Limiting Chronic Illness (ELCI), conditions involving symptoms of debilitating fatigue, offer vital insights into the operation of neoliberal capitalism within UK academia as an ‘exhaustion economy’. 

Methodologically, innovation will come from adapting qualitative methods for exhausted bodies, allowing asynchronous and remote participation. Focus groups and qualitative surveys with people with ELCI who work in, or have left, academia will feed into a narrative network analysis of the academic political economy. Autobiographical and energy-budget-based interviews will explore energy limitation at two temporal scales: career and everyday. Critical analysis of equality and diversity policy from key institutions (e.g. funders, publishers, research and teaching assessment bodies) within the UK academic political economy will be carried out. 

Theoretical innovation will come from bringing Crip Theory into conversation with Political Economy scholarship on capitalist hyperproductivity and neoliberalisation, along with work on slow scholarship and failure. It will extend work on Crip Time in academia, largely focussed on the US, by attending to UK specific institutions and processes. It will also ask how attention to embodied energy, as a limited commodity, might add a new dimension to Crip Time. 

Current policy approaches to disability focus on reasonable adjustments made by the employing university. The Crip Political Economy approach developed here asks how ableism and exhaustion might be addressed across the broader academic political economy. In diverging from current approaches, and seeking to reimagine processes that currently exclude and/or debilitate, this research will contribute to ISRF goals to diversify social science.

More-than-human: Contesting the exclusion of ecology in peacebuilding and transitional justice

Dr Peter Manning

This interdisciplinary research will explore how political transitions from atrocities, war, and conflict can be explained through and within the social and cultural life of trees and forests. In situating a critical political ecology at the heart of social and political transition, the research seeks to challenge the prevailing anthropocentrism of the dominant fields that lay claim over the question of what must beknown and done after episodes of conflict and atrocity, namely, peacebuilding and transitional justice. Indeed, both transitional justice and peacebuilding are fields that specifically periodise histories of conflict, atrocity, and transition through human centric lenses, and have paid scant attention to questions of ecological harm arising from violence. Drawing on recent theorisations of social and cultural order that seek to collapse any distinctions of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, and instead emphasise ‘agency’ as “entangled” between relations (and exclusions) of humans and the material world, the research takes seriously the role of more-than-human entities i.e. trees and forests, in making and remaking social and political life during and after transition. In Cambodia, over forty years of human conflict and atrocity, appended by accelerating regimes of unsustainable development and land dispossession in the 1990s through ‘liberalised’ market reforms, have dramatically reduced and remade forest ecologies. These challenges are especially acute for Cambodia’s Bunong indigenous communities in the country’s east, who occupy social and cultural worlds that are explicitly made possible only in relation to the vitality and ‘agency’ of forest ecologies. The project therefore asks two interrelated questions – with implications across cases – that arise in the work of transitional justice and peacebuilding practice, with political ecology and the more-than-human instead centred: how do human and more-than-human forest ecologies remember conflict and atrocity? And how do ecological harms figure within (entangled) social and cultural memories of transition?

Plastic Economies: Power, Politics, and Ecological Futures Across the ‘East-East’ Petrochemical Circuit

Professor Adam Hanieh

As the key raw material in the production of plastics and other synthetic commodities, petroleum-derived chemicals form the basis of our material existence. Industry spokespeople state that petrochemicals are ‘the future of oil’, yet debates around fossil fuels overwhelmingly focus on energy and transport, while ignoring the importance of petrochemicals. At the same time, the centre of the global petrochemical industry has shifted towards the Middle East and East Asia. A new ‘East-East’ Petrochemical Circuit (EEPC) binds together these regions, administered by large, vertically-integrated firms controlling each step of petrochemical production and consumption. 

Addressing the ‘petrochemicals blindspot’ – and building upon calls to move away from techno-scientific approaches to the study of fossil fuels – this project investigates what the rapidly changing geographies of the petrochemical industry mean for a global Green Transition. I will map the new forms of corporate power emerging across the EEPC, their linkages with existing state and business elites, and the political economy drivers of the industry. The project also examines the burgeoning social and environmental movements that are resisting the entrenchment of petrochemical consumption in the Middle East and East Asia. Through tracing the interplay of these social forces, my research provides a unique contribution to debates around the Green Transition – an urgent issue closely aligned with ISRF goals.

The project forges an original, interdisciplinary dialogue across political economy, environmental studies, and materials science. Methodologically, it involves elite interviews with industry experts, ethnographic fieldwork across the two regions, and a detailed mapping of the EEPC corporate networks.

Regimes of Accumulation and the Carceral State in England and Wales

Dr Jonathan Burnett

This project examines the forms of expropriation and accumulation which are generated and circulated through an expansive carceral state in England and Wales (E&W). This expansion is clear: pledges to increase the prison population by 20,000 people by the mid-2020s have been matched by moves to recruit 20,000 more police officers, strengthen sentencing powers, eradicate some forms of accountability and increase prison capacity. Meanwhile, over the last few decades new forms of confinement, control and surveillance have been fostered through, for example, punitive immigration policies and the war on terror, and many welfare services have been hardened under rubrics of reform and conditionality. However, while notions of carcerality have been deployed as powerful conceptual tools in mobilising against repressive forms of punishment in recent decades, within E&W there has been no substantive study exploring the regimes of accumulation sustained by a carceral state – their roles and functions – bringing these together into a single analytical frame. This project, therefore, seeks to do something innovative. First, expanding on a trajectory of my previous work (e.g. Applicant, 2020; 2022a) across multiple sites it seeks to: examine carceral sites as labour control regimes; understand the role of monetary sanctions and the utilisation of fees and charging regimes as forms of extraction; foreground the role of economic arguments in rationalising carceral expansion and map the interlocking economic interests invested in securing the carceral state’s reproduction. In doing so, its unique methodological approach brings together interviews with those who have directly experienced accumulation regimes, freedom of information (FOI) requests, analysis of contracts and critical discourse analysis of economic rationalisations for carceral expansion. Second, it is envisaged the project will help bring new understandings to the distinct contours of the carceral state in E&W, and support movements resisting carceral expansion and building equitable, fairer societies.

Remembering as Resistance: Inclusive Commemorations Versus Competitive Victimhoods After Mass Atrocity in the Post-Yugoslav Space

Dr Ana Dević

What role do commemorations play in the construction of collective memory in places afflicted by extreme war violence? How do such commemorations create or hinder durable peace? And to what extent can the inclusion of non-official, grassroots commemorations and bottom-up initiatives more broadly, stimulate more inclusive forms of remembrance? These questions will be explored through a research project that focuses on the crucial case of the former Yugoslavia. The project zooms in on the sites of extreme war atrocity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia: Srebrenica, Prijedor, Vukovar, Knin, Glina, Jasenovac, and Batajnica. At these critical post-war sites nationalist elites regularly evoke competitive victimhood to inflame the “enemy” images, mixing the memories of WWII, the socialist period, and the atrocities of the 1990s. These nationalist mobilizations form an obstacle to inclusive citizenship and durable peace. The overall aim is to create a map of alternative/ oppositional commemorations existing in these contexts, and explore their possibilities to form a viable, more inclusive alternative to the formal institutionalized (state) commemorations. Grassroots commemorations will be examined as social movement activities (studying their mobilizational capacity and significance) that seek recognition and justice for victims of the “enemy” side. The project’s unique micro-level participatory approach unravels the tangible as well as virtual efforts at seeking active forms of memory, involving regular citizens in their relationship to the war past, interacting with polarizing political forces. Through a specific lens – of artistic activism – the project also examines visual and virtual interactive approaches to memory, where activists redefine the spaces where war atrocities took place in innovative and striking ways, reclaiming them as inclusive places of memory. The project relies on conceptual frames and methods from sociological and political research, on the one hand, and humanities (cultural studies/ media studies, memory studies, engaged art) on the other.

The Middle of Nowhere: Critical Family History, Settler Colonialism, and the Inheritance of Place

Professor Julia Laite

I want to understand what it means to have family roots in a place that was charted by imperialism, built by settler-colonialism, and marked by exploitation. Using the emerging framework of ‘critical family history’, combined with the interdisciplinary methodologies of co-production, storytelling, and archival research, this project aims to disrupt the nostalgic registers of settler-colonial belonging, and produce new and useable histories for the present.

Family history and genealogy has been said to have ‘twisted roots’ in white supremacism and imperialism, but it is also the most common way people engage with and make their own histories. This award will support my research into my own family’s place in settler-colonial history and enable me to write an entangled history of individual ancestors that illuminates the wider history of the North Atlantic colonial world. The project also aims to empower family historians to tell ‘new stories’ about their families that challenge top-down narratives of imperial and racial belonging; and to develop new ways of understanding our twisted roots and troubled inheritances. 

Britain’s oldest colony, the Island of Newfoundland, will make for a complex and nuanced case study. The island is home to a historically marginalized white settler population who have a profound sense of belonging in place; but it is also the site of the near-total destruction of an indigenous culture. This project, which will reckon with these tensions, will be informed by work that aims to ‘decolonize’ imperial spaces, anthropological and geographical work on place-making, new trends in genealogical research and practice, and Atlantic world history. This project aims to discover what new stories a more critical kind of family history might generate, how it may help illuminate the harms and silences of colonialism, and how it could be used to forge a new sense of belonging and place.

Towards a Feminist Peace

Professor Toni Haastrup

In the aftermath of formal colonization, a range of crises continues to a source of insecurity for Africans. These insecurities are fostered by a hierarchical global political system that is still steeped in colonial patterns of interactions that privilege challenging masculinities, as critical peace and feminist scholarship has identified (see Stern/Towns, 2022). 

While attention to regional governance as a means to peace is not new, the implications of (African) feminist ontologies in the conception of peace has thus far been absent from mainstream theorising with implications for interventions (Haastrup, 2022, a,,b). Indeed, eradicating these resistant insecurities was the basis for the global normative framework, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, first adopted over two decades ago and advocated for by feminists. However, the version that has remained of the WPS agenda has failed to challenge the hierarchies that underpin these crises and instead re-entrenches them thus exacerbating these crises (Haastrup/Hagen, 2020; 2022). Even as new feminist peace works have exposed these realities, the place of African knowledge in informing new theorisations and praxis remains marginal.

This project seeks to recover the aspirations of pan-African feminists who have and continue to advocate for emancipatory regional solutions as the basis for lasting peace. Towards a Feminist Peace aims to theorise the possibilities of a feminist peace. 

Theoretically, it draws on approaches that challenge prevailing hegemonies to develop a critical feminist analytical lens informed by transnational feminisms that centre African feminist alternative worlds. The project utilises a methodological approach drawn from the social sciences and humanities. Insights from this research are aimed at: generating new knowledge; articulating how marginal practices or ‘practice from below’ inform radical theorisations; and contributing to global debates and policies on the gendered dimensions of peace and security.

Welfare transformations and children’s reproductive labour: Advancing social reproduction theory through interdisciplinary dialogue

Dr Rachel Rosen

This project advances understandings of social reproduction by developing an innovative interdisciplinary framework for exploring and conceptualising children’s reproductive labour in the context of (post-)neoliberal welfare transformations. 

In the UK, ‘(post-)neoliberalism’ references a cost-of-living crisis, hollowing out of public services, state-funded corporate bailouts, and increasingly targeted welfare provision shaped partially by resurgent nationalism (1). Together, these transformations mean previous modes of social reproduction, or the making and sustaining of lives, are no longer sufficient or available. Children occupy an ambivalent position in this context. Social reproduction theory emphasises that responsibility for childrearing has been transferred back to families, creating hardship and even destitution. Calls for welfare support are often articulated based on children’s perceived vulnerability, making them exceptionally deserving of assistance. Sociological scholarship on childhood, however, suggests that such exceptionalism reduces children to ‘emotionally priceless’ (2) burdens, obscuring children’s reproductive labour or rendering it problematic in classed, racialised, and gendered terms. Despite these complexities, there have been surprisingly limited attempts to explore children’s reproductive labour in (post-)neoliberal contexts and minimal efforts to elaborate theories of social reproduction that approach childhood holistically.

I address this lacuna by putting social reproduction theory, a core strand of feminist political economy, in dialogue with sociological approaches to childhood as a historical and situated institution and age-graded social position. Building on my expertise in participatory approaches, I develop a pioneering polyvocal methodology, using drama and visual arts to involve ten young people in reflecting on and analysing two contemporary data sets where other children give accounts of care, sustenance, and survival. This will provide insights into existing material about reproductive labour and generate new data as participants layer accounts with their own experiences and interpretative commentary. The approach promises novel ways to understand how children’s reproductive labour is practiced, understood, and valued in (post-)neoliberal societies.

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 [email protected].