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Our PhD students

Our PhD students pursue a wide variety of research topics in the broad field of Social Sciences. The work of some of our PhD students can be found below:

  •  Alexandria Bradley

Alexbradley -webTitle: Intersecting Victim Identities and Hierarchies of Vulnerability and Victimisation within Prison Populations

Summary:The project was developed, following a previous working role (DART Programmes Facilitator) within the prison service. Underpinned by a critical victimological lens, the research aims to test whether complex trauma behaviour is recognised and subsequently supported within the prison service. This will be achieved through an exploration of the overarching research question “In what ways can victimisation, vulnerability and trauma manifest within prisoner behaviour”. Analysis focuses on why some trauma-related behaviour may go unnoticed, unsupported or result in disciplinary action. Utilising biographical narrative interviewing methods as well as semi-structured interviewing, the voices and experiences of ex-prisoners, community staff and uniformed prison staff have been incorporated into the project, to aid the understanding of the pervasive impact of previous trauma. Therefore through the inclusion of a trauma-informed approach, the research project is not only focused on how to better support prisoners needs, but also what impact the complex behaviour of prisoners/ex-prisoners has on staff and how this could be enhanced. 

Supervision team: Dr Pamela Davies and Dr Matthew Jones

Contact @alexandriabradz


  • Andreea Ciurea

Title: Bidirectional remittances flows: The experience of Romanian students and migrant care workers in the UK.

Summary:This project investigates how ‘bidirectional’ flows of remittances of Romanian students and migrant care workers contribute to a stable investment climate as well as provide social protection to households and families who supported the initial investment. Moreover, it sets out to develop a new concept of ‘bidirectional’ flows of remittances from country of origin to the country of destination as part of a mutually beneficial contractual agreement between households and their youth as well as that between migrant care workers and their families, set within different welfare state arrangements given by migrant’s origin and destination. As such this thesis not only has the potential to contribute to the development of a new social concept that of ‘bidirectional’ remittances flows but it sheds light on two scarcely researched migrant groups from two completely different angles. Another puzzling as well as interesting fact about this case it that Romanian migration is a ‘least likely’ case for the rapid emergence of economic transnationalism according to Ban. Mainly due to the fact that the former Romanian communist regime imposed one of the most repressive emigration system in the Warsaw Pact. Therefore, I believe that using a rigorous qualitative research methodology this thesis might prove a valuable contribution to the study of remittance in social studies.

Supervision team: Dr Stephen Taylor



  • Kara Danks

Kara -Danks -StudentTitle: "Exploring the impact of the NHS Health and Justice health trainer initiative on prisoner knowledge, attitudes and behaviour."

Summary:The PhD project, underpinned by a complex realist approach, aims to provide an evidence-base for the development of a health improvement peer initiative within the North East prisons and then to evaluate the intervention with the overarching research question of ‘The prison health peer intervention: what works, for whom, in what respects, over which duration and why?’. The intervention is complex, as is the prison setting and therefore requires an approach that attempts to engage with this. Phase one of the research employed qualitative methods to explore the barriers and facilitating factors in each of the four prison settings involved and phase two utilises a realist evaluation approach with mixed methods. The intention for the findings of the evaluation is that they further inform the development and improvement of the intervention, by examining the underpinning mechanisms of change that may be inhibited or enabled by the context, influencing intended and unintended outcomes. A key aim of my work is to deliver practice and policy-relevant research.

Supervision team: Dr Wendy Dyer and Dr Michael Smith

Contact; Twitter: @kara_danks


  • Victoria Ekwughe

Victoria -webTitle: Elearning: NGOs use of digital platforms for women empowerment via non-formal education in Nigeria

Summary: My research focuses on NGOs use of digital platforms for women empowerment in Nigeria focusing on the delivery of non-formal education to the women who are marginalized and disadvantaged in Nigeria. Over the years NGOs are seen to have been working on short-term courses aimed at providing knowledge that women need and that the formal system or society in general leaves out of its educational provision. Thereby providing critical awareness, contestatory knowledge and women’s empowerment. This paper investigates whether effectively utilizing the digital platforms by NGOs could be a driving force to empowering women through non-formal education, and if so, which types of the digital platform can be beneficial to women. The study will explore how NGOs use digital platforms for women empowerment, and the challenges NGOs encounter when using the digital platforms.

The aim of this paper is to develop a framework for enhancing the productive use of digital platforms by NGOs in empowering women via non-formal education in Nigeria. 

Supervision team: Dr. Bruce Mutsvairo and Dr. Katy Jenkins



  • Rich Gibbons

Richiegibbons -webTitle: "A Sociological Analysis of the Embodiment of Happiness".

Summary: My thesis examines people’s understanding of happiness - and their interpretation of what constitutes a good life – and focuses this in particular on the significance that our bodies hold in our everyday lives and life narratives. The project therefore amalgamates two very distinct social science disciplines; happiness and body studies, both of which rarely interact in any meaningful and tangible way. I began to realise that my own way of being and perceiving the world around me is greatly informed by a very dominant ‘Cartesian’ narrative; one which favours cognitive appraisals of the social world around me, above all, and often at the expense of embodied forms of knowledge and interpretation. However, meaning can be inscribed into us as bodies. We have numerous senses, bodily habits, routines and ways of somatically feeling our immediate milieu that in turn impacts how we experience life. In this way, my work approaches understandings of happiness from the position that we are bodies that can take on elements of the world around us, and that these factors affect the way we manage the ups and downs that inevitably come with life. The research is therefore qualitative, and uses semi-structured interviews guided by both phenomenological ways of understanding bodies, and biographical approaches that consider the life transitions of individuals and their understanding of what it is that constitutes a good life. My research interests therefore broadly cover happiness studies, theories of the body, embodiment, and biography.

Supervision team: Dr Mark Cieslik and Professor Steve Taylor



  • Marina Hasan

MarinahassamTitle: “Bullying and Harassment of BME women within the British Police Service: race, gender, and police culture”

Summary: This thesis examines the ‘hidden’ and under-researched area of bullying and harassment of Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) women in the British Police Service. In so doing the thesis explores issues of race and gender within the context of police culture.The thesis explores the development of the legislative and policy framework of bullying harassment within the context of UK policing. In doing so, it adopts a chronological approach, which facilitates an understanding, of the genesis of the policy and legislative framework with regards to key developments; whilst identifying main influences and events, which have shaped UK policing bullying and harassment policy.

The research argues that the failure of successive governments to develop  a robust legislative framework on bullying; on the grounds that it would create an unnecessary regulatory burden to industry (Adams 1994). This has led to the default position of the development of the creation of ‘dignity at work’ policies through which cases of bullying are channelled. The thesis argues that this policy framework when implemented within a command and control organisation such as the police makes it ‘fair game’ for undermining (EHRC 2016).

The research identifies the impact of this historic policy failure to acknowledge the importance of intersectionality in matters of diversity and the continuing ‘struggle’ between race and gender within British policing. This factor then contributes to the ‘invisibility’ of BME women in policing. In doing so it makes BME women  susceptible to ‘unique tactics’ of bullying and harassment, which contribute to their stymied progression as compared to their white counterparts. These ‘unique tactics’ are underpinned/enhanced by the police ‘organisation’ and enforced by police ‘culture’. The thesis argues, that the failure to ‘grasp’ the issue of bullying and harassment of BME women within British Policingis due, in part, to a lack of effective leadership; which is driven by a ‘crisis management’ culture around issues of race and gender (CRE, 2004, Ghaffur 2004; Rollock, 2010).  Furthermore, the research argues that this situation is compounded by a paucity of research in this area, which contributes to intensifying the perceived and actual ‘invisibility’ of BME women within contemporary UK policing. It is argued within the research to be reflective of a discourse; which perceives and represents black women as ‘subordinate and sexualised’ (Hooks 1982, Carby 1997, Hill Collins 2000). This marks them as ‘prey’ or ‘targets’ within organisational cultures, which value traditional notions of masculinity in which whiteness is valourised. The result of which, has led to the development of ineffective policies, which are vulnerable to undermining and backlash within diverse organisational policing structures. 

Supervision team: Dr. Rob Hornsby and Prof. Irene Hardill



  • Madeleine Le Bourdon

Madeleine -webTitle: What kinds of global citizenship are produced by non-formal international education actors? A case study of CISV International

Summary: My research explores the idea of global citizenship and how it is practiced in a non-formal international education environment. Literature surrounding global citizenship currently focuses on its conceptualisation and the journey of learning through experiential teaching methods. However, gaps remain on the ‘doing’ of global citizenship, the differences in its interpretation across cultures and what happens when these various ideas collide. Using, the international non-governmental organisation, Children International Summer Villages (CISV) as a case study this thesis will seek to understand what happens when different cultures come together to learn about issues such as human rights, sustainable development, diversity and conflict resolution with the aim of fostering the next generation of global citizens. Thus, this research brings together literatures on citizenship, cosmopolitanism, civil society and non-formal education.

Data will be collected from CISV primary ‘Village’ program, where the majority of participants start their CISV ‘journey’ aged 11 in delegations of 2 boys, 2 girls and an adult leader. The Village used will be taking place in Lucknow, in Northern India with participants coming from Brazil, Canada, Japan, India, Norway, Sweden, Thailand and the USA. TSemi-structured interviews with the adult leaders prior and post camp will explore their identification with and relationship to ideas of global citizenship and the impact CISV has upon this.  Ethnographic observation during the camp will provide primary data on how the different cultures act and interact within the environment provided by CISV.   

Supervision team: Professor Matt Baillie-Smith and Dr Darryle Humble

Contact details:; @MaddyLeBourdon



  • Ruth E. Mckie

Ruth -Mckie -StudentTitle: Predicting Variation in Climate Change Counter Movement Organisations

Summary: My project explores the emergence of the climate change counter movement. It examines the messages adopted by these organisations and why these organisations use these types of arguments. Drawing on the critical political economic theory of Hegemony, and the criminological theory Techniques of Neutralisation, it examines the messages in more detail asking what political-economic factors correlate with certain types of techniques of neutralisation. Drawing on findings from a content analysis and exploratory statistical analysis of the messages adopted by over 400 organisations, this research reveals these organisations adopt techniques of neutralisation to criticise and question climate change science and proposed mitigation action. The purpose of adopting these neutralisation techniques is so that the public and politicians also adopt these messages increasing support to resist changes to what I contend is a hegemonic, fossil fuel based political economic system. One of the root causes of climate change. 

Supervision team: Dr Paul Stretesky and Dr Michael Long

Contact; Twitter @ruthmckie1


  •   Chiemezie Nwosu 

Chi Chi _Profile Pix -webTitle: The Role of Social Media in Public Political Communication: A Case Study of the 2015 General Election in Nigeria

Summary: My research focuses on the emerging use of social media as a tool for political communication and mobilisation during elections all around the globe. It seeks to examine the role of social media in the outcome of general elections, with a view to evaluating the magnitude of its impact, if any, within the Nigerian context. Specifically, the study will seek to find out to what extent social media impacts political communication and mobilisation, and to what extent the outcome of the 2015 Nigerian general election in Nigeria can be attributed to social media.

Supervision team: Dr Bruce Mutsvairo and Dr Massimo Ragnedda



  • Eleanor Seaver

Eleanor -webTitle: Participation of Child Beneficiaries living outside the family home in the Global South accepting International Volunteers from the Global North.

Summary: I will research the experiences of children living outside the family home receiving international volunteering services. I will work across cultures in orphanages, refuge and street-situations using a mixture of ethnographic study and systematic data collection from children themselves. This will be done in a way that promotes the child’s freedom to express their opinion on decisions that effect them, using a variety of visual expression and recognition tools.The research aims to:

- Develop a deeper understanding of a child’s experience of care outside the family home through a range of methods gathering qualitative, subjective accounts

- Provide improved beneficiary and setting specific evidence, to the currently confusing picture about the effect of an international volunteers work in child-care

- Promote the importance of Article 12, the child’s right to participation, to empower children in an institutional setting and improve recognition for all stake-holders making decisions which effect these children’s lives

- Investigate patterns / themes / trends in children’s experiences of volunteers provided by International Volunteering Organisations in order to consider implications to improve policy and practice from this

Suprevision team:

Contact details:


  • Martin Ian Smith

Martin -Smith -StudentTitle: “The Scariest Movie of All Time”: Memory, Identity and The Exorcist in Britain

Summary: Oral history methods and archival research will be employed to address a series of theoretical and historical gaps which are intrinsically linked to the reception of The Exorcist in the UK. Interviews will be conducted with the film’s British audiences (from its release in 1974 and more recently) to examine the impact of local censorship and religious identity on audiences’ meaning-making practices. These oral testimonies will add a new dimension to a small but growing field of local censorship studies and provide a valuable into the role of religious identity may play in audience studies, a factor which has yet to be interrogated in any depth in the field despite being a key factor in identity development. This doctoral thesis will draw upon work on cinema memory, theories of religious identity development and audience studies on controversial cinema. It will engage with the New Cinema History movement and provide a new understanding of the place of one controversial film within a lifetime of cinemagoing.

Supervision team: Dr Sarah Ralph and Prof. Peter Hutchings

Contact details:


  • Rebecca Rose Stanton

Rebecca -Stanton -StudentTitle: "And They All Lived Happily Ever After? The Attenuation of Violence towards Non-human Animals in Disney Films".

Summary: Non-human animals exist in almost-every Disney feature film. Sometimes they are the heroes, sometimes they are the villains, and sometimes they are just the background dinner. They are both the clothes and the clothed, the eaters and the eaten, the abused and the abusers. They are always there, sometimes alive, but much more often dead. What is usually missing, however, is the process for how a living animal becomes a dead one, and that is what this research will explore.

This research explores how and why violence towards animals is attenuated in Disney films. For example: Why are we shown Mickey Mouse instead of a violently-tortured laboratory mouse? Why are we told that fur is cruel, but that leather is cool? Why are dogs friendly, but octopuses aggressive? This research will attempt to answer these questions and hopefully pave the way for further research in this field. 

This research explores ideas of children and the media, animal abuse, Disney, speciesism, self-deception/escapism, and anthropomorphisizm. It will also contain original research into the statistics of animals in Disney films. 

Supervision team: Dr Steve Jones and Dr Sarah Ralph


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