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Dr Harry Pettit

Research Fellow

Department: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Harry joined Northumbria in December 2021 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. Harry completed his PhD in human geography and urban studies at the London School of Economics in early 2018 and has held a series of teaching and research postdocs at the University of the West of England, Oxford, Newcastle, and Reading Universities. 

Harry Pettit

I am interested in what forms of labour are emerging to sustain precarious urban life around the world, and how those labours feed into the production of new inequalities and forms of accumulation. 

I explore these empirical issues in the Middle East and UK combining an ethnographic methodological approach with a conceptual focus on the grounded emotional and moral politics of new forms of labour. 

My research is split into three projects:

1. I am finishing a book which follows the troubled pursuit of a stable career and durable intimacy among a group of educated underemployed young men in post-revolutionary Egypt. It traces the emotional labours - and in particular which keep alive a sense of hope - that enable them to keep on providing their bodies to a labour market that produces a disconnect between aspirations and reality. By maintaining a focus on the individual and away from structural issues in Egypt's economy, the book argues that this emotional labour - while enabling these young men to survive - also reproduces legitimacy for a contemporary Egyptian capitalist regime which produces high levels of precarity and inequality.

2. Using six months of ethnographic fieldwork during the Covid-19 pandemic in a food bank in northwest London, I suggest that food banks constitute a form of 'makeshift' welfare in contemporary Britain. It is a form of welfare organised according to the political economic and moral logics of temporariness, scarcity, and uncertainty. In a series of publications currently in process, I examine the consequences of the organisation of food aid according to these logics for imaginaries of state-citizen relations.

3. The project that I will be carrying out during my Leverhulme research fellowship at Northumbria is an ethnography of emerging forms of platform or gig work in Beirut, Lebanon. Amidst the backdrop of an economic crisis, I will examine how platforms present themselves as a flexible, creative, entrepreneurial solution to structural unemployment - producing an atmosphere of hope and positivity - and how workers are experiencing this form of 'self-employment' on a daily basis in ways that reinforce and challenge the excitement presented within platform companies. 


  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Encountering Berlant part two: Cruel and other optimisms, Anderson, B., Awal, A., Cockayne, D., Greenhough, B., Linz, J., Mazumdar, A., Nassar, A., Pettit, H., Roe, E., Ruez, D., Salas Landa, M., Secor, A., Williams, A. 1 Mar 2023, In: The Geographical Journal
  • Introduction: Hope, labour, disconnection, Pettit, H. 1 Oct 2021, In: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
  • Uncomfortable ethnography: Navigating friendship and ‘cruel hope’ with Egypt's disconnected middle-class, Pettit, H. 1 Aug 2020, In: Emotion, Space and Society
  • Migration as hope and depression: existential im/mobilities in and beyond Egypt, Pettit, H., Ruijtenberg, W. 3 Sep 2019, In: Mobilities
  • The cruelty of hope: Emotional cultures of precarity in neoliberal Cairo, Pettit, H. 1 Aug 2019, In: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
  • Hopeful City: Meritocracy and Affect in Global Cairo, Pettit, H. 1 Nov 2018, In: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Philosophy PhD January 10 2018

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