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Culture, Identity and Inequality

The Chola Bourgeoisie: Processes of displacement, identity and urban change in the Global South

  • Principal Investigator: Dr Kate Maclean
  • Funder: Leverhulme Fellowship (2015-17)
  • Building on Dr Kate Maclean’s previous work in La Paz, Bolivia, and its satellite city El Alto, this project will explore how patterns of urban accumulation, dispossession and displacement in these locations challenge the way that such processes – often summarised by the word ‘gentrification’ – are generally conceived.

SINGLE: gender, space and cultural encounter in Delhi and Shanghai

  • Principal Investigator: Dr Melissa Butcher
  • Funder: HERA/AHRC (2013-2016)
  • In a collaboration between Dr Melissa Butcher and European partners Prof. Christiane Brosius (University of Heidelberg) and Prof. Jeroen De Kloet (University of Amsterdam), SINGLE aims to document the experiences of women living and working in Delhi and Shanghai.
  • The idea of 'singleness' at the centre of the project reflects social and demographic transformation, the impact of globalisation, cultural and urban change in both cities. Using ethnographic, mobile and visual methodologies, the research re-positions singleness as a category relevant to collective identity and subjectivity (e.g. loneliness or independence), and as a phenomenon that women move into and out of throughout their lives.
  • Exploring the specific as well as similarities in both cities to extend comparative urban theory, the research sites are linked by themes of autonomy, respectability, precarity and the shifting boundaries between public and private space. Visual methods are central to this work and collaboration with artists in Shanghai and Delhi will culminate in public events in both cities as well as a final exhibition in Amsterdam in late 2016. Future publications can be found on BIROn.

Au pairing after the au pair scheme

  • Principal Investigator: Professor Rosie Cox
  • Funder: ESRC
  • The aim of this two-year ESRC funded project was to provide evidence about the experiences of au pairs and host families in the UK since the ending of the au pair visa in November 2008. This change was important because it reduced government control of the au pair scheme and there is evidence that numbers of au pairs have been growing in a decreasingly regulated environment. Au pairs are now one of the cheapest and least regulated forms of in-home labour and are relied on by many thousands of households, yet little was known about au pairs in the UK or the people who host them. For many families in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, the solution to the problem of balancing work and home life is to rely on the low waged labour of migrant women to perform domestic labour.
  • This project therefore, brought together two important issues for contemporary society - women's changing relationship to the home and the growth in labour migration. Au pairs are particularly invisible to the official gaze because they are not technically 'employed' but occupy a liminal position between workers, students and working holidaymakers. Since the ending of the au pair visa there is effectively no official data gathered on au pairs in the UK. Our project gathered quantitative data from advertisements for au pairs and qualitative data through interviews with au pairs, hosts and key actors in the sector.
  • Download the findings sheet from this project.

FGM, Social Media and Online Activism

  • Principal Investigator: Dr Christina Julios
  • Book project: Routledge/Taylor Francis (2017-18)
  • The research being undertaken for this book explores the phenomenon of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) through a virtual prism, framing FGM as a harmful cultural practice and a Human Rights violation. The volume is underpinned by a feminist perspective critical of patriarchal cultures advocating FGM, its ‘medicalisation’ and wider online manifestations such as cyber-misogyny. The volume draws from social movement theory and virtual ethnography literature in order to examine current trends in gender activism as well as the challenges inherent in conducting research in cyberspace. Fieldwork for the volume includes twenty interviews with anti-FGM activists and practitioners working to eradicate FGM both in the UK and abroad.