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Policy And The Organisation Of Power. A Roundtable Event Exploring The Constitutive and Productive Nature Of Policy Phenomena, State Practices And Power

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, Malet Street

This roundtable event will reflect on the possibilities of onto-epistemic modes of analysis for understanding policy phenomena (e.g., states, policies, institutions, actors) and the organisation of power across different sites and locations. It brings together critical, interdisciplinary and international scholars (in alphabetical order) John Clarke, Rachael Dobson, Hanna Hilbrandt, Shona Hunter and Tess Lea, who think of policy and the state in social, cultural, affective, relational and constitutive terms. Speakers will deliver individual talks before moving into an 'In Conversation' session and audience Q&A. All are welcome. This is an in person event. If you wish to join virtually, please email Rachael direct,

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  • Dr Rachael Dobson -

    Rachael is a senior lecturer in the Birkbeck Criminology Department, School of Law. She is Leverhulme Research Fellowship Award holder for ‘Where Is The Power? Policy Ontologies In Theory And Practice’, and leads an associated academic network ( and empirical study 'The Understanding Policy Project'. That research investigates senior and strategic UK policy professionals' sense of what policy is and their sense of place and power in policy processes. More broadly, Rachael’s research has involved empirical and theoretical exploration of everyday social practices by policy actors, through a spatial, temporal and affective analysis of welfare institutions at the level of the local state (Dobson 2022; 2020; 2017; 2015).

  • Dr Shona Hunter -

    Shona Hunter is Reader and Research Degrees Director in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University. She is a member of the Centre for Race Education and Decoloniality and the founder of WhiteSpaces. Her scholarly interests are framed through feminist anti-racist decolonial critique and include all aspects of welfare politics and governance, state practices, identities and the broader material-cultural-affective politics through which ‘the’ state(s) is enacted nationally and globally as a global colonial formation. Her publications include Power, Politics and the Emotions: Impossible Governance (Routledge, 2015) and the Routledge Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness (with Christi van der Westhuizen, Routledge, 2021). She is currently working on empirical projects on abolition politics in the state and an art installation 'racialized bodies in discomfort' with Katalin Halász and on pessimism and democracy with Mark Schmitt. Her current single authored book project (working title) White States of Mind: fantasies of power and vulnerability in the academy, develops these interconnected strands of thinking to consider the global colonial production of neoliberal bureaucratic formations in higher education.

  • Emeritus Professor John Clarke -

    John Clarke is an Emeritus Professor at the UK’s Open University. He has been a recurrent Visiting Professor at Central European University and a Leverhulme Emeritus Professor (2019-2022). His latest book, The Battle for Britain: Crises, Conflicts and the Conjuncture, about political-cultural struggles and realignments in the UK, will be published in May 2023 by Bristol University Press.

  • Professor Hanna Hilbrandt -

    Hanna Hilbrandt serves as a Professor in Social and Cultural Geography at the University of Zurich’s (UZH) Geography Department. In addition to researching urban climate finance and governance, Hanna's work explores spaces of mundane transgression, planning conflict, and housing marginality. Her new book Housing in the Margins (Wiley 2021) explores informal dwelling practices in the context of Berlin’s increasingly tight housing market.

  • Professor Tess Lea -

    Tess Lea is an anthropologist who specializes in organizational ethnography and the anthropology of policy, across housing, health, infrastructure and creative industries. Her book Wild Policy: Indigeneity and the Unruly Logics of Intervention (2020; Stanford University Press) introduces new ways of thinking about policy ontologies across both theory and practice.