Accessibility statement

Melissa Thomas

Research project

Living on the Edge: Precarity and Resilience in the Heritage of Fisherfolk and Fish

Supervisors: Professor Emma Waterton and Dr Tanja Hoffmann

Funded by: Leverhulme Trust

Summary of research project:

My PhD is part of the ‘Inclusions/Exclusions’ axis of the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre, which explores the complex relations between heritage and society in contemporary Britain. My PhD aims to understand how experiences of exclusion, inclusion and precarity impact relationships with heritage through the lens of current and former fishing communities in the UK. I am focussing on how gender and class impact interactions with heritage. I am also interested in the political and environmental contexts of fishing in the Anthropocene and in the experiences of precarity, liminality and loss amongst fisherfolk and fish in the past and present. I will work with two case study communities in the UK, as well as visiting a range of fishing villages across Britain. The co-production of data with these communities will play an important part in my PhD. I will also use secondary data, especially in the form of oral histories, to supplement my research.


I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh in History and Archaeology in 2020. My dissertation focussed on the preservation of a World War II heritage site in the Shetland Islands and the attitudes of the local community towards it. I received my MPhil in Heritage Studies from the University of Cambridge in 2021. My dissertation investigated the emotional and psychological affects of archaeological ruins on their local communities. I carried out fieldwork for this project in Shetland, where alongside interviews I utilised participant produced drawings as a way to express emotions about heritage that might be difficult to put into words. I have worked as a commercial archaeologist in the UK, as well as taking part in research excavations in the UK and Europe. My research interests are primarily in rural and maritime heritage, contemporary archaeology, the importance of memory and emotion, and community heritage and participatory practices.



Contact details

Melissa Thomas
Department of Archaeology
University of York
Kings Manor (G65)