ESRC Network studentship

Posted on 5 February 2018

ESRC Network studentship

The Department of Politics is delighted to offer one PhD scholarship (UK / EU tuition fees + stipend at UK research council rates), funded by the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership Network Awards. The successful candidate will join a network of two other PhD students, academic supervisors across the White Rose Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, and public and voluntary sector partners. The network, entitled Brexit’s Aftermaths: Contesting Insecurities, will focus on the way in which individuals, communities and civil society groups are negating Brexit’s multiple after-effects in everyday life. The studentship is available to outstanding students interested in conducting research on the digital contestation of incivility post-Brexit.

Project title: Brexit, incivility and digital contestation

Principal Supervisor: Alexandra Hall, Department of Politics, University of York

Co-Supervisor: Nishat Awan, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield.

Project description: The circulation of narratives, imagery and statistical ‘evidence’ via digital social media (like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is vital to the impact of any contemporary political or social campaign. Formulating powerful visual and discursive messages, and disseminating them in ways that impact media platforms, is crucial to participating in contemporary public debate. In our era of ‘post-truth’ politics and online ‘echo chambers’, the evidence shows that social media and online communities facilitate the narrowing and hardening of socio-political views, as well as the expression of hate and discrimination. But if digital worlds are significant new spaces for experiencing xenophobia, prejudice and harassment, they are also significant new spaces for countering these issues. Amidst rising recent concern about the use of social media and digital fora to spread and foster hard-line views, this project will generate new knowledge about the shape and form of the digital counter-strategies to insecurity, incivility and xeno-racism. How do civil society groups formulate and disseminate alternative visual and discursive messages (of acceptance, kindness, inclusivity) via digital platforms? What kind of messages succeed? And why?

Project objectives:

  • To describe and map the ‘new frontiers’ of anti-racist, anti-xenophobic and anti-exclusionary activity by social movements and civil society groups. How are these groups logging and countering (via digital tools or otherwise), the multi-scalar (micro)aggressions that contribute to individual and community insecurity in contemporary UK society? How can new technologies offer ways to map differently uncivil action in ways that empower those who experience (and advocate against) it?
  • To analyse the mediated discursive and visual language of emerging contemporary digital counter-narratives. What constitutes an intervention?
  • To contribute to critical and interdisciplinary conceptual reflection on the reach (and limits) of established languages of cohesion/inclusivity – e.g. cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism, solidarity – within civil society’s counter-politics. Are we seeing new discursive formulations and articulations?

Network overview

Brexit’s Aftermaths: Contesting Insecurities

The 2016 UK vote to leave the EU is the most seismic political event for a generation, bringing with it reconfigured political, social and economic futures. The vote unveiled widespread anxieties about the economy, the welfare state, social cohesion and immigration. It also, importantly, unleashed a series of ricocheting insecurities that are permeating intimate, domestic and public spaces for citizens and non-citizens alike. These insecurities are not wholly novel in origin: they are best understood as reformulations of intractable and longstanding racial, religious, ethnic and class divisions in UK society. Nevertheless, the leave vote has been accompanied by novel spikes in hostile and uncivil attitudes towards difference in UK (and beyond). Current uncertainties for citizens and non-citizens pose a profound, and perhaps unforeseen, threat to individual, familial, community and national confidence, ontological security and wellbeing. The challenge is to contest contemporary divisions in novel, creative and productive ways.

This network will generate new knowledge about the emerging frontiers, spaces and discourses of contestation in Brexit’s aftermaths. It takes seriously the idea that the leave vote poses a serious challenge for established narratives of inclusion, like multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, solidarity and post-national identity. It also takes seriously the idea that individuals, communities and civil society groups face new challenges (but also have new opportunities) to negate the multiple effects of the Brexit’s after-effects in everyday life. At this juncture, social science research about the efforts to counter Brexit’s deleterious fall-out has an important role to play in national debate about the future of an inclusive UK outside Europe. Research also needs to be responsive to the multi-scalar effects of insecurities – from intimate family lives to public urban spaces and social media. Moreover, research must acknowledge that countering the ‘new’ politics of insecurity in UK society necessitates strategies that exceed established binaries of solidarity/hostility, inclusion/exclusion, citizen/other, precarious/secure. These shared ideas underpin the proposed PhD projects, which are focused on three scales of analysis: civil society, public space and the intimate.

Applying for the scholarship


  • A First Class or Upper Second Class undergraduate degree or Master’s degree in a relevant social science subject is essential
  • Prior training and experience in qualitative research and/or ethnography is desirable.
  • Prior experience working with non-academic government and/or civil society groups is desirable.
  • Advanced training in Social Science Research Methods is a plus.
  • A background and/or engagement in interdisciplinary critical scholarship is highly desirable.
  • An interest/experience in innovative social science research and methods is desirable.

How to apply:

Please email the following to

  • CV
  • Transcripts for degrees obtained
  • Statement of motivation in relation to the proposed research project (2 sides of A4 maximum) explaining your reasons for wanting to undertake the research, the alignment of your interests with the project, and relevant skills and experience.
  • A sample of written work (e.g. undergraduate or MA essay)

The deadline for applications is 5pm on 9th March 2018.

Interviews will be held during the week commencing Monday 19th March. Applicants called to interview will be expected to provide two academic references and evidence of IELTS/TOEFL if English is not the first language.
Details about the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership and eligibility criteria can be found here. Please read the eligibility criteria carefully before submitting your application.

Informal enquiries to