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Who we are

Find out more about the scholars and academic staff that make up the Society and Environment Research Group.

Senior members

Visiting researchers

PhD researchers

Every year we attract the best PhD students to contribute to our ongoing research.  Read more about SERG PhD researchers below: 

Michael Mikulewicz

My research studies the various processes that influence how local communities in developing countries respond to climate-related impacts (such as droughts, floods, and sea level rise). Specifically, I am interested in the political, economic, and social effects that adaptation projects funded by aid agencies (including branches of the UN) have on local communities, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

Critical climate scholars have noted that adaptation can have unequal effects on the affected communities  and thus can produce local “winners and losers”. However, externally-funded adaptation projects aiming to increase people’s readiness for climate impacts have often ignored or even reinforced this inequality.

At this stage of my research, I am exploring the potential for analysing the effects these projects may have on local communities by the use of the post-political critique.  This approach presupposes a condition of post-political governance under which local adaptation projects enable democratic participation of stakeholders, while at the same time disavowing internal conflicts among them. Instead, they promote techno-managerial and expert-based solutions that limit space for dissensus.

One potential result of this post-political condition is that communities are deprived of their political power, which may actually work to reinforce intra-community inequalities].  Empirically, my work will explore how post-political governance manifests itself through selected adaptation projects in sub-Saharan Africa, and what strategies of repoliticisation could be theorised and implemented to ensure external adaptation interventions are more equitable in their outcomes.

Cait Robinson

My project is part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Power Networks, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The research will map vulnerability to fuel poverty within the UK, forecasting future demand for energy on this basis. Mapping will incorporate both qualitative and quantitative techniques and allow for consideration of the complex spatial, social and political dimensions associated with future scenarios of increased or decreased fuel poverty.

The research aims to inform the development of network infrastructure in the UK, enabling policy to adapt to the multiple uncertainties associated with future demand for energy. 

Gabriele Schliwa

Investigating how collaborative innovation research drives sustainable urban development, my PhD focuses on how digital technology facilitates a modal shift towards cycling at the individual and city level. It explores the potential for apps and sensors to make visible the invisible to address equality issues in urban governance. It will contribute to debates concerning the role of citizens in smart city design as well as emerging sustainable business concepts to co-create solutions for liveable and resilient cities.

Building upon a pilot project at The University of Manchester, conducted as part of the Manchester Cycling Lab, the research will follow an urban living lab approach that seeks to connect academic research with civic society, public and private sector needs through a mixture of qualitative, quantitative and action-led methods.

Craig Thomas

My research looks at the case of proposed shale gas development, or ‘fracking’ at the Barton Moss site in the City of Salford, which represents a new energy landscape in the city-region of Greater Manchester. It asks how people and stakeholders both relate and respond (or not) to the proposed development.

To build a theoretical framework, I have drawn on research into neoliberalisation, risk society and post-politics, using energy landscapes as a lens to draw out issues of place and citizenship.

Mark Usher

Broadly drawing upon aspects of political geography, political ecology and material culture studies, particularly in relation to the work of Michel Foucault, my research historically traces and contemporarily critiques the complex links between nature, infrastructure and the state. My overarching argument is that through the government of nature, in both a physical and conceptual sense, the nature of government is performed, concretised and consolidated; the state materialises and is naturalised in the process of governing the relations between human subjects and their environment.

Using water governance in Singapore as a case study, I argue that the modern state was consolidated and subsequently decentralised through the material configuration of drainage infrastructure, reservoirs and distribution systems, where governmental programmes have been co-produced with the technological networks of water circulation. 

Joe Williams

Large-scale seawater desalination has emerged as a significant alternative water source for metropolitan regions wishing to augment or supplement their freshwater supply. This energy-intense and expensive technology, although offering a drought and climate-proof water source option, represents a technical ‘fix’ that does not address the deeper contradictions of energy and water consumption.

My research offers critical insights on the water-energy nexus, an emerging body of literature that considers the interrelations, tensions and synergies between two sectors that have traditionally been considered as distinct. The contradictory and contested relations of the nexus are excavated through an empirical analysis of large-scale seawater desalination in San Diego and Baja California.