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Ms Coco Huggins MPhil

PhD student


Coco is a socioeconomic and political geographer with a focus on the nature of work and welfare provision in the Global North. Her research often intersects with cultural geographies, exploring the interactions between media, literature, film and contemporary sociopolitical discourse in the UK. She has a particular interest in the role of Charles Dickens’s work in the production of popular imaginaries of Victorian poverty and society more broadly. As a practising Christian, she is also interested in how faith influences social policy. Her current research is centred on British welfare reform and austerity post-2010.


  • 2021-present PhD in Geography, University of Cambridge (ESRC Funded)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), 2023
  • 2020-2021 MPhil in Geographical Research, University of Cambridge: “Dickensian Neoliberalism? Exploring a Dickensian Discourse of UK Work and Welfare from 2010 to 2020“, ESRC Funded
  • 2016-2019: BA Geography, Durham University
    • Final Year Dissertation: “Constructing the Geographical Imagination: The Dickensian as a Discourse”


  • MPhil in Geographical Research, University of Cambridge
  • BA (Hons) Geography, Durham University (First Class)

Funding and awards

  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 1 + 3 Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship (2020- present)
  • Searle Reading Prize, Pembroke College, Cambridge (2022)
  • Robin Mills Prize, Durham University (Highest BA Geography Degree/ Second Highest Overall Degree in Undergraduate Geography) (2019)
  • Nominee for the Royal Geographical Society’s (RGS) Historical Research Group Dissertation Award (2019)
  • Runner-Up Corpus Christi College, Cambridge Bacon Politics, Economics and International Relations Essay Competition (2015)
  • Highly Commended, RGS Young Geographer of the Year (2013)
  • Winner, RGS Young Geographer of the Year (2012)


My PhD research focuses on reforms to the benefit system in England instigated as part of UK austerity programmes from 2010 to 2020. It seeks to deconstruct the morals, ideologies and hierarchies embedded within relevant legislation, as well as the surrounding social, political and cultural discourse. My previous work has examined the discourse of “the Dickensian” as a specific distillation of Charles Dickens’s work and “the Victorian” in general, and how it may be used as a lens to analyse the emotional geographies and atmosphere of the austerity. Epistemologically, my research is primarily situated within critical realism, using a hybridisation of critical and Foucauldian discourse analysis to synthesise multiple forms of qualitative data.

Past research subjects include “Soundscaping East Jerusalem: Prosaics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, conceptions of ‘Home’ amongst Durham University Students and Bristol’s status as a European Green Capital.


Conference presentations

  • “Welfare or Workfare? Exploring A Dickensian Discourse of UK Benefit Policy Reform from 2010 to 2020” British Sociological Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, April 2023
  • “This House Believes New Labour Saved Britain” (Debate Speaker) The Cambridge Union, November 2022
  • “The Human(e) Geographer: Emotions, Ethics and Philosophy in Research Practice” RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference, Online, April 2022
  • “Geographers As Culture Vultures” Geographical Association Annual Conference, University of Surrey, April 2022


University of Cambridge Geography Tripos

    • Supervisor:
      • Part 1A: Economic Globalization and Its Crises
      • Part 1B: Inequality
    • Lecturer:
      • Part 1B: Inequality
      • Part 2: Work & Employment
  • Lecturer at the Sutton Trust Summer School, University of Cambridge, August 2022

External activities

  • Gonville & Caius Explore Caius Outreach Programme (2023)
  • Secretary, Royal Geographical Society (RGS) Postgraduate Forum (2022-23)
  • RGS Associate Fellow (2022-)
  • Disabilities Officer, Graduate Parlour Committee (GPC), Pembroke College Cambridge (2021- present)
  • External Co-President, Cambridge University Refugee Scholarship Campaign (2021-22)
  • Chapel Clerk, Pembroke College Cambridge (2020-Present)
  • President, GPC, Pembroke College Cambridge (2020-2021)
  • Student Member, Geography Departmental Lecturer Recruitment Panel, Durham University (2018)