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Dr Samuel Strong MA MPhil PhD

Dr Samuel Strong MA MPhil PhD

Junior Research Fellow in Geography, Homerton College

I am an urban ethnographer working on issues of social and spatial difference. I am interested not simply with measuring the extent of inequality, but rather in thinking critically about why and how inequalities persist. Specifically, I strive to address those social and spatial inequalities often presumed to be 'natural', and seek to interrogate the political work achieved by the various processes that divide and distinguish between people and places.

My current research pursues these theoretical avenues through ethnographic work in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. Arguably the most unequal place in the country, the project seeks to explore the relationality of inequality - specifically, how people divided along material, discursive and intimate geographical boundaries understand and relate to each other through the spatial tapestry of place and everyday life.

I regularly tweet and write about my current research on my website. I also co-convene (with Dr Simon Reid-Henry, QMUL) 'London Inequality Studies', an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on issues of in/equality - and 'Social Power and Mental Health' (with Ed Kiely), an event fostering better dialogue between researchers and those with expertise by experience (funded by CRASSH and the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness).

Biography

Career

  • Sept 2018 - Present: Junior Research Fellow in Geography, Homerton College
  • Sept 2017 - July 2018: Lecturer in Human Geography, School of Geography, QMUL
  • Sept 2017 - Feb 2018: Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • Sept 2016 - Aug 2018: Bye-fellow for Study Skills, Girton College
  • Sept 2016 - Aug 2017: Supervisor of Studies in Geography, Fitzwilliam College
  • Sept 2016 - Aug 2017: Special Supervisor in Geography, Robinson College

Qualifications

  • PhD in Geography (2017), University of Cambridge
  • MPhil in Geographical Research (2013), University of Cambridge
  • MA in Geography (2012), University of Cambridge

Awards and honours

  • Fitzwilliam College Graduate Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2016
  • Fitzwilliam College Senior Graduate Scholar, 2014-15, 2015-16
  • Fitzwilliam College Undergraduate Scholar of the Year, 2012

Research

I am currently working in four broad areas:

Unequal lives

We live in times and spaces of intense inequalities. My current research project (running over the next four years) seeks to understand inequality as an embodied experience that intimately shapes the politics of everyday life. Whilst statistical renderings of inequality abound, we are yet to consider 'unequal lives' from a grounded, qualitative perspective. Through immersive and extended ethnographic methods, this project interrogates the politics of difference in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London - one of the most unequal places in the country. The project experiments with new ways of practising and 'doing' geography through and with people, leading to a range of future outputs, both academic and for a popular audience.

The spatial politics of poverty and austerity

My doctoral research focused on the people and places marginalised from the political, cultural and economic mainstream of Britain by exploring what happens to those left marooned by the 'spatial fixes' of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. Previously, literature has conceptualised these surplus, abject bodies and spaces through either a Marxist framework of exploitation and labour reserves, or through studying the discursive power rendered by the presentation and popular imagination of a 'rabble' or 'underclass'. Instead, my thesis examined how these material and discursive critiques function dialectically, constructing social insecurity and moral failure at the margins of the socio-spatial in order to govern and discipline contemporary society. The thesis constructed a 'people's geography of poverty', engaging with the vernacular forms of resistance, agency and organisation in Britain's most precarious communities in order to build a fuller understanding of the contestation and operation of power and its emergent spatio-temporality. This research was based on fifteen months of immersive ethnographic fieldwork in the Valleys of south Wales, where deindustrialisation, austerity and a narrative of a 'Broken Britain' have shattered lives, communities and places. I am at present preparing the thesis for dissemination via academic publications and a monograph proposal.

The everyday politics of food banking

A strand of research that emerged (and extended beyond) my doctoral work is to do with the politics of food banking in the UK. I worked as both a volunteer and researcher at a food bank in the Valleys of south Wales for over a year, collecting the testimonies of staff, donors, users and local partners in order to theorise their everyday geographical experiences. Specifically, I am interested in the relationship between food insecurity and austerity, the role of food banks as institutions tasked with regulating and surveilling hungry populations, and the emotional and affective geographies that unfold in food bank spaces. I am working on a set of five academic publications to disseminate these findings (four of which can be accessed below).

Place, politics and a people's geography

Given the empirical and theoretical thrust of my research, I am particularly concerned with thinking through the role of the discipline of geography in making space for equality. In surveying the limits to previous work on public and people's geography, I am interested in the ways in which the production of geographical knowledge often ignores and conceals the vernacular language, experiences and testimonies of marginalised people and places. In theorising the notion of a people's geography as methodology, I am in interested in thinking about the unique role geographers can play in not only studying the world around us, but intervening in it.

Publications

[Publications will automatically from the University's publications database...]

Teaching

  • Lecturing: Part IA Geographical Skills and Methods - Ethnographic Methods. Part IB Austerity - Scaling Austerity, Living Austerity, Imaging Austerity, Feeling Austerity. Part II Political Appetites: Geographies of Food and Power - Food Banks and the 'New' Discipline of Hunger; The Politics of Obesity and Responsible Eating
  • Demonstrating: Part IB Human Geography Research Skills - Discourse Analysis and Coding
  • Supervising: Part IA Human Geography: People, Place and the Geographies of Difference (all papers), Part IB Austerity and Affluence; Citizenship, Cities and Civil Society, Part II Political Appetites: Geographies of Food and Power (Technologies of Self-improvement)

External activities

  • Co-convener of 'London Inequality Studies' and 'Social Power and Mental Health'
  • Associate-fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
  • RGS Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (GHWRG) Ordinary Member (2016-2019)
  • RGS Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) Postgraduate Representative (2015-16)
  • Cambridge ESRC-DTC Student Representative (2014-16)