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Samuel Strong, BA MPhil

Samuel Strong, BA MPhil

PhD Candidate at the Department of Geography and Fitzwilliam College

My research examines the spatial politics of social abandonment in contemporary Britain through a focus on biopolitics, abjection and social insecurity. By exploring the everyday politics of poverty and the sorting of impoverished bodies in depressed and depressing spaces, I work to uncover the institutional, cultural and imaginative landscape assaying and governing the poor and disadvantaged. Specifically, my research seeks to identify the forms of agency which emerge in marginalised people's everyday experiences of abandonment and survival, and to challenge readings of poverty as moral and individual failure by instead focusing on historical and contemporary issues of space, class, gender, health and ethnicity.



  • MPhil in Geographical Research (2013), University of Cambridge
  • BA in Geography (2012), University of Cambridge

Awards and honours

  • Fitzwilliam College Senior Graduate Scholar, 2014-15, 2015-16
  • Fitzwilliam College Undergraduate Scholar of the Year, 2012


My current research focuses 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 work examines 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. Crucially, it seeks to study the 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 is being undertaken through an immersive ethnography in Blaenau Gwent, in the Valleys of South Wales where deindustrialisation, welfare cuts and a narrative of a 'Broken Britain' have shattered lives, communities and places.

My earlier research developed these conceptual directions in political and cultural geography through very different studies. I recently completed a project re-reading the English riots of 2011 which connected the acts of abandon that Summer with their context of social abandonment – contextual geographies and histories which have been all but ignored in mainstream accounts. Elsewhere, I have undertaken an ethnographic research project into the lived geographies of ME/CFS sufferers in the UK which revealed a world not just punctuated by a debilitating health condition, but one marked by demonisation, abandonment, an 'abrasive' relationship with space and non-linear constructions of the public and the private. Together, this research revealed not only the role of space and geography in the re-negotiation of the relationship between bodies, communities, states and markets, but also the spatiality of forms of resistance and agency – findings which will further underpin my current research.


Selected publications

Lecture, conference and seminar papers

  • "Populism, protest or the persistence of poverty? On placing Brexit" The Chorley Society Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, March 2017
  • "Inequality, Brexit, Geography" Inequality, Brexit and More Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, January 2017
  • "Shameful subsistence: Encounters with austerity at the food bank" RGS-IBG Annual Conference London, August 2016
  • "The struggle for care in austere times: The mental health 'drop-in' as a gateway to therapeutic landscapes" ENRGHI 2016 University of Glasgow, June 2016
  • "Shameful subsistence: Encountering austerity at the food bank" Austerity: Local and Global Manchester Metropolitan University, April 2016
  • "Skivers and strivers, shirkers and workers: Anti-welfare common sense, territorial stigmatisation and the deserving and undeserving poor" Graduate Research Forum Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, April 2016
  • "Realising a right to food? UK food banks and austerity biopolitics" Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting San Francisco, April 2016
  • "Food banks as an emergent biopolitics?" Royal Geographical Society Postgraduate Forum Department of Geography, University of Newcastle, March 2016
  • "Geographies of inequality" Fitzwilliam Geography Society Seminar Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, February 2016
  • "The spatial politics of aspiration" Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group Seminar Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, November 2015
  • "'You can't survive on pride alone': Shameful subsistence and the everyday politics of the food bank" Fitzwilliam College Graduate Forum Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, October 2015
  • "Shameful subsistence? The everyday politics of the food bank" Political Geography Research Group Workshop Department of Geography, University of Birmingham, June 2015
  • "Theories on food banks, food banks in theory" Cambridge ESRC Student Conference Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, April 2015
  • "The spatial politics of poverty and social abandonment" Graduate Research Forum Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, January 2014
  • "Landscapes of chronic illness" Solihull and South Birmingham ME Support Group Birmingham, July 2013
  • "Re-reading the English Riots of 2011" Fitzwilliam College 1869 Foundation Address Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, May 2013
  • "Re-politicising the spatial politics of social abandonment" Graduate Research Forum, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, March 2013


  • Lecturing: Part IA Geographical Skills and Methods - Ethnographic Methods; 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

  • RGS Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) Postgraduate Representative (2015-16)
  • Cambridge ESRC-DTC Student Representative (2015-16)
  • RGS Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (GHWRG) Ordinary Member (2016 onwards)