skip to primary navigation skip to content
 

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.

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 three academic publications to disseminate these findings (the first of which, 'Food banks, actually existing austerity and the localisation of responsibility,' 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

Selected publications

Recent lecture, conference and seminar papers

  • "Food banks beyond the 'face of austerity'? Thinking through emotions, scale and intersecting inequalities" Feminist Engagements with Austerity, University of Bristol, January 2019
  • "On being precarious" The Post-wage Economy: Re-theorising 'Work' across the Global North-South Divide, School of Geography, QMUL, June 2018
  • "Unequal Lives: Inequality, place and the politics of difference" Staff Research Conference School of Geography, QMUL, April 2018
  • "Shameful subsistence: The emotional geographies of food banking" Food Poverty in the UK: Taking Stock and Moving Forwards KCL, April 2018
  • "Food banks and the spaces of affective governmentality" Research Seminar Series School of Geography, QMUL (invited seminar), December 2017
  • "Against a poverty of aspiration: Neoliberal governmentality, surplus labour and the organised abandonment of place" Human Geography Seminar Series Department of Geography, UCL (invited seminar), November 2017
  • "Deprived life? Re-placing poverty" RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2017 London, August 2017
  • "Fieldwork and a people's geography" Political Geography Research Group Workshop Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University, June 2017
  • "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

Teaching

  • 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

  • Co-convener of 'London Inequality Studies' (find out more here)
  • 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 onwards)
  • RGS Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) Postgraduate Representative (2015-16)
  • Cambridge ESRC-DTC Student Representative (2014-16)
  • Cambridge ESRC-DTC Student Conference Committee Member 2016