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Research Projects


The Global Lives Research Centre projects in the 2019-20 academic year will be updated soon.

The Global Lives Research Centre engaged in the following projects in the 2018-19 academic year: 

Care for the Future: The Legacy of the Newbolt Report, led by Andrew Green

This cluster was funded in 2017/2018 but is ongoing:

Cluster leaders Andrew Green and David Aldridge convened a symposium, ‘100 Years After Newbolt’, at Friends’ House in July 2018.  It is approaching 100 years since Sir Henry Newbolt was commissioned to write his report ‘The Teaching of English in England’. Following closely on the heels of Fisher’s Education Act, which sought in the immediate wake of the First World War to extend the duration, availability and quality of educational provision and also the establishment of the first English Literature tripos at Cambridge, Newbolt sought to establish a new function and direction for English as a subject in the twentieth century.

The report anticipated contemporary educational debates, observing that ‘others, urging that knowledge is power, load the youthful mind with more than it can properly assimilate’, that ‘Learning by doing is another concurrent educational gospel’, and that ‘there is a danger that a true instinct for humanism may be smothered by the demand for measurable results, especially the passing of examinations in a variety of subjects…’ Newbolt called for a reconception of ‘the full meaning and possibilities of national education as a whole’ and advocated the central role of literary education in bridging ‘the social chasms which divide us’.

Keynote speakers included Professor Will Self, Professor Robert Eaglestone of Royal Holloway London, Dr Chris Hanley of Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Alka Seghal Cuthbert.  Speakers presented their personal responses to Newbolt and their sense of the extent to which his report has shaped and continues to shape contemporary thinking about English teaching in schools and in Higher Education. The event stimulated lively debate about ‘where we are’ in terms of English Education, how far English Education has developed since Newbolt, and how far this in fact reflects the needs of English in the twenty-first century.  The symposium has resulted in the formation of a network of researchers interested in exploring the legacy of the Newbolt report, as well as a related special issue of the journal English in Education.  The symposium also served as a launch event for the new Routledge Literature and Education book series, edited by Brunel colleagues Andrew Green and David Aldridge. 


Craft in a Digital Age: Cultural Value and Mainstream Computer Animation, led by Caroline Ruddell

The upcoming AHRC Centre for Cultural Value speaks to the current preoccupation in society, industry and academia with how we value the arts. This is a multi-faceted and deeply complex problem and one that requires interdisciplinary approaches. With a particular focus on animation practices in the mainstream industries, the network events proposed here are intended to begin scoping out the issues that animators face in the current climate of ‘CGI fatigue’ and how their work is valued. Recent work suggests that while craft has historically been seen as inferior to ‘art’, the rise of digital culture has positioned craft and handmade practices as more ‘authentic’ than that which is produced digitally. These are deeply problematic distinctions and concepts that have been explored elsewhere (see Ruddell & Ward, forthcoming). The focus of the network meetings proposed here is to formulate a research plan that will enable us to answer some key questions, and to begin widening the network of stakeholders. The central aim is to better understand mainstream animators’ relationship to their craft (both handmade and digital), how they value such practices, and how their skills are valued within the industry they work in and beyond. While some work has been done in exploring more independent and experimental animation in relation to craft-based practices, this remains unexplored in the mainstream. The main objectives are: to begin making connections between historical research into craft as a concept and the contemporary context of mainstream animation by bringing together historians, scholars, practitioners, industry personnel, curators and other stakeholders; to begin facilitating an international, comparative perspective on the key ideas, issues and questions around the role of craft in mainstream animation; to consider how best to investigate how gender politics intersect with craft-based practices in the mainstream.

Critical policy analysis of the 1988 Education Reform Act: The implications for higher education in England, led by Kate Hoskins

The proposed pilot study aims to provide critical policy analysis of the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA) to show how the act opened up higher education to neoliberal market influences through changes to the structure, delivery, accountability and regulation of the sector and any tensions these changes created for the social justice, widening participation policy agenda. To guide our research, we have developed the following research questions:
  1. To what extent does successive government’s higher education policy since the 1988 ERA reflect an increasingly hybrid mix of neo-liberal and social democratic aspirations to improve social justice access and outcomes in higher education?

To address this research question we will deploy critical policy analysis guided by Foucauldian principles, supported by empirical semi-structured interview data, to analyse the hybrid mix of policy that we argue has developed since the 1988 ERA.

  1. Through critical policy analysis of key policy moments since the 1988 ERA, how have regimes of power, control and regulation of higher education in England been reconfigured through the 1988 ERA? 

To explore this research question we will analyse nine key frameworks (outlined in the design section) since the 1988 ERA with a focus on examining how power, control and regulation within the sector has been reconfigured over time to allow third sector providers into higher education in England.

  1. What has been the long-term significance of the 1988 ERA on social justice issues of access to particular forms of higher education for historically marginalised groups (women, working class, minoritized and mature students)?

To address this research question, we will draw on empirical data involving semi-structured interviews with up to 12 university leaders from a range of higher education institutions, to examine their perspectives and institutional experiences of enacting social justice policies since the 1988 ERA to diversify their student bodies, particularly through the widening participation agenda.

In addressing these research questions, we will provide a nuanced and critical policy analysis of the 1988 Education Reform Act in terms of the implications for the structure, delivery, regulation and accountability within the higher education sector.

Open Data and Investigative Journalism in the UK, led by Jingrong Tong

Over the recent decade, the UK has been at the forefront of the open data movement. The initiatives of the UK government to make government data publicly available have greatly spurred the movement. Open data has provided investigative journalists with enormous data sources to hold power to account, although which may not be the goals of government initiatives. Investigative journalism has evidently (re-)emerged in the UK, in parallel with the rise of the open data movement. A considerable number of socially and politically influential investigative reports published in recent years, such as the MPs’ expenses scandal (by the Daily Telegraphand the Guardian) in 2009, more recently the revelation of consultants overcharging (foreign aid budget) (by the Times) in 2016, the disclosure of the impact of refuge funding cuts on vulnerable women (by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) in 2017 and the Guardian’s series of rape and sexual assault reports in 2018, confirm the return of investigative journalism to the UK media landscape. Open data is at the centre of these reports, which are based on data-driven investigation. The investigation of journalists in turn pushes governments to open up public data, as exemplified in the 2016 MPs’ expenses scandal. All of these raise an important question as to whether and how investigative journalism benefits from and meanwhile influences the open data movement in the UK. This research project aims to examine how British investigative journalists use open data in their (data-driven) reporting. It also explores whether and to what extent this type of use of open data by investigative journalists helps push public data holders to open up data in the UK.

Teaching and learning children’s rights and integration through play, led by Mariza Dima

This cluster explores the use of a mobile game as a tool for helping migrant children learn about their rights, reflect on the values of the society in which they find themselves and in this manner, encourage their smooth integration. Migrant children are really vulnerable. Together with all other initiatives to provide them shelter and education, it is imperative to empower them while encouraging their true integration in the society. Bringing together experts in international minority rights law, children’s rights, game-based learning, and game design,and in collaboration with the Network for Children’s Rights in Athens (Greece), the cluster will develop a prototype mobile game that aims at both empowerment and integration. It will do so through a series of activities and game development with the actual contribution of migrant children currently supported by the Network. It is lead by Dr Mariza Dima from Media Department and Prof Alexandra Xanthaki from Brunel Law School.

The Vagina Network, led by Sara De Benedictis

Sensationlist discussions on the vagina through the mainstreaming of pornography, the 'designer vagina' or female genital cutting are increasing in public discourse. However, the vagina is still shrouded in a sense of mystery and the complexities of how menstruation, childbirth, age, sexuality and illness, 'etc' intersects with vaginal understandings are rare, which has far reaching consequences for women's wellbeing. The Vagina Network will bring together academics, artists, creatives and activists to discuss the multi-faceted angles of the vagina. The aim being to foster collaborations with vagina experts to create a broader project that will create alternative understandings and images of the vagina to challenge dominant discourses of this much misunderstood body part.

The Crossing Borders, led by Alison Carrol

Issues of borders, heritage, identities, migration, and belonging reflect pressing challenges currently facing global society, as social and political discussion increasingly focuses upon the reinforcement of boundaries, questions of migration and immigration, and issues of belonging and the ‘other.’ It is our contention these issues generate questions which require an interdisciplinary answer.

This cluster brings together Brunel researchers from across the College of Business, Arts and Humanities. Our members share an interest in the central questions of borders, heritage, migration, identities and belonging, and our cluster aims to cultivate dialogue and generate new answers to these questions by means of interdisciplinary exchange. Through a series of workshops and network meetings, we will address the following research problems:

  • How have border crossings and migratory flows been recorded, understood, represented and narrated?
  • How have these crossings framed identities (of crossers and those they encounter)?
  • How does the past shape current experiences of place and of movement?
  • How do interactive experiences embody and mediate narratives in the performance of cultural heritage?
  • What is the relationship between the local and the global in framing these experiences?
  • Who mediates such experiences?

By crossing disciplinary borders our aim is to facilitate innovative research, foster and promote exchange, and to create research networks, funding bids, and support academic and industry outputs that offer strategic interventions in our fields. We aim to generate new ways of thinking about the role of borders in contemporary society, at a moment when global political attention is focussed upon their reinforcement and closure.

Male (Un)Bonding: Men, Masculinities, and Homosocial Troubles, led by Broderick Chow

A Research Development Workshop and Interdisciplinary Networking Event, 13-15 June 2019, London

In 2019, the relations between men—homosociality and its troubles and attractions—demand urgent interrogation. Acts, relations, and performances of male bonding can reify patriarchal power, as we have seen in the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or amplify and even produce highly destructive forms of racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic in-grouping (as with phenomenon such as the Alt-Right and neo-Nazi Proud Boys). At the same time, positive homosociality holds strong attraction for contemporary culture, with male intimacy being suggested as a strong corrective to “toxic masculinity.”

Male (Un)Bonding is a three-day workshop and networking event bringing together a select group for researchers working on the study of contemporary and historical masculinities from multiple disciplines and scholarly backgrounds to consider the urgent question of the relationality of masculinities. How might we move past masculinity as identity to think through the relations that produce and support it? How might destructive forms of masculinity be interrogated via the concept of relationality? Can we identify forms of homosocial interrelations outside the hetero-homosexual binary, and how might these model new ways of being together? Over the course of three days, researchers will be “in residence” at a central London venue. Researchers will take part in round-table discussions, project and funding sandpits, and other activities, as well as having sustained and focused time to work on a piece of writing. The workshop will conclude with a half-day symposium of work-in-progress. 

Dr Broderick Chow (Arts and Humanities, Brunel University London) and Dr Eero Laine (Theatre and Dance, University at Buffalo SUNY) will lead and facilitate the workshop, which will also launch their new collaborative research project, Bros: Obvious Masculinity and Homosocial Performance.

Play your research: Games and research impact, led by Andra Ivanescu

“Play your Research” is entering its second year as a Global Lives funded research cluster. The aim of the cluster is to use digital games as a method for portraying and disseminating academic knowledge to a wide audience. By drawing on previous research into games-based learning and games for change, which have demonstrated how games can be successfully used to communicate and disseminate knowledge, the cluster has already produced three games based on research being conducted across the university. So far, we have succeeded in connecting research outputs from Theatre and Sociology, to the well-developed capacity to make games within the staff and student body of the Games Design division. Groups of student volunteers worked on the three projects, both as part of the Octopus 8 summer project, and during intensive game jams. Each of the three games was then developed using a holistic and iterative approach in order to best represent each research project in terms of scope, tone, and accuracy. All the games are now near completion, which brings us to the next stage in this process.

As part of the continuation of the project, we aim to test the results of the first year and share them both within the university and with the larger public. We will be inviting students and members of staff, first internally and then externally in a larger event, to play the games and offer their feedback. If you would like to join our project, either through playtesting, or by proposing your own research as a future games project, please let us know. For more information contact Andra Ivănescu at andra.ivanescu@brunel.ac.uk.


The Global Lives Research Centre engaged in the following projects in 2017-18 academic year: 

Cultural and Creative Industries, led by Photini Vrikki

Roundtable CCI EventThe Cultural and Creative Industries cluster organised a workshop with the title: Who sets the Public Agenda? The Cultural and Creative Industries in the era of populism on the 8th June 2018. The event set the grounds for the creation of a research network of BUL academics from different disciplines and career stages (particularly ECRs), practitioners, activists and industry professionals. We also initiated and facilitated an on-going conversation about the role(s) of the CCIs in the contemporary political world, while we are currently planning a special issue based on the papers presented during the workshop.

The workshop dealt specifically with the intense and accelerated political shifts that have marked the global political landscape in recent years and which have been met with a rise of voices from the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs). Celebrities, singers, actors and industry representatives have spoken out against—or for—the rise of far-right and conservative leaderships encouraging people to incite social and political change. For example, this has been visible from mainstream movie stars and pop singers bandying together; grime artists backing #Grime4Corbyn to remixers like Cassetteboy; celebrities standing against Trump; the ‘populism’ of the Royal family; game developers producing games that deal with contentious issues that ignite social change, to name only a few examples.
We argued that the convergence of these diverse populist tactics in the CCIs has created new modalities, leading to a point whereby CCIs are more than ever shaping the public agenda. The workshop also pointed to the multi-dimensional role the CCIs play in ‘going political’, as well as to the ways that this is shaping current political movements, warrants further academic attention.

Photo 08-06-2018, 11 35 57
Shelley Cobb, University of Southampton; Sabrina Moro, Nottingham Trent University; Laura Clancy, Lancaster University; Eleftheria Lekakis, University of Sussex; Andra Ivănescu, Brunel University London; Toby Bennett, Solent University; Ruth Adams, King’s College London; Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, Games for the Many; Shelley Cobb, University of Southampton; Anamik Saha, Goldsmiths University London; Sara De Benedictis, Brunel University London; Mariza Dima, Brunel University London; Photini Vrikki, Brunel University London

Play your research: Games and research impact, led by Andra Ivanescu

Wireframe Cultured Meat Game
Play your research: Games and research impact developed its first three games based on research being conducted across the university. The research cluster received funding and support from the Research Centre for Global Lives to harness the persuasive power of games in order to find new and innovative ways in which to disseminate and promote academic research. The project brought together staff and students from Games Design with three scholars from Theatre and Sociology, developed three games that showcase three distinct research projects.

Groups of student volunteers worked on the three projects, both as part of the Octopus 8 summer project, and during intensive game jams. The development process began with briefing and brainstorming meetings, introducing the academics involved to the games development process, introducing the students to the research projects, and finding a starting point for each game. Each of the three games was then developed using a holistic and iterative approach in order to best represent each research project in terms of scope, tone, and accuracy.

Drawing on procedural rhetoric and other distinct ways in which games can communicate ideas, the project created unique and engaging experiences related to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the development of cultured meat, and the March for Science. The three games differ significantly in terms of size, aesthetics, and genre, and provide distinct modes of dissemination for the research tackled. All the games are near completion and will be made available shortly on a dedicated website.

The members of the cluster – Dr. Andra Ivănescu, Dr. Mariza Dima, and Justin Parsler – are expanding Play Your Research into a larger research project, and are looking for interested academics from across the university who are keen to disseminate their research in this playful and innovative manner. For more information contact Andra Ivanescu.

Birth, The Body and Performance, led by Sara De Benedictis

Birth, The Body and Performance JPEGThis academic year the Birth, The Body and Performance cluster organised a one-day symposiumin June 2018. The symposium was split into two panels; birth and performing arts and birth and everyday life. The day showcased a diverse array of multidisciplinary speakers discussing birth and art (Helen Knowles, Birth Rites), photography (Natalie Lennard, Birth Undisturbed), theatre (Lucy Halton, B!RTH), performance (Emily Underwood-Leeand Lena Simic, University of South Wales) television (Julie RobertsTelevising Childbirth, University of Nottingham), documentary (Toni Haman, Microbirth), social media (Nicola Washington and Sarah Gregory, Make Motherhood Diverse) and the everyday (Evelyn Callahan, University of Brunel). The speakers were a mixture of academics, artists and activists from Brunel and beyond. They brought different knowledge and expertise to the day to broaden our knowledge about birth and performance. Despite a rise in different types of birth performances in recent times, many talks probed at the politics of birth in the cultural sphere, raising questions around censorship of birth and silencing of certain birthing subjects. They were a range of delegates in attendance, such as students, academics, artists/activists and midwives.

Global Consumer Lives, led by Christine Riefa

The research stream led by Christine Riefa (and working in collaboration with Dr Severine Saintier from Exeter University) put together a workshop where experts dissected the problem of access to justice for vulnerable consumers. Experts from the UK, Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Israel and South Africa shared experiences and looked at ways to improve access to justice for consumers. The workshop features academics as well as practitioners and grassroots organisations. The main finding of the workshop was that among all the vulnerabilities consumers may face (for example, physical or mental disability, lack of education, low income, age, use of technology, etc) perhaps the most significant factor was that access to justice remains a very big hurdles for consumers.

Dr Christine Riefa also runs a regular writing workshop for legal scholars at Brunel to encourage the production of high quality outputs.

Touching Past Lives, led by Holly Maples

Our symposium Touching Past Lives explored the growing trend of immersive performance to engage audiences with local, regional and national heritage. We particularly looked at how sensorial and affective techniques are being utilized by the heritage industry through performative, digital, and participatory means. The symposium was interdisciplinary and international in scope. We had 22 speakers from the academic fields of Theatre Studies, Literature, Games Design, Sociology, Anthropology, History, Sound Design,  as well as theatre artists and museum curators. Our speakers discussed heritage performance projects occurring in Scotland, England, Cornwall, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Australia (with academics from all of those. We had an additional 20 audience members made up of academics and a significant number of heritage industry curators from the Wallace Collection, the Black County Living Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and local county councils. We also received interest from a number of living history and archival collection curators to document and submit our research report to them, indicating a broad area of interest in our research, as well as a growing area of interest amongst the heritage industry in immersive techniques.

Our symposium interrogated the current affective and immersive turn in the heritage industry to facilitate individual and communal acts of remembering, engaging, emulating, re-visioning, and refuting the past. Heritage England in 2017 identified heritage as a key part of the UK 'brand' and central to the UK economy. With increasing innovations to both virtual and live immersive experience design, recent scholarship has emphasized the importance to examine the role of the senses in public response to heritage sites. Our symposium asked how immersive and interactive experiences embodying, engaging and mediating new narratives in cultural heritage performances, spaces and installations. Our speakers were a combination of practitioners, scholars, and members of heritage industry who explored both the practicalities of what the challenges, techniques, and diversity of techniques available in the field, as well as interrogating and challenging the meaning making and perceived benefits to audience engagement with history facilitated through immersive heritage performance.

The speakers explored a wide range of topics  including artist reports and research on a number of Heritage Lottery Fund projects from Paston Footprints in Norfolk, the Black County Museum, the Cornwall Man Engine pilgrimage, the “man behind the glass” World War One centenary project in Belfast,  the Burnley Lesbian Liberation commemoration, as well as a number of other projects including immersive audio projects at Alexandra Palace, Hoxton Hall, and the Thomas Hardy house; Smithfield Market’s sensorial relation to the cityscape; a “dark tourism” performance of colonial Australia, and a mixed reality digital heritage project of the 19th century North Atlantic cable project. Historian Victor Morgan looked at how to use immersive techniques in the university history classroom, while artist/scholar Roger Wooster interrogated the limits of immersive techniques for the documentation of historical archival material.