Over the past few months, the School of Social Policy has grown and is now home to a number of new academic staff. Find out who they are, what they do, what they're reading right now, and what they're loving about Birmingham.
Our new starters are in Social Policy, Criminology and Sociology (SPSC); Social Work and Social Care (SWSC); The Health Services Management Centre (HSMV); The Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS); and The Centre for Household Asset Management (CHASM).
Amarpreet Kaur, Lecturer in Health Technology and Governance, HSMC
I'm fascinated by Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) and the scope they facilitate to challenge traditional forms and notions of gender, reproduction, and fertility. My research bridges the potential scopes of ARTs, namely human germline genome editing, which would afford people with genetic disease opportunity to conceive a genetically related child which does not inherit their disease.
My favourite book right now is The Gruffalo. I read it to my two-year-old niece and loved her interactions with it. I'm new to Birmingham; I have discovered that Bilston Town Hall hosts a fantastic range of stand-up comedy shows.
You can find me on Twitter at @lioness1992.
Ashley Cole, Teaching Associate, SPSC
My research is based on social movements and in particular black social movements and protest activities. I also study leadership, black feminism, and social media. I have always had an interest in activism. During the start of the Black Lives Matter Movement, I was inspired to dive in deep to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ conversations of why institutionalised racism still exists.
My favourite book right now is by Devon Franklin: Live Free, Exceed Your Highest Expectations. One of my favourite spots to go to locally is an Italian restaurant in Moseley called Ponte Di Legno. It's an appointment-only restaurant and you must bring your own alcohol if you fancy a drink. I rate this restaurant as the best, most authentic Italian restaurant in Birmingham.
Rodolfo Leyva, Lecturer in Quantitative Methods, SPSC
Broadly, my research is mostly in two areas: neoliberal social reproduction, and the effects of digital media on political participation. Neoliberalism has given rise to an unsustainable global political-economic and cultural system of export-oriented industrialisation and crass consumerism that is creating massive inequalities, undermining psychological well-being, and depleting and devastating the natural environment. Where social media is concerned, I have no issue with using it to encourage civic and democratic engagement, but I do get irritated when journalists and pundits overstate or overly celebrate the influence of any mass media on human behaivour, without citing empirical evidence to support their assertions.
One of the best things I've read recently is Fodor, J. (2005). Reply to Steven Pinker 'So How Does The Mind Work?' Mind & Language, 20(1), 25–32. It's a reply from Jerry Fodor to Steven Pinker’s review of Fodor’s book, The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way. In it, Fodor hilariously takes apart Pinker’s endorsement of massive modularity and selectionist accounts of cognition.
The entire Birmingham campus is quite beautiful and really nice to walk around. The food everywhere on campus has also been surprisingly good. In particular, I tried the burritos at Go Mex in the food court. Now as a proper Mexican, I can’t in good conscience call these burritos, but they were very pleasant...!
Denise Ruprai, Research Associate, SPSC
My areas of expertise lie within neuropsychology and neuroimaging. I have experience of administering (neuro)psychological batteries, intelligence testing and mood scales, amongst others, to a clinical, as well as healthy population. I am interested in the neural and cellular mechanisms underlying behaviour and cognition, and in doing so, understand the implications of social and environmental constructs on human health and well-being.
A favourite read recently was Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life, 2018, by Godfrey-Smith. I really enjoy Canalside walks and would highly recommend taking a trip on the Canal boats (from Sherborne Wharf). The Worcester and Birmingham canal can take you up to the old UoB boat wharf in Edgbaston.
Paul Luke, Teaching Associate, SPSC
I'm interested in the theory, policy, politics and public discourse of Universal Basic Income, as well as welfare policy in the UK more generally. I am also interested in utopia as methodology, drawing specifically on the work of both Ruth Levitas (Utopia as Method) and Erik Olin Wright (Real Utopias). I’m currently working on an assessment of cryptocurrency projects attempting to deliver Basic Income.
I’m currently reading Black Utopia, by Alex Zamalin (2019), which is steadily increasing my to-read list of utopian fiction. And in non-fiction, I have just finished reading Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I'm new to Birmingham, and I'm looking forward to visiting the Christmas market for food at least once while it is on!
Shuang Qui, Teaching Associate, SPSC
My research interests lie primarily in the areas of sociology of the family, intimate relationships, intimacy, gender and heterosexuality, agency, and qualitative research methods. In particular, I focus on the phenomenon of Living Apart Together (LAT) relationships, whereby people live separately from their partner but still maintaining their committed intimate relationship, due to education, job location, or serving in the military services, for example.
I recently read Tara Westover’s book, Educated, which is truly inspiring. She took me into the mind of this little girl whose self-discovery process is beautifully captured, and I couldn’t put it down (though it was too painful to read at times). I'm new to Birmingham and really looking forward to exploring the city. I'll probably visit the Barber Institute of Fine Arts first! The Birmingham Back to Backs are also on my wish list.
Neil Stephens, Senior Lecturer in Technology and Society, SPSC
I am a sociologist and Science and Technology Studies scholar. I’ve long been interested in the cultural politics of innovations in biotechnology, mostly focused on human embryo politics and areas like tissue engineering and stem cell science. This has included looking at biomedical research, but also the production of ‘cultured meat’, in which people grow meat from cell lines instead of killing animals, in an attempt to produce meat with lower environmental impact, and less animal suffering. I’m into qualitative methods and like a bit of ethnography.
The thing I’ve read recently that brought the most immediate happiness to me is the Birmingham City Council consultation document on the planned cycle route linking Cannon Hill Park to Moseley. If it actually gets built as proposed then it will make my trip into the office much safer, quicker, and nicer. I’ve not had much chance to explore the city yet, since I’ve been setting up a new home and working out how to use Canvas. However, I did like the Medicine Bakery on New Street.
Josie Hooker, Research Associate, SPSC
My research is about precarity: not just as a condition of labour but also of life. I’m interested in how precarity is re-produced and contested through recent restructurings of labour, welfare and immigration regimes – and their articulations. I use feminist and decolonial approaches to political economy to theorise the gendering and racialisation of these processes and the experience of precarity. These research interests evolved alongside my personal experiences of austerity and my long-standing support for and involvement in political organising around housing, coloniality and work.
This week I returned to Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature, which had accompanied me through the 2020 Spring lockdown. Part gardener’s diary, part memoir of a man confronting his HIV diagnosis, I find it an extremely meditative read and a poignant exploration of grief and the power of nature.
I recently enjoyed discovering cooperative café The Warehouse Café, behind Moor Street station, where I caught a documentary screening organised by Birmingham Cooperative Film Society.
Liadh Timmins, Research Fellow, SWSC
Broadly speaking, I’m a social psychologist who researches sexual orientation and gender identity, including their social and cognitive composition, minority stress, and prejudice. I’m working with Dr Jason Schaub on an SSCR-funded study on social care for older LGBTQ+ people. I was attracted to this area mostly because I did my undergraduate thesis on measuring sexual orientation using a computerised, reaction-based measure and discovered that the whole field of sexual orientation research was fascinating, but completely underdeveloped.
The Power by Naomi Alderman is my favourite novel from the past few years. As for favourite places in Birmingham, Jason took me to A la Mexicana in Bearwood, which has great Mexican food.
Louise Isham, Lecturer, SWSC
I'm a lecturer on the qualifying Social Work courses. I mainly teach on skills, values and research-focused modules, which I really enjoy. Building on my experiences and interests as a practitioner, my research has focused on people’s experiences of domestic and sexual violence over the life-course. I am also interested in how people make sense of and navigate the ethics involved in intimate care relationships, particularly in later life.
I’m not originally from Birmingham but have lived here for several years now and it feels like home. For anyone new Brum, I would recommend the many walks around the canal network, Sutton Park and Worley Woods. There are so many good places to eat, it’s hard to know where to start.
Ozlem Ogtem-Young, Research Fellow, CHASM
I am a Research Fellow and Lead for the ‘Poverty, Precarity, Saving and Debt’ research theme for the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM). I joined CHASM after completing my PhD within the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS). My area of expertise centres on youth migration and the politics and ethics of belonging in the context of displacement. What attracted me to the area of youth migration in particular was my work within the UK asylum and immigration system as an interpreter and translator. I am particularly interested in the ways in which financial and social exclusion and inequality is created, compounded by immigration policy and practice for asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and refugees.
Currently, I'm reading a fascinating book on black holes by Janna Levin, and before that, I read Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi, an Italian anti-fascist activist and doctor writing about his experience of living in exile in the mid-1930s in a village in the southern Italy.
As a long-term Moseley resident, I also love going to and walking in the Moseley Bog when I don't want to go too far for a nature walk. Moseley Farmers Market might be worth a visit if you are into arts and crafts, as well as fresh and local produce.
Anna Papoutsi, Research Fellow, SPSC
My research interests lie at the intersection of border and urban studies: geographies of bordering and mobility, border encounters, bureaucratic violence, citizenship, camps, as well as everyday forms of resistance to and subversion of the border. Cities are major destinations for migrants but it’s also where many become forcibly immobilised. In many ways, cities are the border for most of those on the move. I come from a city (Athens) that, even though it is not considered a migrant destination in its own right, has been part of migrant journeys for decades.
I recently read The Dispossessed by John Washington, which talks about the migrant corridors from El Salvador to the US, during Trump’s administration. The book looks at the policies and politics of immigration control, and then zooms into the personal trajectory of a Salvadoran migrant, with whom the author has a personal and intimate relationship.
I'm not exactly new to Birmingham. I’ve lived mostly in the Jewellery Quarter, and I really appreciate the old industrial architecture there, the remains of the metalworking, foundry and glasswork industries. My plan now is to discover Kings Heath!
Sandra Pertek, Research Fellow, IRiS
The main areas of my expertise relate to the intersection between Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and faith/religion in forced migration and international development. I also have an interest in faith and mental health across refugee journeys. I developed this specific focus during my PhD; however, my passion for these topics emerged much earlier during my career in international development. I then served as Senior Policy Advisor on Gender in a leading humanitarian agency to mainstream gender sensitivity in the organisations. I joined the SEREDA Project to lead my independent PhD study. I was particularly curious to know what survivors and victims of violence think about how religious beliefs and practices affect their experiences.
Given the current geopolitical conditions and my background, I recently read several articles and reports from the EU Eastern border crisis, which encouraged me to visit North-Eastern Poland independently. I visited a small village where deceased forced migrants, who died at the Poland-Belarus border, are buried by the Tatars – a small religious minority in Poland. I talked to locals about the situation and how their life changed since summer when the border and humanitarian crisis began.
I read Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, Elisabeth B. Leyson and Marilyn J. Harran in one go. It's an account of a Holocaust survivor, a WWII refugee. The book reminded me about the current border regimes and slow violence inflicted on refugees, leaving many to barely live - and then in contrast - about those providing charitable assistance to save even if one life.
Earlswood Lakes are my favourite places to visit. I can never have enough of the lakes. Also, I can’t underestimate Lickey Hills Country Park for an extraordinary panoramic view of the entire city.
Linda Reid Deputy Programme Director, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Programme & Senior Lecturer
I have eclectic research interests, which reflect my varied background across education and public sector senior leadership roles. My MSc was in International Police Science, with a focus on transnational crime and security, working across boundaries and partnerships. My PhD was a leadership case study of the partnership arrangements for tackling domestic abuse across a large UK city. I’m interested in exploring leadership from a number of perspectives, including frontline and communities.
I’m currently reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. It was a Booker Prize winner 2019 and made it the first black person to win the prize. It’s a lovely set of stories based in this fantastic land of Great Britain, and charts a number of personal journeys through time.
I'm fairly new to Birmingham, but I’ve had family and other professional connections in Birmingham for a number of years, and have always felt welcome here. My favourite spot is going for a curry at the Curry Mile.
Willem Stander, Research Fellow, SWSC
My background is in social and community psychology, focusing on LGBTQ+ populations, mental health help-seeking behaviours and digital interventions. I'm currently working on the LGBTQ+ Young People in Social Care (LYPSA) research project, which seeks to understand what works and what needs to change to improve LGBTQ+ knowledge for social workers. I'm originally from Namibia, and my interest in these topic areas and social activism stems from the country’s long and complicated (mis)treatment of LGBTQ+ people.
My favourite non-academic read of 2021 has to be Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi: an enchanting and compelling mystery with an unforgettable protagonist, the sort you are genuinely sad to leave behind. On the academic – and shameless plug – front, The Everyday Lives of Gay Men: Autoethnographies of the Ordinary, is a powerful collection from 12 contributors from across the globe and from different fields.
I’m new to Birmingham, having moved up from Brighton, and still exploring. Faculty Coffee in Piccadilly Arcade is a definite favourite, with speciality coffee and some incredible treats.