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Liam Harney

PhD student

Room Number: City Centre, Bancroft Building, Room 2.08


Pragmatism, Publics, Public Geographies, Community Organising, Participatory Action Research, Community, London’s Housing Crisis

PhD Research
Working title: The E14 Expedition: Facilitating Public Formation through Place-Based Participatory Action Research

My doctoral research will experiment with a new approach to participatory action research by developing a model of engagement based on the principles and theories of American Pragmatism, and the political theory of John Dewey. Supported by an Antipode Scholar-Activist award, the project will utilise the methods of community organising, as developed by Saul Alinsky, to facilitate the formation of a place-based public which is able to identify and take action to solve the shared issues of a geographical community. Tracing this approach to that taken by Bill Bunge and the Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute, I will work with residents living in the E14 post-code of Tower Hamlets, one of the most economically deprived boroughs in the UK, I intend to conduct a piece of participatory action research that both builds a sense of place-based community to unite diverse groups around a common political cause, and allows for ordinary people to use the resources of the university to address the issues that matter to them.

Grounding itself within the philosophical tradition of Pragmatism, this project aims to explore how geographers (and universities more generally) can facilitate the formation of publics around specific issues of concern and cultivate active citizens who have the skills and capacities to engage fully in democratic processes. I situate this project in relation to other attempts by geographers to engage with non-academic communities in an effort to have greater impact in changing the world. In working with the concept of publics, I seek to explore how projects of engagement can be more democratic, generate people’s power to change the world, and have sustainable outcomes. Additionally, I am interested in the role of place in facilitating and/or constricting such politics.


  • Professor Jane Wills, School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London
  • Professor Jon May, School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London

Academic Background

  • MRes Geography, Queen Mary, University of London (2014)
  • BA Geography, University of Southampton (2013)



  • ESRC 1+3 Scholarship 2013-2017
  • Antipode Scholar Activist Award £10,000


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