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Dr Philippa Williams

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Tel: 020 7882 6977
Location: Geography Building, Room 215


Philippa Williams

My research and teaching intersects political, economic and development geography, with a focus on everyday life in India and its transnational community. My work is animated by questions about citizenship, development and justice, experiencing economic transformations and the political economy of violence and non-violence. I completed an ESRC-funded PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge before taking up a 3 year Research Fellowship at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. I joined QMUL in January 2013 and am currently working on research projects in New Delhi and London funded by the British Academy, Royal Geographical Society and Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme. I have an edited book recently published on Geographies of Peace with Nick Megoran and Fiona McConnell and am on the Council for the British Association for South Asian Studies.

‘My new book on Everyday Peace?: Politics, Citizenship and Muslim Lives in India  is published by  the RGS-IBG Book Series and has been awarded the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award by the American Association of Geographers’ Political Geography Speciality Group. The award recognises the best book published during the previous calendar year in the field of political geography.’

Key publications

  • Williams, P. (2015) Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India. London. RGS Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Williams, P.  (2013) Reproducing everyday peace in north India: process, politics and power Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103(1): 230–250
  • Williams, P. (2012) India’s Muslims, lived secularism and practicing citizenship. Citizenship Studies 16(8): 979–995
  • McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams Eds. (2014) Geographies of Peace. London, I. B. Tauris


Teaching is a big part of why I enjoy work as an academic. My third year module GEG6129 Contemporary India: Politics, Society and Economy draws directly on my own fieldwork in India and close understanding of current issues. My lectures focus on key themes (such as Democracy, Citizenship, Violence, Liberalising India) that examine the theoretical arguments within geography and other disciplines, and then ground these in real life case studies. Beyond the lectures students explore the issues further through wider reading as well as films and documentaries, all available on the QMplus site. I also convene an exciting core second year module, GEG5103 Geographical Research in Practice which offers students real world research experience working with London Citizens in East London.

This is what students have had to say about GEG6129:

  • The lectures are engaging and stimulating. Philippa has an astounding knowledge of India and this is portrayed through her delivery of lectures’ (2013-2014)
  • ‘Great lecturer, great topics. Different from any other module I’ve studied’ (2012-2013)
  • ‘Excellent detail of case studies and link to wider econ geography as well  - very interesting’ (2012-2013)
  • ‘This is genuinely one of the best modules, if not the best, that I have taken in 3 years of studying – brilliant’ (2012-2013)
  • ‘I look forward to the lectures’ (2013-2014)
  • ‘This has been my favourite module. It is clear that Philippa is very knowledgeable about India and always delivers in lectures. Any questions asked are always answered and explained’ (2013-2014)

I convene and teach the following modules:

I contribute to fieldtrips:

Through tutorial teaching and dissertation supervision I contribute to:


I contribute to:


Research interests:

1. Politics of peace, Muslim lives and citizenship in north India.
This project incorporates both PhD and postdoctoral fieldwork in Varanasi, north India where I am particularly interested in Muslim experiences of citizenship against a background of their material inequality and social difference as a minority religious group in a majority Hindu nation. The research offers insights into the ways in which the city produces and is produced through sites and networks of everyday living and working together across difference. It rethinks ideas about citizenship and Muslim identity in urban India and intervenes in dominant thinking about relations between India’s Hindus and Muslims as intractably violent. Instead, it reveals how diverse processes such as cooperation, indifference and friendship more often constitute an everyday urban ‘peace’. My book, Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India is due to be published in 2015 by the RGS-IBG Book Series.

ESRC 1+3 Scheme
British Academy (£7,500).


Geographies of Peace book cover

2. Geographies of Peace.
My work in north India has prompted me to think about how we understand peace in Geography and what a Geography of peace might look like. More often, it seems that peace is conceptualized as something that happens after the violence and politics has taken place. Whilst war and violence have been compellingly deconstructed within geography the same kind of critical lens has not been applied to peace. My work seeks to redress this balance by making visible the politics of peace. Together with Fiona McConnell and Nick Megoran (both Newcastle University) I have edited a book on the Geographies of Peace that aims to put peace on the agenda and demonstrate the utility of geographical analysis for an interdisciplinary community of scholars that study peace. Far from romanticizing peace, the books emphasizes the importance of problematizing and conceptualizing what we mean by peace; seeing it as process not an endpoint; exploring how actors make peace in certain ways and in certain places; and emphasizing how practices of peace are embedded in power relations.

  • McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams Eds. (2014) Geographies of Peace. London, I. B. Tauris.


3. Experiencing the state, justice and development.
Central to my research is a concern with the nature of state-society relations, marginality, justice and development in South Asia. I have examined these issues through a series of workshops, conferences and publications coordinated with Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) and Deepta Chopra (Institute of Development Studies). Building on this collaborative work I am currently developing a research project to investigate the meaning and lived reality of ‘justice’ within the Indian development context. This will bring political theory and development studies into conversation to examine situated experiences of justice/injustice for contrasting marginal groups in New Delhi, India.




4. Geographies of work in India’s post-liberal economy.
In collaboration with Al James (QMUL), Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) and Fiona McConnell (Newcastle University) I am working on a project which takes up questions concerning worker agency, skills upgrading and socially inclusive growth in India. Within the context of India’s economic growth and the recent ‘global’ economic downturn the project critically examines the labour market experiences of India’s urban youth as they seek to build careers in India’s New Service Economy. The project focuses on the experiences of Northeast migrants and Muslims and examines the developmental role of labour market intermediaries in upgrading workers’ skills and brokering upward mobility amongst these historically marginalised groups. This work shifts my focus on everyday Muslim citizenship to the post-liberal spaces of India’s private sector and metropolitan middle class spheres. In relation to this project I am also conducting research that examines the career trajectories and experiences of graduates from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. A significant part of this work is being carried out by a Research Assistant, Khalid Jaleel. 

Funding: Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme (£12,420).


5. Political transnationalism and overseas citizenship for the India diaspora.
Extending my interest in citizenship beyond India’s borders, this project looks at the material cultures of identity documents amongst the UK Indian diaspora. The project examines the institutions, discourses and technologies that construct the overseas Indian as ‘citizen’. Through qualitative research it explores how Non Resident Indians (NRIs) may negotiate, manipulate and/or resist their relationship to Indian political transnational identity documents. In so doing the research begins to understand the broader implications of these choices and practices for citizenship beyond territory.

Royal Geographical Society Small Grant (£3,000).


Journal articles

  • Williams, P.  (2013) Reproducing everyday peace in north India: process, politics and power Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103(1): 230–250.
  • Williams, P. (2012) India’s Muslims, lived secularism and practicing citizenship. Citizenship Studies 16(8): 979–995.
  • Williams, P. (2011) An absent presence: experiences of the ‘welfare state’ in an Indian Muslim mohalla. Contemporary South Asia. 19(3): 263–280.
  • Chopra, D., B. Vira and P. Williams (2011) Citizenship and the politics of marginality in India Contemporary South Asia. 19(3): 243–247.
  • Williams, P. and F McConnell (2011) Critical geographies of peace. Antipode. 34(4): 927–931.
  • Williams, P., B. Vira and D. Chopra. (2011) Marginality, agency and power: experiencing the state in contemporary India Pacific Affairs 84 (1): 7–23.
  • Williams, P. (2007) Hindu Muslim Brotherhood: Exploring the Dynamics of Communal Relations in Varanasi, North India Journal of South Asian Development 2(2): 153–76.


  • Williams, P. (2015) Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India. RGS-IBG Book Series.

Edited Book

  • McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams 2014 Geographies of Peace. Eds. London, I. B. Tauris.

Book Chapters

  • Williams, P. (forthcoming) Moral Geography for International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Wiley-AAG
  • Megoran, N. F. McConnell and P.Williams (forthcoming) Dimensions of Peace: Disciplinary and Regional Approaches. In Dimensions of Peace: Disciplinary and Regional Approaches Richmond, O., S. Pogodda and J. Ramovic. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Williams, P, N. Megoran and F. McConnell (2014) Introduction: Geographical Approaches to Peace In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Williams, P. (2014). Everyday Peace, agency and legitimacy in north India In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Megoran, N, P.Williams and F. McConnell (2014) Geographies of Peace, Geographies for Peace In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Williams, P. (2014) Working narratives of inter-community harmony in Varanasi’s silk sari industry In Failed development and identity politics: India through the lens of Uttar Pradesh Jeffery, R. C. Jeffrey and J. Lerche. London, New Delhi: Sage.
  • Williams, P. (2011) Hindu-Muslim Relations and the ‘War on Terror’ In The Companion to an Anthropology of India. I. Clarks- Deces, ed., 241–259. Oxford: Blackwell.

Book Reviews

  • Williams, P.  (2013) on India Today: Economy, Society and politics by Stuart Corbridge, Craig Jeffrey and John Harriss. Cambridge: Polity. 2012. Pacific Affairs online early view.
  • Williams, P. (2011) on The Vernacularisation of Democracy. Politics, caste and religion in India. Exploring the Political in South Asia. By Lucia Michelutti. London, New York and New Delhi: Routledge, 2008. Pacific Affairs 84 (4): 792-4.
  • Williams, P. (2008) Shock Aversion? Stealth, shock and India’s economic reforms In Nally, D. (ed) Considering the Political Utility of Disasters. Review of Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein The Geographical Journal 174 (3): 284-287.

PhD Supervision

Current PhD Students

  • Aditya Ray (with Al James). PhD – QMUL: ‘Work in India's New Service Economy: Employee experiences in the domestic voice‐based consumer‐interaction industry in Pune’ (2014–17). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award.

I would be really excited to hear from students interested in the following areas, preferably in, but not limited to, India/South Asia:

  • Citizenship
  • Marginality
  • Development and justice
  • State-society relations
  • Political economy of violence and non-violence  

Public engagement

As Schools Liaison Officer I coordinate a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing the School of Geography’s commitment to Widening Participation and also developing relationships with schools and teachers, in London and beyond.

East London Branch, The Geographical Association
I run the East London Branch of the Geographical Association at Queen Mary University of London. We host regular events for teachers and school pupils on topics ranging from climate change to international migration to designing fieldwork and interpreting the new geography curriculums.

Springboards Project
I coordinate this student led project to provide targeted channels of online and face-to-face support for new Undergraduates to ease the transition between school, college and work into Higher Education. This work is funded by the QMUL Outreach Fund.  See here for the 2014-2015 Springboards project blog

Stepping Stones
This is a mentoring scheme for local school pupils by School of Geography undergraduates. It aims to promote access to Higher Education and enhance social mobility for able students from East London and the Thames Gateway with little previous exposure to university. Together with Stephen Taylor I have coordinated a programme of mentoring for pupils from St Paul’s Way Trust and Mulberry High School. We aim to expand the scope of this scheme in 2015-2016. This work is funded by the QMUL Outreach Fund.

Princes Teaching Institute logo

Princes Teaching Institute
For a number of years I have contributed to subject days for teachers organised by the Princes Teaching Institute in different venues across the UK. This involves giving talks on India and the politics of development and thinking about how  contemporary issues in India relate to school curriculums.

Other organisations

British Association of South Asian Studies
I am on the Executive Council for the  British Association of South Asian Studies and was previously the Honorary Secretary (2011-2015). It is one of the world’s leading learned societies for the study of South Asia and is committed to supporting advanced research in the humanities and social sciences of South Asia through funding opportunities, conferences and workshops, lectures, research groups, publications and online discussions.

Recent Seminars and Presentations

  • I will be participating in an Author meets critics session at the RGS-IBG International Annual Conference 2016
  • August 2014. Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK. Peace, Geography and the political With Fiona McConnell. 
  • August 2014. Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK. Negotiating the lived politics of UK and Indian citizenship. 
  • July 2014 ECSAS Annual Conference, Zurich, Switzerland. ‘Lived politics of overseas Indian ‘citizenship’.
  • March 2014 BASAS Annual Conference, Royal Holloway ‘Muslim graduates in India’s new economy’.
  • March 2013 University of Zurich. Guest Lecture on MA in Political Geography. ‘Geography and the politics of peace’.
  • April 2013 BASAS Annual Conference, SOAS. ‘Justice and the politics of development in India’.
  • March 2012 Martin Society Dinner, St John’s College, University of Oxford. ‘The politics of peace in north India’.
  • February 2013 American Association of Geographers, New York. ‘Marginality, citizenship and justice’.
  • February 2012 South Asian Studies Council, Brown Paper Bag Series. Yale University, USA. ‘Marginality, citizenship and justice in north India’.
  • September 2011 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK. ‘Countering Terror: vernacularising peace in north India’.
  • November 2011 Roundtable discussion. Newcastle University, UK. ‘Critiques and narratives of peace’.
  • January 2011 ODID Contemporary South Asia Seminar Series, QEH, University of Oxford ‘Reproducing everyday peace in north India: process, politics and power’.
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