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Leeds Beckett academics scoop four British Academy research grants


Projects investigating the impact of ‘bloke-ification’ on women working in advertising, media stigmatisation of benefit claimants, the work of philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, and modern energy services in The Gambia, have all received funding from the prestigious British Academy.

A design workshop run by Dr Anne Schiffer

The British Academy, in partnership with the Leverhulme Trust, has awarded a total of £1.3million of funding to 162 projects across the UK for research projects in the humanities and social sciences.

‘Bloke-ification’ in the advertising industry

Dr Martina Topic, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in Leeds Business School, has won a grant to investigate what kind of women get promoted to higher positions in the UK advertising industry.

The advertising industry is criticised for its sexist representation of women in adverts, and for a lack of opportunities for women employees. Dr Topic will observe and interview 40 women working in the advertising industry.

Using her own framework of ‘bloke-ification’, which she has previously used to study the position of women in journalism, she is exploring whether there is a process of bloke-ification in place in advertising industry, and what impact bloke-ification may have on other women, who may not be able (or willing) to repeat masculine behavioural patterns to advance their careers.

Martina is also continuing her research into women’s studies by starting a project around women in public relations, funded by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA).

Media stigmatisation of benefit claimants

Jayne Raisborough, Professor of Media, Dr Lisa Taylor, Head of Media, and Dr Katherine Harrison, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, all within the School of Cultural Studies & Humanities, are using their grant to find out what function representations of space and place perform in factual welfare programmes.

The team’s research argues that the media plays a key role in the stigmatisation of benefit claimants. Jayne explained: “It might seem strange looking at spaces and places because most research is on how people like welfare claimants are represented (not well); but space is an important aspect of inequality.

“We are aware of the post code lottery when it comes to health; but that also applies to things like libraries, schools, good jobs, access to healthy food and green spaces.  Some post codes and areas have a reputation and people from those areas are shamed or discriminated against because of where they live.  We want to know how these reputations come about and our first step is looking at to representations of spaces where marginalised people live.”

The research team is completed by acclaimed documentary-maker, Hugo Smith, Course Director within the School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering, who will be helping the team to understand the process of putting together such films. They will share their findings through an accessible graphic novel report of the research.

Interviews with Jean-François Lyotard

Dr Kiff Bamford, Reader in Contemporary Art in the School of Art, Architecture & Design, is bringing together a selection of interviews, debates and correspondence with key thinkers to open up the work of influential 20th century philosopher, Jean-François Lyotard.

Many of the interviews are currently out of print, hard to find, or untranslated. Kiff is delving into the Lyotard archive in Paris and working with a specialist translator – a former student of Lyotard’s - to bring the rare materials to life.

The research follows on from Kiff’s 2017 book, Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives, which was the first critical biography of Lyotard ever published. His latest research will result in an edited collection, due for publication by Bloomsbury Academic in 2020.

Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives book cover

The future of energy in The Gambia

Dr Anne Schiffer, a Senior Lecturer also within the School of Art, Architecture & Design, is using her grant to work collaboratively with women and young adults in The Gambia to allow their voices to be heard in envisioning the future of energy services in their country, using practical design exercises.

Anne explained: “Ensuring ‘access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’ is recognised as a key United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. However, decision makers often lack insight into the way ordinary people, especially women and young people, experience energy services such as electricity in their day-to-day lives.

“Women in The Gambia are more likely to be excluded from some of the benefits typically associated with access to electricity. As their education was previously not prioritised, resulting in high rates of illiteracy, many have been left unable to benefit from communication technologies such as mobile phones.”

The work builds on Anne’s previous research, which included workshops with predominately older male participants. She hope this distinct piece of follow-up research will provide a more holistic picture of Gambian energy futures.

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