Exploring social movements, political mobilisations and social theory

Colleague spotlight | Dr Joseph Ibrahim


Dr Joseph Ibrahim

I’m Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Leeds School of Social Sciences. My academic research interests are in social movements, political mobilisations, campaigns, protests, counter cultures and collective action. I am the founder and Co-convenor of the Political and Social Movements Specialist Group for the Political Studies Association. I sit on the editorial boards of the journal, Sociological Research Online, and the Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with School of Social Sciences

After completing my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2009, I worked at the University of Manchester, first as a researcher on a Leverhulme-funded project which investigated the politicisation of students on university campuses, and then as a lecturer teaching postgraduate research methods.

In 2011, I took up a post at Sheffield Hallam University where I developed a research agenda in the field of social movements, political mobilisations and social theory. In 2014, I joined Leeds Beckett University and the Leeds School of Social Sciences. This appointment gave me great opportunities to be a part of the new and exciting developments taking place in the School.

I designed a completely new research-led module, Politics, Protest and Social Movements, and redesigned the Modern Social Theory and Culture, Media and Society modules. Alongside developing new teaching materials, I immediately got involved in the vibrant research culture of the School through the sociology subject group and the Centre for Applied Social Research, where I became Co-lead for the Global Inequalities research programme. My role within this programme involves attending funding panels, reviewing research and funding proposals, organising research seminars and symposia, and providing leadership and oversight for the group’s research strategy.

What makes you passionate about your work around social justice and why is it important?

I’ve always been passionate about social justice and this is why I chose to pursue a career in education and even more so in the social sciences.

As a sociologist I am faced with questions of: Why does inequality exist? And how does it manifest itself in society? These questions are rather complicated; to answer them it means we have to consider developing research strategies at uncovering the often hidden patterns of power embedded in everyday life. We consider how people’s class backgrounds affect their life chances, what cultural, political knowledge they might have or need to better their life chances; this could include their social connections and networks. And more broad and general questions on why in society we value certain types of knowledge over others.

All these issues and questions make for an exciting career teaching sociology because I get to engage with students from all different backgrounds who also feel inquisitive about the social world they live in. And as an educator, I am motivated by helping students achieve their true potential.

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

I’ve worked with different collaborators on a number of different research projects. Some recent ones have included conducting research with Dr Johan Lindell (Uppsala University, Sweden) on UK political attitudes after the Brexit referendum. Another includes working with Professor John Roberts (Brunel University, UK) on completing a two-volume edited collection on contemporary left-wing movements (published by Routledge).

As well as working on publications together, Professor Roberts and myself co-convene the Political and Social Movements Specialist Group for the Political Studies Association (PSA). We set this up to provide a national level platform to collaborate with social movement scholars across the world through a professional body (PSA). Our Specialist Group now has over 100 members and is growing. Our group was represented through two panels at the recent Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2021, where we also collaborated with the Young People’s Politics Group.

In May 2021, I chaired a research panel for the Brunel Research Festival on the Politics and Geography of Civil Liberties and Free Speech with Professor Conor Gearty (London School of Economics, UK).

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in School of Social Sciences

The achievement I’m most proud of while working in Leeds School of Social Sciences is the research I’ve conducted, which has resulted in the publication of a number of high-quality outputs in the form of books and journal articles that have been submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework. This has been achievable through the fantastic support from the sociology subject group, the Centre for Applied Social Research and the School of Social Sciences.

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