Dr Shona Hunter, Programme Director Research Degrees

Dr Shona Hunter

Programme Director Research Degrees

Dr Shona is a Reader in the Carnegie School of Education. She is the Programme Director for Research Degrees (PhD, MRes, EdD) in the School and is a member of the Centre for Race Education and Decoloniality.

Her work is interdisciplinary and intersectional in its approach. She has been writing, teaching and researching into the social, cultural and emotional politics of the state for nearly twenty years, holding academic posts at the Universities of Birmingham, Lancaster and latterly Leeds along with visiting positions at the Universities of Sydney Australia, Mannheim Germany, Cape Town, Rhodes and currently in Johannesburg South Africa. Her scholarly interests are framed through an engagement with feminist anti-racist decolonial critique and include all aspects of welfare politics and governance, state practices, identities and the broader material-cultural-affective politics through which ‘the’ state(s) is enacted nationally and globally as a global colonial formation.

This interest in the state brings her to consider questions of whiteness and masculinity as they relate to national ideals and expressions of state power as this gets lived in the everyday through informal cultural practices as well as formal state bureaucratic practice.

In 2009 she established the ‘White Spaces’ research collaboration, now the broader public intellectual project WhiteSpaces. This work is now in its 10th year of moving across academic and public locations, bringing together academics, activists and practitioners from 17 disciplines across 23 countries who have an interest in thinking critically about what it means to be white in global coloniality. Her 2015 book Power, Politics and the Emotions: Impossible Governance, brings together the various cross cutting themes in Dr Hunter’s work to rethink the state itself. Her current single authored book project (working title) White States of Mind: fantasies of power and vulnerability in the academy develops this work to consider the way white identities and subjectivities frame neoliberal bureaucratic formations. With Christi van der Westhuizen of Nelson Mandela University South Africa co-edited the Routledge International Handbook of Critical Whiteness Studies.

There is a White Spaces Jiscmail list where current and future projects are discussed. People who are interested in joining should contact Shona by email: s.d.hunter@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.

Current Teaching

Dr Hunter’s current teaching dovetails her research portfolio:

As well as Directing the Research Degree Programmes provision across the School she supervises across PhD, EdD, MRes Professional Practice.

Her main supervisory interests focus on the negotiation of various forms of professional and personal identifications as these are enacted through a range of cultural and institutional practices.

Her doctoral supervisions completions to date include:

  • Discursive constructions of mental health in the British Born Chinese Communities;
  • The construction of professional and social identities of Oncology Nurse Specialists;
  • The construction of professional and social identities of therapists working in substance misuse contexts;
  • The construction of British Muslim identifications;
  • The motivations and belongings of members of the English Defence League;
  • Emotion Diaspora in South-South Marriage Migrations;
  • Transnational belongings in Romanians in France and England;
  • The construction of Gypsy and Traveller identifications;
  • The emotional dimensions of care practices in Italy;
  • The body and emotions in Black Brazilian women in the UK;
  • Black women’s resistance strategies in the HBCU system in the United States;

Students have been developing Dr Hunter's theoretical innovations on ‘relational politics’ in their doctoral projects on:

  • UK drugs policy making;
  • Transnational higher education diversity policy;
  • Negotiating the artistic practices of white male South African artists.

Shona’s current doctoral students include candidates conducting work across a wide range of areas:

  • The history of Black children as agents of change within the UK education system
  • The history of Black feminist activist figures in the English education system
  • The leadership of Black staff in the current UK education system
  • Critical analysis of the idea of cultural competency in HE Physiotherapy training
  • Critical analysis of assessment practices which engage embodied forms of learning for students with profound and multiple learning disabilities  
  • Drama pedagogy and the enactment of children’s identities
  • Challenging heteronormative practices in the English Education system
  • The stories of women learners with autism
  • Women’s leadership practices in education

What these diverse projects have in common is their commitment to critique of contemporary educational practices rooted in Black feminist, decolonial and queer inspired poststructural, postmaterial and relational theorising. Each project has a strong commitment to retheorising mainstream approaches to education and what it means to be an educator in the contemporary education context.

At Masters level Shona convenes the Critical Whiteness Studies contribution to MA Race Education and Decoloniality.

She contributes to research methods teaching at various UG & PG levels and runs the UG Major Independent Study.

Research Interests

The core question driving Shona’s work is: why do racism, sexism and other unequal social relations persist within the context of contemporary supposedly pro-equality democracies, despite the myriad of policies designed to combat these inequalities? In thinking through these issues, she explores the cultural-discursive, material-bodily and subjective-emotional intersections of ethnicity, gender, class and profession as drivers for institutional practice. The aim is to challenge mainstream approaches to exploring diversity power and privilege as static, essentialised properties of people or institutions, using a different set of ideas to understand power as shifting and dynamic produced through informal aspects of everyday culture.

The novelty of Shona’s approach is the way it links these ‘big’ questions of governmental power to everyday practices and identities via ideas of relationality. It is this development of relational theorising around power and identities that dovetails the themes and concerns of most of her collaborators in the UK and internationally whether these are framed in terms of diversity, anti-racism or post/decoloniality. She calls her approach the ‘relational politics’ of governance and outlines it comprehensively in her book, Power, Politics and the Emotions: Impossible Governance? (2015, Routledge). A video of the University of Johannesburg based launch event can be found here.

As part of her interdisciplinary experience her work in the education context is extensive where she has been Lead and Co-Investigator on empirical projects across post 16 education settings. Her current writing for her second single authored book, working title 'White States of Mind: fantasies of power and vulnerability in the academy', continues this line of educational analysis. It builds on her first book that knitted together her empirical research in education, health and social care to produce an analysis of the impact of neoliberalising processes across public sector governance as framed through the unspoken cultural ideal of whiteness. She writes about this unspoken ideal in terms of ‘neoliberal whiteness’. 'White States of Mind' extends this earlier work to explore the processes and dynamics of HE as part of this neoliberalising processes (re)instantiating whiteness as a global colonising ideal. It moves through personal experiences of teaching and learning, classroom and research practice and supervision dynamics, through institutional cultures to processes of international collaboration and academic mobility working at the global level.

Dr Shona Hunter, Programme Director Research Degrees

Social Structures of Power Dr Shona Hunter, a reader within Carnegie School of Education, discusses what is meant by the term ‘social structures of power’ and explores how aspects of our social identities place us into social categories within society.

Selected Outputs

  • Hunter S; van der Westhuizen C (2021) Viral whiteness: Twenty-first century global colonialities. In: Hunter S; van der Westhuizen C ed. Routledge Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness. Routledge, pp. 1-28.

  • Hunter SDJ (2016) The role of multicultural fantasies in the enactment of the state: The English NHS as an affective formation. In: Jupp E; Pykett J; Smith F ed. Emotional States: Sites and spaces of affective governance. Routledge, pp. 161-176.

  • eds. Hunter S; van der Westhuizen C (2021) Routledge Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness. 1st London: Routledge.

  • Hunter S (2015) Power, Politics and the Emotions: Impossible Governance?. Routledge.