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Mobile People: Studentships

Queen Mary University of London Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships (QMUL-LDS) programme

To apply visit the How to apply’ page and also consult the 'Studentships' page for specific requirements for the QMUL-LDS scheme. Deadline for applications is 31 January 2018 at 17.00 hours.

Co-directed by Professors Engin Isin and Kimberley Hutchings QMUL-LDS will involve 21 PhD research projects (2018-2023) concerned with how the world is being dynamically constituted by mobile people in active and novel ways and how this affects fundamental social and political institutions.Its aim is to generate theories, concepts, methods, and data that are necessary to understand mobility as a way of life – not as an exception but as an emerging norm. Current research demonstrates that developments in human mobility are interrelated with the ways in which they are studied, interpreted, documented, and managed.  Thus, thinking about mobility as a way of life entails reflexivity about the processes of producing knowledge about mobile lives in an increasingly mobile world: how we study, manage, govern, and imagine it. 

QMUL-LDS is a research training programme that draws strength from both the interdisciplinary approaches of QMUL in social sciences and humanities and its extraordinary location in London’s East End as a historical hub of peoples, languages, and cultures from around the world. QMUL-LDS projects will address the transformative effects of mobile people on the social and political institutions they inhabit and construct. How mobile people are creating new worlds, not solely as host versus guest, mobile versus immobile relations, but in ways which fundamentally challenge social and political institutions of citizenship, democracy, nationality and security is the innovative focus of this programme. 

This focus requires studying the micro-level experiences, imaginations and meaning-making practices of mobile people as well as tracing their effects on social, political and economic institutions at all levels. This will involve insights, concepts, methods, and data from across different disciplines as well as insights from interdisciplinary fields. QMUL-LDS supervision will involve about 30 academic staff from social and cognitive sciences and humanities disciplines. These scholars across QMUL Schools have already identified limits to established (19th and 20th centuries) sedentary and disciplinary categories for understanding and explaining the complexities of mobility.  QMUL-LDS aims to create a sustainable and enduring engagement amongst these scholars, and between them and a new generation of PhD research students to develop an innovative range of theories, concepts and methods for studying the multi-faceted phenomenon of mobile people. QMUL-LDS research projects will take our understanding of mobility as a way of life and its shaping of worlds beyond disciplinary confines. It will provide resources for future researchers to further transform our understanding of how mobile people are actively creating worlds that we all inhabit.

The QMUL-LDS programme is organised according to thematic priorities which reflect established expertise at QMUL. These themes (boundaries, generations, environment, health, identities, language) will be studied in relation to the impacts of mobility as a way of life on social and political institutions (citizenship, democracy, nationality, and security). The organisation of the programme is guided by the principle that institutions such as citizenship (membership, rights, obligations), democracy (representation, participation, government), nationality (sovereignty, state, territory), and security (authority, legality, threat/protection) are undergoing profound transformations. These transformations are shaped by and reshape the articulation of spatial relations (boundaries), temporal relations (generations), meanings of place from world to home (environment), definitions and experiences of well/ill-being (health), dispositions and behaviours (identities), and communication and speech (language).

The table below presents these two aspects of mobility with potential research questions that intersect them. Each of these questions is an interdisciplinary question, invoking various levels and scales of social practice and relation. We provide these questions to indicate how we see the relationship between thematic and institutional dimensions of mobility as a way of life. However, applicants are encouraged to propose their own questions that address this conceptual framework. The specification of the category of ‘mobile people’ within particular projects will be determined by an Interdisciplinary Steering Group (ISG), which will focus on certain themes in each year. The supervision of all QMUL-LDS projects will involve academic staff from at least two disciplines. We give special emphasis to methods not only as techniques and procedures for collecting, collating, and analysing data but also as performative devices for producing concepts and theories.  For this unique emphasis on mobile methods we will award one doctoral scholarships each year focused specifically on developing methods for studying mobile people. By closely working with other PhD students who will be undertaking research to address substantive questions indicated in the table, PhD students whose focus is on ‘mobile methods’ will lead interdisciplinary collaborative workshops.

Table 1: Mobility as a way of life across themes and institutions

Themes / Institutions






How do mobile people re-shape financial practice (remittances etc.)?

How do mobile people affect the idea of ‘we, the people’?

Do internally displaced populations understand their displacement as the result of state criminal practice?

What is the relationship between state crime and forced displacement?


Is adolescent identity organised differently (through accent and attitude) in high and low diversity schools?

What does the study of C19th diaspora communities tell us about the effects of mobility on political attitudes and participation?

How is political membership understood across generations in families with dual nationality?

How do gender, power and resistance function in the construction of mobile children as threats?


How do mobile people understand and care for their environments?

Will globalising cities empower mobile people to participate in politics?

How do mobile people transform the meaning of home?

How are safe spaces constructed by people on the move now or in the past?


How do mobile people negotiate cultural differences toward health and well-being?

How do mobile people negotiate the politics of inclusion in public health care?

How do migration policies affect health and well-being of mobile people?

How do mobile people develop resilience in unfamiliar environments?


How are attitudes, accents, dialects, and languages affected by degree of exposure to or experience of urban cultural diversity?

Do different categories of mobile people construct new practices of cosmopolitan identity?

How do mobile people construct their (inter)national identity?

How well does human rights law protect the rights of different categories of mobile people?


How does mobility affect people’s repertoires of speaking styles?

Do mobile people challenge the terms of political discourse?

How do people negotiate diversity in communication styles in interaction with arms of the state (e.g., police, welfare systems)?

How do mobile people use new technologies to make their worlds safe?

Mobile Methods


These research questions require methods for identifying, expressing, organising and analysing mobile lives, what they produce, and the traces that mobile people leave behind (memorials, art, archives, data).  Existing research on mobility and migration has utilised mixtures of methods that cross conventional disciplinary boundaries between the humanities and social sciences, combining established techniques of survey, interview, experiment with archival, auto-ethnographic, narrative and performative methods.


To apply visit the How to apply’ page and also consult the 'Studentships' page for specific requirements for the QMUL-LDS scheme.

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