Centre for Social Change and Justice
Justice is about fairness. The notion of fairness itself, though, has been a subject of intense debate amongst philosophers. Who defines fairness and fairness of what? Deliberations on the idea of justice go back several millennia in the classical Confucianism, ancient Indian and Greek philosophies. The European enlightenment philosophers between 17th and 18th centuries queried justice within the structures of social life using the construct of the social contract. Paradoxically, the Enlightenment also legitimated the colonial imaginery.
The Centre for Social Change and Justice addresses what social justice looks like in any given moment and how it is communicated. The centre is a forum for critical social praxis and social action. We consolidate UEL's comprehensive work on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals within the UK and the global context while identifying emerging critical social issues through policy relevant research, critical social theory and creative intervention.
We focus on:
- the UN's SDGs on reduced inequalities, gender, poverty, hunger, economy, climate, cities, communities, institutions, justice and peace (SDGs: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16)
- locating where and when social change or its possibility can be advocated and how this is socially recognised
- articulating emerging forms of restricted opportunities
- theorising contemporary modes of social justice.
How we work
In making questions of social change and justice visible, the Centre uses multi-disciplinary perspectives, gathering academics across social sciences, performance, cultural studies, architecture, health and law to share diverse methodological approaches to the critical concerns of the contemporary moment.
We do this by:
- engaging widely with community organisations, policy makers, students, activists and local government
- gathering a network of researchers, thematically and collaboratively working through social change in areas of racial justice, climate justice, health, social, and economic justice, cultural justice, political justice and justice and the city
- research training: upskilling members in interdisciplinary methodologies and SDGs, including PhD students through workshops, capacity building and mentoring
- advancing research-informed teaching and the involvement of students in live research enquiries.
We offer scholar and practitioner fellowships for individual and collaborative projects.
Local and global networks
Mapping SDGs in Newham
The SDGs are universal global goals that apply to all countries, through a broad framework that can be made to fit specific country contexts and are to be achieved at the local, national and global levels. Evidence from the 2019 Voluntary National Review process indicates that the UK has struggled to capture progress at the local and national levels in many of the goals (UKSSD2019).
Brickfield Newham was a multi-disciplinary research project that drew attention to historical brickfield sites of the borough, their labour histories and their role in shaping our present urban and domestic infrastructures. Communities, students, artists and scholars gathered through performance making and building of a traditional kiln to engender conversations on the contemporary built environment alongside local planners, architects, journalists and ceramic historians.
Who we are
- Meera Tiwari examines multi-disciplinary poverty in both the Global North and the South, using the Capability Approach focusing on actor engagement and collective agency at the grassroots. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in rural and urban India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil and Lebanon. Her ongoing research includes localising the SDGs in East London, health inequalities and women's empowerment in Bihar, India, and dignity and menstrual health in rural India and UK.
- Lynne McCarthy is a cultural worker whose practice inspects ways to initiate justice claims with performance as method. She researches people-property relations and the performativity of use rights through scenes of eviction, nomadism, and unstable tenancies, and has undertaken solidarity projects in the UK on questions of shelter. Additionally she has been involved in collaborative projects on reproductive rights in Ireland, working for five years to widen debate on the 8th amendment.
- Anna Minton investigates the interface between architecture, democracy and spatial justice in the city, focusing on the housing crisis and the privatisation of public space.
- Susannah Pickering-Saqqa explores the changing shape and spaces of development, the domestic programmes of international NGOs, faith-based development, menstrual health and dignity in India and UK and localising the SDGs. She is course leader for the BA International Development with NGO Management.
- Andrew Branch is invested in making sense of the workings of the creative industries, held up as drivers of progressive social and economic change by successive governments intent on superintending them. He co-founded, along with his colleagues, Dr Tony Sampson (Essex) and Giles Tofield (Cultural Engine), the Cultural Engine Research Group.
- Andrew Ravenscroft undertakes research into critical and inclusive education, that typically realises and evaluates social innovations. He has been principal or co-investigator on collaborative and interdisciplinary research and development projects that have attracted £6.34 million in funding and authored or co-authored over 160 publications.
- Angie Voela is a reader in social sciences. With Michael O'Loughlin she is the co-editor of Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. She has published on psychoanalysis and mental health; gender and feminism; psychoanalysis and philosophy; psychoanalytic approaches to politics, pedagogy and space; and psychoanalysis and contemporary culture.
- Carsten Jungfer's research is rooted in critical analysis of social-spatial conditions of existing inner-city communities, that are increasingly impacted by urban transformation in contexts of de-regulation, globalisation and impacts of climate breakdown.
- Fernanda Palmieri is interested in the complexities and processes of transformation of urban environments and in how these processes reproduce socio-spatial inequalities. She is interested in exploring how design thinking can promote alternative ways of space production and help us move towards a more equitable and sustainable urban living.
- Claudia Brazzale's work centres on constructions of corporeality and the gendered body in relation to mobility, through writing, choreography, and video. She approaches the moving body as a productive avenue for rethinking the politics of gender, labour and globalisation, not only in performance but also in domestic and entrepreneurial spaces.
- Liselle Terret conducts performance research collaboratively with disabled and neuro-divergent artists, co-constructing radical and political questions about continued exclusion and discriminatory assumptions around binaries of 'ability/disability'. They disrupt theatrical norms through a radical Crip, queer, collaborative and feminist approaches.
- Carys Hughes is a research fellow in the School of Arts and Creative Industries. Her research is cross-disciplinary, drawing on political theory, cultural studies, and critical legal studies. Core research interests include participatory and communal democracy, transformative constitutionalism, and progressive technologies of governance.
- Jill Daniels is a film practitioner and theorist whose research spans political history and memory, place and the autoethnographic. She unpacks narratives that still haunt the present that may facilitate alternative frameworks in audio-visual practice in dealing with history and legacies of the past and inspire political action in the present.
- Anna Robinson is a poet, playwright and academic. Her research involves exploring and presenting working class London women's voices, stories and histories. She was the founder and poetry editor of Not Shut Up, a creative arts magazine that published work by and for serving prisoners.
- Silhouette Bushay is Vice-Chair of UEL Women's Network She is an anti-racist practices professional whose research interests include Black feminist, critical, anti-racist, decolonial, creative and culturally relevant pedagogies within formal and informal learning contexts.
- Gulnar Ali diligently blends ontological and humanistic perspectives to mental health and wellbeing. Her professional background ranges across a wide spectrum of teaching, clinical practice and research experience in mental health, spirituality, existential care, medical anthropology, nursing philosophy and ontology.
- Tom Drayton is concerned with the relationship between contemporary performance, metamodernism and the millennial generation, as well as international activism and political theatre. This research fuses praxis and critical scholarship, encompassing workshops, performances and publications.
- Robert Nicholson's interests include the histories and stories of drag performers and their roles in shifting social change for the LGBTQ+ communities in the UK. He is also interested in research that engages with ethnography, queer theory and queer club culture.
- Robert Ahearne researches perceptions and understandings of development and progress in East Africa with a current focus is on the impact of natural gas extraction on local communities; all of this research has been based on long-term ethnographic studies in the south-east of Tanzania.
- Martin Heaney draws on 30 years' experience as a performer, and facilitator in drama education. He writes and researches, with a special interest in the representation of masculinity and young people. Martin lives with brain cancer and is exploring this experience through research and performance. Listen to Martin's podcast.
- Ratha Perumal is a doctoral researcher exploring factors that contribute to the degree-awarding gap experienced by racially-minoritised students, funded by the LISS-DTP. Through working at a post-1992 university and a Russell Group institution, Ratha sees first-hand how changes in policy discourses in the sector can produce different implementation strategies in individual universities - with a range of outcomes.
- Sarahleigh Castelyn's work focuses on race, gender, sexuality, and nation in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, the politics of hybridity, and the use of practice as a research methodology. She serves on several editorial and organisation boards, such as Research in Dance Education and The South African Dance Journal.
- Caroline Griffiths interest lies in the ways theatre performance can operate as a medium that exposes inequity in society, and ultimately seeks to change the traditional views of people, who perhaps unwittingly, uphold a systemically racist society.
- Jeremy Gilbert's research interests cover a broad range of topics in contemporary culture, politics and social change: cultural theory, political theory and their analytical applications; the politics of music, music culture; political philosophy, particularly with reference to questions of collectivity and democratic agency.
- Gargi Bhattacharyya focuses on questions of racial justice, inequality, racial capitalism, militarism, sexuality and state-sanctioned violence. Her books include: Tales of dark-skinned women (Taylor and Francis, 1998); Sexuality and Society (Routledge, 2001); Dangerous Brown Men (Zed, 2008); Crisis, austerity and everyday life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); Rethinking racial capitalism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She is completing a new book with Polity with the working title 'Futures of racial capitalism'.
- Debra Shaw is currently researching the politics of home as a concept that structures subjectivities and material conditions in diverse forms of inhabitation. Recent projects have included a study of the relationship between ontology and urban form and an analysis of visual representations of big data in the context of contemporary subjectivities. She has recently completed a substantial revision of her first book, Women, Science and Fiction which will be published in early 2023.
- Creative Methods and Social Justice, Lynne McCarthy and Meera Tiwari, Wednesday 22 March 2023, online conversation.
- Home to Roost: the UK housing crisis in policy, financialisation and dwelt experience, conference, 6-7 July 2023
Housing has become one of the definitive social issues of our times. At a time when unequal access to wealth and resources threatens to disenfranchise large sectors of the population, both in the UK and elsewhere, increasing numbers of people are insecurely housed and in danger of homelessness. Housing is no longer a private matter: rather its political and public dimensions are more visible through polarised urban populations experiencing the binaries of unaffordability, eviction and social cleansing set against speculative development, unfettered rents, large dormant properties and unattainable property prices. How did we get here and what can we do about it? Convened by Jeremy Gilbert, Debra Shaw, Anna Minton and Lynne McCarthy.
- LGBTQ+ History Month – community event, Friday 24 February 2023, USS, 2pm-6pm
To mark LGBTQ+ History Month, UEL is hosting a community-facing open event on Friday 24 February. The event will be held in USS, with a variety of stalls showcasing staff and student research projects and a workshop space with drop-in activities. The event inaugurates an LGBTQ+ research network.
- Understanding inflation: causes and consequences, Thursday 26 January 2023, USS. Vassillis Fouskas, Meera Tiwari and Shampa Roy Mukherjee, chaired by Jeremy Gilbert. Eventbrite link to follow.
- Period Justice - Wednesday, 23 November 2022, 1pm - 5pm
Join us for student-led round table conversations with organisations working on menstrual health, HR on UEL's policy of menstrual health and academics sharing their research. This will be followed the book launch of Period Matters: menstruation in South Asia edited by Farah Ahamed, at University Square Stratford.
International Development Guest Lectures Series, 2022-23
Dates and times
This year's international Development Guest Lecture Series is organised by Lester Lyall, a third-year student in BA (Hons) International Development and NGO Management. Events will be held simultaneously on the Docklands campus (EBG.08) and online via Microsoft Teams/Zoom.
- Private Enterprise and Development - Tuesday 11 October 2022, 5.00pm - 6.00pm BST - Paul Haslam, Professor in International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa.
- Post-Development and Alternatives to Development - Tuesday 18 October 2022, 5.00pm - 6.00pm BST - Aram Ziai, Heisenberg-Professor, Development and Postcolonial Studies, University of Kassel
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - Tuesday 25 October 2022, 5.00pm - 6.00pm BST - Anil Hira, Professor in Political Science, Simon Fraser University.
- Foreign Aid and LGBTQI+ Rights - Tuesday 1 November 2022, 5.00pm - 6.00pm GMT - Stephen Brown, Professor in Political Studies, University of Ottawa
- The Future of Fair Trade: Challenges and New Directions - Tuesday 8 November 2022, 5.00pm - 6.00pm GMT- Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary's University, Halifax
- How the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Created Oligarchs in Mozambique - Tuesday 15 November 2022, 5.00 pm GMT- Joseph Hanlon, Honorary Associate, Development, School of Social Sciences & Global Studies, Open University.
Sustainable Development Guest Lecture Series, 2022-2023 Term 2
Dates and times
School of Education and Communities, with Centre for Social Change and Justice
All events are open to all students and staff members and will be held simultaneously live on the Docklands campus and online via Microsoft Teams/Zoom.
- “The Ethics of Development” - Tuesday 21 February 2023, 5.00pm GMT, USS 1.01 - Prof Des Gasper, Visiting Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
- “The Critical Political Economy of Development” - Wednesday 8 March, 5.00pm GMT, Docklands, EBG.06, Jody-Ann Anderson and Dr Susan Spronk Doctoral Student/Associate Professor, International Development and Global Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, Canada.
- “Urban Development: Cities in the Global South” - Tuesday 14 March 2023, 5.00pm GMT, Docklands, EBG.10 Prof Lisa Bornstein Associate Professor, School of Urban Planning, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
- “Culture and Development” - Tuesday 18 April 2023, 5.00pm BST Prof Nissim Mannathukkaren Professor, Department of International Development Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The centre welcomes applications for PhDs and Professional Doctorates. We are interested in cross-disciplinary socially focused projects in the areas of:
- health and social justice
- racial justice
- climate justice
- economic justice
- cultural justice
- political justice
- justice and the city
For information, including bursaries, visit:
Current PhD students
- Shea Donovan
- Abigail Lennox
- Hamda Mohamed
- Patrick Evans
- Ilka Nagel, doctoral candidate at University of Oslo, 20 March - 7 April 2023
The centre encourages research-led teaching involving students in projects that are co-designed and situated in live local and contemporary concerns. The centre's research informs the curriculum at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
For more information, please contact:
- Lynne McCarthy: email@example.com
- Meera Tiwari: firstname.lastname@example.org