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Border Stories: Geographies of Vulnerability in the Anthropocene (SMITH_LDC22CDCC)

   Faculty of Arts and Humanities

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  Dr Jos Smith, Dr M Mahony  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Travel to the contested landscapes of the Anthropocene and create vital new literature in response.

The inequalities of the climate crisis are becoming ever more apparent as our shared planet produces uneven vulnerabilities. Part of what makes the climate crisis a ‘crisis of the imagination’ (Ghosh) is the challenge of understanding the relationships between such uneven experiences. This will be nowhere more apparent than in the emerging cultural and material geographies of borders. Far from just straightforward boundary lines on a map, scholars better understand borders as territories in their own right, theatres of significant ethical and political activity, the practices and material culture of which can be read in different ways to tell their stories. Such stories can make visible marginal experiences of precarity, mobility and vulnerability at a time when such experiences simply must not be overlooked.

The project will be grounded in the emerging geographies of this ‘critical decade’ but will seek to open up the hidden dramas of bordering and border landscapes through experiments with narrative form. These might be fictional, non-fictional, speculative, poetic, historical, or any combination of these. We welcome diverse interpretations of ‘border’ here, (e.g. national borders, climate envelopes, ecotones, species boundaries etc.) but they should be grounded in the big questions facing this decade. The output will be a body of writing that helps its readers to recognise, probe and debate the different ways in which ‘we’ are facing, and must face, the climate crisis together.

The successful candidate will refine skills in narrative form and the poetics of place writing with a literary critic/creative writer (LDC). At the same time, they will develop skills in fieldwork with a cultural and historical geographer (ENV), building a literacy in material culture and landscape. They will identify a number of case study sites to which they will travel, the fieldwork from which will offer primary source material for the creative work.

We are looking for a candidate with a background in literature/cultural geography who is also a strong creative writer with an MA or equivalent.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please visit the UEA website www.uea.ac.uk

The start date is 1 October 2022.

Funding Notes

Successful candidates will be awarded a 4-year studentship covering tuition fees, maintenance stipend (£15,609 per year in 2021/22), funds to support the research project and associated training. Additional funds are not available to assist with relocation or visa costs.
We anticipate that up to two awards will be made to international students for October 2022 entry.
Part-time studentship awards are subject to approval by the Leverhulme Trust.
This project has been selected for the Critical Decade for Climate Change programme, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to online interview, to be held late February/early March 2022.


Smith, Jos. (2017) The New Nature Writing: Rethinking the Literature of Place, London: Bloomsbury Academic. (monograph on contemporary British place writing in response to environmental crisis)
Smith, Jos, Nicholas Allen and Nick Groom (eds.) (2017) Coastal Works: Cultures of the Atlantic Edge. Oxford University Press. (edited volume on coastal borders; contributed essay and co-authored intro)
Smith, Jos. & Ferraby, Rose. (2019) ‘Warpland, Holderness’, Archipelago (13): pp.18-28. (creative non-fiction about coastal erosion)
Mahony, Martin & Sam Randalls (eds.) (2020) Weather, Climate, and the Geographical Imagination. University of Pittsburgh Press (edited volume on imaginaries of place and climate)
Mahony, Martin (2016) ‘Picturing the future-conditional: montage and the global geographies of climate change’ Geo: Geography & Environment 3(2): e00019 (critical analysis of visual depictions of climate migration)
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