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Defending undefendable territories: Gender, domesticity and social control

   Department of Urban Studies & Planning

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  Dr Paula Meth  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Emerging Urban Inequalities. Secure and affordable accommodation for poorer or migrating households, particularly in low-income and unequal countries (including the UK), is now a major policy priority. The extreme inequalities between poor living conditions necessitate a more nuanced examination of the lives of the urban majority. This project will engage the voices of dwellers across different domesticities, including rented or owned housing, and spaces of transient accommodation (hotels, camps, streets, detention centres) in London (UK) and a city in global South (e.g. Johannesburg, South Africa) to understand how they manage the risk of insecurity from both outside and inside the home. Lockdown measures during COVID-19 exacerbated and brought historic concerns over unacceptable rates of domestic violence to the forefront of security agendas.

Housing tenure, and rights over, or in, domesticity are important in influencing control in a personal and spatial sense yet have not been considered in relation to public and domestic violence and insecurity more broadly in significant depth. This is despite important ethnographic work revealing the socio-economic tensions associated with living as tenants in backyard shacks and work which highlights how poverty in state housing produces new gendered conflict despite the relative security of homeownership. Tenurial changes (e.g. ownership to renting) are the subject of work on homelessness and housing insecurity after domestic violence experiences, but housing tenure in relation to public and domestic violence has not benefited from sufficient research. Poverty and gender inequality cuts across all types of domesticity, especially in contexts where state provision of housing is lacking, or where its provision for the urban poor boosts levels of homeownership, while not tackling affordability. Control over domestic spaces is often gendered, and income vulnerability reduces agency in controlling one’s space. Even among homeowners, wealth variations dictate substantive differences in safety and security. For those living as tenants or in temporary accommodation, decisions over who else is present on site and how their anti-social practices are managed are often beyond their control. Risks of sexual violence can prove significant. Furthermore, the insecurity and potential unaffordability of their contracts can mean the threat of eviction or deportation even sharpens gendered insecurity, with gendered violence often a factor shaping subsequent eviction orders.

The project will draw on appropriate qualitative methodologies which may include interviews with households, housing officials, institutions supporting tenants and refugees, and policing and anti-domestic violence agencies, as well as mapping, visual and photographic analyses to inform understandings that may promote safer homes and communities in their multitudinous forms.


Applicants are expected to have a strong first degree (2.1 or a first class honours) ideally in a relevant social science subject. Candidates applying with a Masters degree must have obtained at least a Merit (or equivalent). 

Application process

Applications should be made through the University of Sheffield Postgraduate Online Application Form. Applications should be made to the department of the lead supervisor.

 As part of the application, applicants should upload the following additional information: 

  • A one-page personal statement explaining how their skills, experiences, interests and career plans make them a suitable candidate for the studentship
  • A 500 word statement explaining why you think this research is important. Please cite the title of this studentship in your application.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Emerging Urban Inequalities, which is pleased pleased to be able to offer funding for three home fee paying studentships for this CDT. In addition, a Research Training Support Grant of £2,250 is available for each studentship across the funded period to support the costs of field trips.
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