Identity, Place and Mobility research


Research statement

This theme is concerned with the relationship between people and places and the impact of mobility on both. Researchers who engage with this theme recognise that with economic integration, expanded mobility and advanced information technologies, culture and identities are no longer anchored in national spaces. They recognise that patterns of behaviour are learnt and identities constructed in relation to the places we inhabit, and that mobility transforms both identity and place.

The key challenges within this theme include the following: How do people, organisations, nations and political systems interact and communicate between different spaces and places? How can an understanding of place and identity help us to analyse contemporary commercial and commodity cultures? How is human mobility shaped by religion, security, culture, poverty, and other issues and how does it engender transnational culture and multi-layered identities?

Those working within this area recognise research that meets these challenges cannot be pursued within a single discipline; that many of the relations, structures, flows and processes with which this theme is concerned can only be fully explored and examined across rather within disciplines.

This research is carried out across Royal Holloway Departments and within a number of research centres and groups including the following:

Our research in this area ranges from consumer behaviour, economic growth and development, comparative and international political economy, global labour, globalisation and development; international business, organisation studies and human resource management; urbanism, imperialism and post-imperialism; geopolitics and international governance, migration and development, the cultural politics of settler colonialism, the geography of commodity culture, colonial networks, modern refugee movements; identity, ethnicity and 'race'; post-colonial writing and theory, the literature of empire, and colonial histories; the role of music in nationalist, post-colonial and diaspora politics and the construction of ethnic and national identities.   

Nurturing research

As well as the substantial financial support on offer, Royal Holloway  nurtures its research students through tailored programmes of research skills training and active participation in the academic life of the College. Research students at Royal Holloway are both beneficiaries of, and contributors to, our research excellence.

People and projects

Professor Sandra Halperin 


The theme of  identity, place and mobility engages the challenge of broadening and deepening our understanding of how, historically and in the contemporary world, people, organisations, nations and political systems interact and communicate between different spaces and places. How -- conceptually, theoretically, empirically -- can we understand how mobility impacts the history, culture and identities of people and places?

Many of the relations, structures, flows and processes with which the theme of identity, place and mobility is concerned can only be fully explored and examined across, rather than within, disciplines. The purpose of this blog is, therefore, to provide a forum for sharing across disciplines. We want to hear about research initiatives that can enable us to understand the substance of, and connections between and among processes that operate at all social levels or scales: the local, national, international, trans-national, and global; theorise and conceptualise these processes; and understand how normative recommendations about what sort of world we should aspire to achieve are affected by them. 

As Theme Champion, I am hoping to facilitate interaction and, perhaps, research initiatives and collaborations related to this theme.

Professor Halperin's research

My own research has been animated by the conviction that power structures in different regions of the world are dependent on trans-local/cross-regional connections, and that this is not a new phenomenon but has characterised global development throughout modern history. Consequently, I have increasingly become interested in making visible a horizontal set of connections, relations and processes that much historiography and social science tends to obscure. 

The bulk of my research has focused on rethinking the nature and shape of global development and how an essentially regionally-interconnected global development has impacted different parts of the world. Its principal concern has been to understand structures of social power, their relationship to different developmental outcomes, how they have evolved over time locally, trans-nationally, and cross-regionally; and what factors and conditions, historically, have proved necessary for their reproduction and transformation. 

Her projects

Legacies of Empires

Professor Halperin received funding from the British Academy for her current research project - Legacies of Empires.

As part of this project, she is working on a volume on war and social change in the Middle East.

Global Development in Afro Eurasia

Professor Halperin is one of three researchers from the department of Politics and International Relations to obtain funding from the Leverhulme Trust for her current project - Global Development - the role of trans local elites in Afro Eurasia.

The main aim of this project is to show that capitalist development, from the start, has been trans-national in nature and global in scope involving not whole societies but rather the advanced sectors of dualistic economies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere. 

The aim of the project, therefore, is to analytically shift the axis of view from the vertical (states, regions) to the horizontal (classes, networks). As part of this project, Professor Halperin will be writing a manuscript entitled   Social Power and Global Development: a 'horizontal' perspective.

Politics and International Relations

Dr Yasmin Khan , senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, is currently leading the research project - Home Fronts of the Empire-Commonwealth: Imperial Interconnections and Wartime Social Transformations during the Second World War - which has been funded by the ARHC Early Careers scheme.

The main aim of this project is to show how countries in South Asia and the Middle East were linked to the Second World War and the integral roles they played in the Allied war effort. Two monographs, one on India and one on Iran and Iraq, will be produced as part of the project as well as an ongoing online resource, workshops and an international conference.


Led by  Helen Gilbert, Professor of Theatre, a five-year research project - Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: A Transnational and Interdisciplinary Study of Performance, Politics and Belonging - is currently taking place. Involving Dr Estelle Castro, Dr Charlotte Gleghorn, Dr Genner Llanes-Oritz and Dr Dylan Robinson, this transnational and interdisciplinary project explores how indigeneity is expressed and understood in our complex, globalising world. It\'s main aim is to determine what indigenity has come to mean in particular places and at key moments across the last several decades.


Dr Ruth Livesey, Reader in 19th century Literature and Thought, is currently undertaking a research project entitled Writing the Stagecoach 1780-1870, which is funded  by the Centre for Victorian Studies. She has, so far, published an essay, which argues that Jane Eyre (written in 1840 but set in 1820) employs the stagecoach as a Tory emblem of a Britain unified through the preservation of regional customs against an increasing use of railways.

Media Arts

The research of  Daniela Berghahn, Professor of Film Studies in the Department of Media Arts, focuses on migrant and diasporic cinema in contemporary Europe. She was PI for an international AHRC-funded research network investigating how the experience of transnational migration and displacement have redefined our understanding of European identity/ies as constructed and narrated in European cinemas ( She recently completed another AHRC-funded project onThe Diasporic Family in Cinema, the findings of which will be published in the monograph  Far-flung Families in Film, forthcoming with Edinburgh UP in May. She will be considering the representation of diasporic families in contemporary European cinema, drawing on critical frameworks from diaspora studies, anthropology and the burgeoning field of transnational film studies.  


Dr  Gül Berna Özcan, reader in International Business and Entrepreneurship at the School of Management, is currently researching business-politic relations and the internationalisation of emerging market and post-soviet multi-nationals. She is also currently working on the political economy of entrepreneurial classes in Central Asia and Turkey. As part of her scholarly work, she has taken part in media interviews about authoritarian and oligarchic markets as well as governance, market capitalism and entrepreneurship in Central Asia on Turkish TV. Read the transcript  here.


Dr Mustafa Dikec, Reader in Human Geography at Royal Holloway focuses his research around three themes -  politics of space, politics of alterity, and politics of time. The latter is the topic of his current research project (Pumping Time: Geographies of Temporal Infrastructure in fin-de-siecle Paris) comprising the analysis of the politics of time in fin-de-siecle Paris. It has been funded by ARHC's Early Careers scheme.

Felix Driver, Professor of Human Geography, was recently elected as a Fellow of the British Academy. He is currently working on his latest research project The Visual Culture of Exploration following funding from the Leverhulme Trust, British Academy and AHRC. He will be considering the relationships between geographical knowledge, visual culture, exploration and empire, especially in the British context in the project. Dr Katherine Brickell, lecturer in Human Geography, focuses on contemporary domestic life bringing together approaches from social and cultural geography on 'home' with those of development geography on the 'household' in her teaching and research. Her latest research project, Contemporary Challenges in Transitional Vietnam: Insights from Vietnam Studies in the UK, funded by the British Academy, will see her bring this focus to the region of Vietnam.


Dr Ryan McKay, senior lecturer in the department of Psychology, is currently taking part in the research project Ritual Community and Conflict, which has been funded by a large ERSC grant. It looks at the role ritual plays in child development, social behaviour and the evolution of political systems. Dr McKay has recently discovered that Catholics who remember confessing their sins and being absolved from them are more likely to donate to their church than those who cannot remember being absolved.

Research Theme Reid Scholarship holder 2013/14

Langton Miriyoga Department of Politics and International Relations.

Where do migrants belong? An inquiry into the factors shaping transnational citizenship of migrants within the Southern African region.

Supervisors: Dr Julia Gallagher (PIR) and Professor David Simon (Geography)

Research project

The project will explore the dominant factors that influence migrants' senses of identity and belonging within the Southern African context.   Human mobility and globalisation are often touted as the main factors providing opportunities for migrants to assume and articulate new identities and forms of citizenship; yet in many cases we find that migrants encounter growing forms of hostility including xenophobia. 

What senses of belonging and identity emerge within migrant communities settled in such circumstances, and what factors shape these processes? The project will explore this question by specifically looking into the experiences of Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa and will expose some of the intervening factors which may aid or impede the formation of new identities as suggested by scholars of globalisation.

More information on the Research Theme Reid Scholarships

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