Most of my work is concerned to explore historical processes of interaction among 'space', 'populations' and 'power'. My approach is interdisciplinary: I draw on methods and theoretical perspectives from human geography, cultural studies, social anthropology, sociology, economics and political science. Although I primarily conduct my research on 20th century Russian and East European history, much of my work is also comparative in approach.
Within this general problematic, I pursue the following overlapping and inter-related themes:
1. How the 'place' and 'displacement' of individuals or groups shapes the construction of social identities (national, regional, ethnic, gender, etc.) and social practices.
2. How, conversely, individuals and groups constitute and contest their identities in space and through spatial practices (e.g. through collective memory, commemoration and the popular use of history; in everyday life).
3. Spatial dimensions of imperial and state power; of nationalism and nation-building; of ethnic mobilisation, conflict and co-existence; of processes of political, social, economic and cultural transformation.
4. Technologies of spatial construction and regulation, both in terms of practice (e.g. territorial and urban planning; regional policies; programmes of economic development; border settlement and enforcement; migration and mobility controls, etc.) and in terms of discourse or representation (e.g. historiography, geography, cartography, etc.); and modes of popular or peripheral 'resistance' or 'subversion' to these technologies.
5. Representations of space in diverse contexts (e.g. in cartography, film, graphic arts, architecture, town planning, etc.) and the relationship of spatial representations with spatial practice s of power and resistance and with the lived experience of space.
This rubric informs much of my teaching and supervision, especially at third-year and postgraduate level, and my research activities, which include the following recent and current projects:
- Co-director of a 1.5 year AHRC-funded follow-on project Refugees in post-1945 Europe: Experiences in and beyond the DP camp (with Prof. P. Gatrell, University of Manchester, 2011-13). Drawing on the findings of an earlier AHRC-funded project on East European population displacement, this aims (a) to create accessible educational and public resources for the study of refugee and migrant histories; (b) to promote wider public awareness of contemporary issues relating to displacement, migration and asylum, and (c) to transform perceptions of the refugee experience in the past and present. Our means of public engagement include a multi-site exhibition and an educational resource pack, which we developed in collaboration with teachers and students from the the Greater Manchester and Nottingham regions, and launched at a Nottingham teachers' workshop in November 2012. Our project partner is the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, and collaborators include the Society of Friends, Imperial War Museum, British Film Institute, and Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. For details of this project, see our web-site (will open in a new window).
Between 17 August and 23 September 2012, Nottingham Castle hosted our exhibition 'When the War was Over: European Refugees after 1945', which was seen by over 25,000 visitors. For the University press release on the exhibition, see here (opens a new window). The exhibition poster can be downloaded via this link.
The exhibition was later displayed at the launch of the Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Nottingham, in October 2012; the University of Glasgow in February 2013; and at Highfield House, University of Nottingham, May-June 2013.
The project has generated two new exciting collaborations. We have advised and supported the international organisation 'Kresy-Siberia', dedicated to the history of the Polish diaspora, in developing an online exhibition on post-1945 Polish migrations. We are also working with Ukrainian community historians to produce an educational resource and documentary film based on oral history interviews.
- Principal Investigator on a 2 year British Academy-funded project 'Theories, Ideologies, and Politics of Spatial Planning in Russia and Germany, 1890s to 1945' (2011-13). This project examines how Russian and German academics in the first half of the 20th century rethought the nature of economic space and how their ideas interacted with political developments and state policy. It aims to offer new insights into modern European history; the significance of space as object of theory and practice; the complex relations among science, technology, culture, ideology and politics; and the discursive origins and institutional formation of a 'rational' approach to spatial analysis that has shaped both geography's evolution as a discipline and planning and policy in the modern world.
- A book project: Mapping the Soviet: Cartography, Culture and Power from Lenin to Stalin, 1917-53 (initial funding from the University of Nottingham and the J.B. Harley Research Fellowship Trust; funded by an AHRC Fellowship, 2012-13). This explores the political and cultural history of Soviet cartography between the October revolution and the death of Stalin, in particular examining the ways in which the communist regime used maps to construct and control knowledge of space and territory. The project's wider aim is to establish a new interpretation of the political role and significance of cartographic practice and map culture in the modern world. The research is grounded in a close reading of recently declassified documents from the Soviet archives concerning the state's organization and conduct of geodetic, topographic and cartographic activities, as well as a wide range of published maps and atlases; school geography and history textbooks; specialist and popular handbooks on map-making and map-reading; and literary works, films, architecture and graphic art (including 'ephemeral' materials such as postcards, stamps or newspaper cartoons) featuring cartographic themes or imagery.
As an off-shoot of this project, I collaborated on an exhibition 'Vybiraia marshrut / Defining the route' created by Russian artist Sasha Sokolov for the 5th Moscow Biennale of Modern Art, 17 September to 9 October 2013 (opens a new window in Russian). For details of the exibition see this link to the venue (opens in new window).
- Editor, Nurturing the Nation: Displaced Children, State Ideology and Social Identity in Eastern Europe and the USSR, 1918-1953 (Leiden, Boston: Brill, forthcoming 2014). This volume of essays will examine how East European nationalist and revolutionary regimes targeted children in campaigns of coercive re-socialisation associated with state- and nation-building, as well as how they strove to manage the consequences of child displacement caused by war, civil conflict, revolution and social collapse. Many of the chapters also reveal children's creativity and resourcefulness in devising means of coping with the consequences of marginalisation, overcoming trauma and improvising new identities and roles to enable them to negotiate their re-integration into society.
- Co-Investigator on 'People-Events-Places' (2013-14), a digital humanities project involving the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute and the Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham, and the Digital Innovations Lab, University of North Carolina. This collaboration is funded by Horizon and the AHRC within the Data-Assets-Methods Network. More details to follow.
I supervise doctoral research in most areas of 20th century Russian and East European political, cultural, economic and social history and historical geography. I have a track-record of supporting PhD students in securing University of Nottingham and UK Research Council funding (see below), as well as supplementary travel and research bursaries, and I welcome enquiries or applications from any student intending to conduct either full-time or part-time research within my areas of interest.
Current PhD students:
Andru Chiorean, 'Re-Writing the New Man: Censorship in Communist Romania, 1949-1977' (School Studentship; Harvard University Visiting Fellowship, 2011-12; Davis Graduate Student Travel Grant, 2013).
Stephen Parfitt, 'The Order in the Empire: The Knights of Labor in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1880-1900' (joint supervisor; University International Research Excellence Scholarship).
Laura Sumner, 'Competing identities: The construction of social identity among urban workers in Sormovo, 1917-24' (2nd supervisor; ESRC-funded).
Siobhan Hearne, 'From 'Yellow Ticket' to 'Bourgeois Evil': Female Prostitution in Urban Russia, 1900-1930' (joint supervisor; ESRC-funded, undertaking research preparation within 1+3 ESRC Doctoral Training Centre programme).
Former PhD students:
Alastair Kocho-Williams, 'The Culture of Russian and Soviet Diplomacy, Lamsdorf to Litvinov, 1903-1939' (joint supervisor; School Scholarship; completed 2006, currently Senior Lecturer in International and Soviet history, Aberystwyth University).
Siobhan Peeling, '"Out of Place" in the Postwar City: Experiences and Representations of Displacement during the Resettlement of Leningrad at the end of the Blockade' (AHRC-funded; completed 2010; AHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2011-12; University-funded 'Community Engagement Consultant' in History and PT Tutor in History and in Russian Studies, University of Nottingham, 2012-13; currently AHRC-funded Research Associate and Centre for Advanced Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-14).
Alistair Wright, 'The Civil War in Karelia, 1918-1920' (joint supervisor; ESRC-funded; completed 2011).
Olga Bertelsen, 'Spatial Dimensions of Soviet Repressions in the 1930s: The House of Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine)' (University International Research Excellence Scholarship; Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship; Helen Darcovich Memorial Doctoral Fellowship, 2012-13; completed 2013; currently holds Harriman Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, Columbia University, USA, 2013-14).
Main recent research-related administrative roles
Department of History: Director of Research (2010-11); Chair of REF Steering Group (2010-11); Member, Strategy and Finance Committee (2010-11); Director of Postgraduate Research (2005-11); Research Funding Officer (2006-10); Chair of Research Ethics Committee (2009-11).
Faculty of Arts: Member of Faculty Research Committee (2010-11); Member of School of Humanities Research Strategy Taskforce (2010-11); Member of Arts Graduate Centre Strategy Group (2008-11).
University: Member of Humanities and Social Sciences Strategy Group (2007-09); Chair of Arts and Humanities Special Interest Group (2007-10); Member of Short-Life Working Group on Research Ethics (2010-11); Member of Management Committee, EPSRC project 'Towards Pervasive Media' (2009-11); Member of Digital Humanities Network Steering Group (since 2009); Member of Memory and Remembrance Network Steering Group (since 2010).
External: Member of AHRC Peer Review College (since 2007); Member of ESRC Assessor College (since 2009); Member of Executive Management Group and Public Policy Committee of 'Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies' (University of Glasgow, 2007-2010).
2010-11 - Funded collaborator on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC)-funded interdisciplinary research project Towards Pervasive Media (2010-2011). As one of the leaders of the theme 'Curating the Landscape' I examined the mediation of spatial experience via mobile technologies. For the TPM website please click image on left (opens in new window) and for outputs please click this link (opens in new window).
2004-2009 - Co-director of AHRC-funded international collaborative research project Population Displacement, State Practice and Social Experience in Russia and Eastern Europe, 1930-1956 (with Prof. Peter Gatrell, University of Manchester).
1999-2004 - Research Fellow and Project Manager on AHRB-funded research project Population Displacement, State-building and Social Identity in the Former Russian Empire, 1918-1930, University of Manchester (Director: P. Gatrell).
For more details on both these projects, please see the website here (opens in new window: please note, the site is scheduled to be redesigned and updated).
1997-2001 - ESRC-funded PhD studentship. Thesis title: 'Soviet Karelia, 1920-1937. A Study of Space and Power in Stalinist Russia' (Supervisors: Prof. R.W. Davies, Dr. E.A. Rees).
For my books, articles and chapters arising from these projects, please click 'Publications' tab above.
I have also written and published on the history of film, comparative historiography, historical theory and methodology, and on contemporary questions of post-Soviet political development, cultural transformation and social memory (see publications list). Outside academia, I have written on economic, financial and business affairs in the Russian Federation, on conflict and forced migration in sub-Saharan Africa, and on Moscow's architectural history and heritage.