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Abi Rhodes

PhD in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I am a Midlands3Cities/Arts and Humanities Research Council funded PhD researcher in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham in the School of Culture, Languages and Area Studies. My research analyses the language of communicative tactics and arguments used by a social movement and the two main political parties in the 2015 and 2017 UK general elections. It used Norman and Isabel Fairclough's approach to Political Discourse Analysis (PDA) and elements of Faircloughian Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to examine the competing views of each actor, alongside a content analysis of the challenges and counter arguments found in the mainstream newspaper reporting at the time.

Recently published is an invited chapter contribution to Political Communication in Britain: Campaiging, Media and Polling in the 2017 General Election, Edited by Dominic Wring, Roger Mortimer, Simon Atkinson, entitled 'Movement-led Electoral Campaigning: Momentum in the 2017 General Election' | Paperback ISBN: 978 3 030 00822-2 (2019)

A part of my PhD I have co-written a piece with my supervisor, Dr Jen Birks, for the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) newsletter Three-D, Issue 28: Civil society and grassroots voices in the election coverage.

I have also written several reviews and articles for The Spokesman, Review 31 and WorkingJournalUSA and contributed a chapter to Corbyn's Campaign published by Spokesman Books in 2015. For over ten years, I was a writer and publishing executive at the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and its imprint Spokesman Books, where I sit as a member of the board and the editorial board of The Spokesman.

Teaching Summary

Academic year 2017/18

Undergraduate Level:

Autumn Semester: Seminar teaching on Media and Society module (V91INT) that forms part of the BA Hons in International Media and Communications Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Spring Semester: Workshop teaching on Critical Discourse Analysis for the Researching Culture, Film and Media module (V92N02) that forms part of the BA Hons in Film and Television Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Research Summary

Once thought of as sitting outside of institutional politics, social movements have been a consistent and dominant feature of the political landscape in the twenty-first century. Social movements, as… read more

My supervision team is Dr Jen Birks and Dr Colin Wright

I am funded by: Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership / Arts Humanities Research Council

Current Research

Once thought of as sitting outside of institutional politics, social movements have been a consistent and dominant feature of the political landscape in the twenty-first century. Social movements, as political actors, can have a refining and reinforcing effect on conventional politics through the highlighting of specific issues that shape both political party and voter behaviour. However, in the field of political communication the literature has traditionally focused on the ways in which institutional political actors - political parties and politicians - have communicated, often via the media, with the electorate. Conversely, the social movement literature has tended to focus on extra-parliamentary politics that occur outside of election time and, as such, neglects this aspect of the political process. This research begins to address that lacuna by exploring the role of communication by the UK-based social movement The People's Assembly Against Austerity in electoral politics and assesses how far they can be seen as political actors in electoral campaigns.

The project examines the 2015 and 2017 general election campaigns, during which the notion of 'austerity' formed a major element of the political environment. The political issue of the National Health Service (NHS) forms the focus of the research because it was one of the few remaining areas of the Welfare State said to be protected from the full impact of austerity policies. To discover what role movement communication played in electoral debates on the NHS, a comparative analysis between The People's Assembly Against Austerity texts and the Conservative and Labour Party manifestos was conducted. In order to analyse what each of the political actors were arguing for, this research used Fairclough and Fairclough's (2012) approach to Political Discourse Analysis (PDA). This methodology facilitated the explication of competing views that were circulating during each election and allowed for competing perspectives and claims for action to be foregrounded. What is contended in this thesis is that social movements can be publicly and politically influential by presenting discourses that challenge (or reproduce) established definitions, meanings and understandings of social reality.

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

2019

  • MeCCSA Annual Conference, Paper Presentation, Continuous framing in a changing political environment: An analysis of the anti-austerity argument for the NHS during election time, 9th-11th January 2019, University of Stirling

2018

  • Conference of the Journal of Languages, Texts and Society, Paper Presentation, Social movement texts of resistance and electoral campaigning in the 2017 UK General Election, 14th June 2018, University of Nottingham
  • M3C Visiting Seminar Series, Presentation, Why we protest: an analysis of social movements and the political agenda in the 2017 UK General Election, 8th May 2018, University of Birmingham
  • PSA Annual International Conference 2018, Paper Presentation, Movement-led electoral campaigning: social movements as experts in the 2017 UK General Election, 26th-28th March 2018, Cardiff City Hall
  • MeCCSA Annual Conference, Paper Presentation, The role of creative activism and agency in the 2017 UK General Election, 10th -12th January 2018, School of Arts & Creative Industries, London South Bank University

2017

  • The UK General Election of 2017: the campaigns, media and polls, Paper Presentation (invited speaker): The Role of The People's Assembly and Momentum in the 2017 General Election, 19th July 2017, Loughborough University London #CMP2017
  • Austerity for the Many Magic Money Trees for the Few, Paper Presentation with Jen Birks: Civil society and grassroots voices in the election coverage, 23rd June 2017, De Montfort University
  • 5th Annual Nottingham Postgraduate Conference in Politics and International Relations, Paper Presentation: Why we protest, 15th June 2017 at The University of Nottingham
  • M3C Research Festival 2017, Research Relay Presentation, 25th May 2017 at Stamford Court, University of Leicester
  • CLAS Symposium 2017, Paper Presentation: What's the point of protesting?, 3rd-4th May 2017, The University of Nottingham
  • Austerity, Poverty and Protests, Presentation and Panel as part of Journey to Justice: Nottingham, 25th April 2017 at NonSuch Theatre, Nottingham
  • Journey to Justice: Nottingham, Exhibition Piece, April - June 2017 at the National Justice Museum, Nottingham

Past Research

My first piece of research focused on answering the question: 'What's the Point of Protesting?' I am interested to know why people organise and participate in collective action and what impact, political or social, they think that that action will have. Through surveys with participants at the It's Our NHS National Demonstration on 4th March 2017, organised by The People's Assembly, and interviews with the demo organisers, my research assessed if such actors are explicitly seeking to engage directly with formal political institutions and, if so, how.

The research provided an insight into what impact participants and organisers of these movements hoped to make in the sphere of parliamentary politics and whether this is in fact their aim. It did so by asking actors to describe what motivated them to participate in collective action and what impact, political or social, they thought the action would have. By asking such questions directly, this paper presented the voices of the activists engaged in contentious performances and, in doing so, it began to fill the gap between social movement practice as it occurs on the ground and social movement theorizing.

The survey data has been presented at:

  • 5th Annual Nottingham Postgraduate Conference in Politics and International Relations, Paper Presentation: Why we protest, 15th June 2017 at The University of Nottingham
  • M3C Research Festival 2017, Research Relay Presentation, 25th May 2017 at Stamford Court, University of Leicester
  • CLAS Symposium 2017, Paper Presentation: What's the point of protesting?, 3rd-4th May 2017, The University of Nottingham

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