The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Professor Alison Stenning

Professor of Social & Economic Geography



BSc Geography, University of Birmingham, 1993
MA International Political Economy, University of Newcastle, 1994
PhD Geography, University of Birmingham, 1998

Previous Positions

1996-2003 Lecturer, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Associate Member, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham


Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Honours and Awards

2006 RGS-IBG Gill Memorial Award winner for contributions to eastern European geography


alright Polish
very passive Russian
OK French


Research Interests

Keywords: the everyday; emotions; relationships (families, friends and communities); play; community; austerity; work and class; the psychosocial; post-socialism; Poland; E-W migration

My research interests have shifted in a variety of ways over the course of my academic career, but generally to the west and to incorporate smaller and smaller scales.

I started working on a PhD which explored local and regional economic development in post-Soviet Russia, based in Novosibirsk in Western Siberia. As I completed my PhD, I shifted west to Poland and to the scale of the community, exploring how Nowa Huta, on the edges of Krakow, was living with the end of communism and the rise of capitalism. I continued to work in Nowa Huta for many years, latterly working with households and their experiences of social and economic change. In recent years, I have focused more on research in the UK, particularly in communities in the north east, and have increasingly been focused on domestic, emotional, relational, embodied and everyday geographies. 

Current Work

My current research is focused around how "playing out" shapes residents’ attachments, material and emotional, to their streets and the people on them, and how play has the potential to challenge the erosion of relationships in everyday places. It is rooted in an idea of potential space, developed from the work of Donald Winnicott and defined as “an inviting and safe interpersonal field in which one can be spontaneously playful while at the same time connected to others” (Casement, 1985, 162).

Older Work

My most recent previous research sought to more fully explore the idea of a ‘psychosocial geography’, which connects to contemporary debates around emotional geographies and affect but more explicitly foregrounds the articulation between the social and the psychic dynamics of our everyday geographies. These questions were focused on a project, funded by the Catherine Cookson Foundation, entitled "Researching Relationships: Family, Friendship and Community in Cullercoats". The project was based on a programme of qualitative, ethnographic, psycho-social research exploring how the personal relationships that shape communities enable households to negotiate social and economic change.

My last big Polish project culminated in the publication, with Adrian Smith, Alenka Rochovska and Darek Swiatek, of a book entitled "Domesticating Neoliberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post Socialist Cities" for Blackwell's RGS-IBG book series.

I have also worked on issues surrounding the recent waves of migration from the new member states of the EU (the A8) to the UK. This research strand began with an ODPM-funded assessment of the local and regional impacts of migration (on which I worked with CURDS colleagues Stuart Dawley, Mike Coombes, Tony Champion, Ranald Richardson, Cheryl Conway and Liz Dixon). Many of my PhD students (see below) are working on this theme.

With Jane Pollard, Nina Laurie, Alex Hughes (all Newcastle) and Cheryl McEwan (Durham) and Uma Kothari (Manchester), I was involved in a seminar series on "Postcolonial Economies" which seeks to explore heterodox approaches to 'the economy', in dialogue with poststructural political economies, diverse and alternative economies and feminist economic geography. In exploring these approaches, we have been debating ways of re-visioning and re-thinking how we research and theorise ‘the economic’.

In the early 2000s, I was heavily involved, with colleagues Jane Wills, Tim Strangleman, Chris Haylett and Helen Jarvis, in developing a working class studies agenda and network in the UK, initially through an ESRC-sponsored seminar series. A series of short pieces reflecting on this agenda was published in Antipode.

I have also worked on projects on the transformation of gender and work in Poland (with Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire); contested development in Auschwitz/Oswiecim, Poland (with Andy Charlesworth, Nottingham University); and the British and Polish steel industries (with Stuart Dawley and Andy Pike, CURDS).

Previous Expertise

Old industrial regions (esp. steel)
Gender and work
Polish communities in the UK
Household and community economies

Postgraduate Supervision

I am keen to supervise students wishing to work in any of the areas highlighted above. Please do contact me to discuss ideas.

I have supervised the following students to completion:

Szymon Sawicki: 2003-2007, ESRC studentship, "Network Europe: British-Polish economic networks and the remaking of Europe" (with Nick Henry)

Sara Fregonese: 2004-2008, School studentship, “Mapping Destruction: Towards a Critical Geography of Violence against the Built Environment in Beirut 1975-76” (with Claudio Minca and Alex Jeffrey)

Shelagh Furness: 2003-2009, self-funded, "The case of the missing geography: European Union territory and territoriality" (with Alex Jeffrey)

Kate Botterill: 2008-2011 ESRC 3 studentship, "Transnational networks and social mobility among migrant workers from the post-socialist world" (with Alastair Bonnett)

Angela Abbott: 2006-2011 ESRC 1 3 studentship, "Exploring the Implications of Self-Directed Support to Social, Spatial and Affective Relations of Elderly Care" (with Helen Jarvis)

Gemma Metcalfe: 2005-2011, ESRC 1 3 studentship, "Contemporary gender relations in former mining communities: Work, family and community" (with Tracey Warren and Steph Lawler)

Michail Biniakos: 2006-2011, Greek Ministry of Education, "Local and regional development and governance in the Balkans" (with John Tomaney and Andy Pike) 

Rachel Clements: 2006-2014, ESRC 2 3 studentship with Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies, "Polish migration and the city of Glasgow" (with Peter Hopkins)

Charlotte Johnson: 2009-2014 ESRC 3 studentship, "An ethnography of housing councils in Belgrade" (with Jane Pollard and Alex Jeffrey, Cambridge University)

Lucy Smout Szablewska: 2012-2019 self-funded, "Transnationalism, gender and livelihoods amongst Polish migrants in NE England" (with Cheryl McEwan and Kathrin Horschelmann, Durham University)

Sean Gill: 2013-2017 ESRC NEDTC  3 studentship, "Transitions to adulthood: young Poles’ experiences of migration and life in Northumberland" (with Peter Hopkins and Jane Walker, Northumberland County Council)

Esther Hitchen: 2014-2019 ESRC NEDTC 3 studentship, "Affect and gender: Living with austerity in the north east of England" (with Ben Anderson and Paul Langley, Durham University)

Kate Gibson: 2013-2018 ESRC NEDTC 1 3 studentship, "How are classed relationships enacted through food and feeding?" (with Cate Degnen and Lisa Garforth, Sociology)

Heidi Saxby: 2015-2019 ESRC NEDTC 1 3 studentship, "Investigating the wellbeing of seasonal migrant workers in UK agriculture" (with Menelaos Gkartkzios, Centre for Rural Economy)

I am currently supervising the following students:

Jessie Kelly: 2017- ESRC NINE DTP studentship (with Helen Jarvis)

Heather Mew: 2017- ESRC NINE DTP studentship (with Tracy Shildrick, Sociology)

Claire Boden: 2018- ESRC NINE DTP studentship (with Ruth McAreavey, Sociology)

Lottie Rhodes: 2019- ESRC NINE DTP studentship (with Sarah Winkler-Reid, Sociology)

Melisa Maida: 2019- ESRC NINE DTP studentship (with Caleb Johnston and Matej Blazek)


1999-2000 Nuffield Foundation Social Science Small Grant - Out with the Old and In with the New? The Changing Experiences of Women’s Work in Poland (with Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire)

2000-2002 ESRC Research Grants Scheme Award - Living in the Spaces of (Post-)Socialism: The Case of Nowa Huta

2001-2002 ESRC Research Grants Scheme Award - The Other Auschwitz: Economic Change and the Dead Hand of History (with Andrew Charlesworth, Nottingham University and Robert Guzik, Jagiellonian University of Krakow)

2003-2005 ESRC Seminar Series - Working Class Lives: Geographies and Sociologies (with Helen Jarvis (GPS), Tim Strangleman (London Metropolitan University), Jane Wills (Queen Mary, University of London) and Chris Haylett (University of Manchester))

2004 Faculty Arts and Humanities Research Fund - Recasting Steel Geographies: Mapping Corporations, Connecting Communities (with Andy Pike and Stuart Dawley)

2004-2006 ESRC Research Grants Scheme Award - Social Exclusion, Spaces of Household Economic Practice and Post-Socialism (with Adrian Smith, Queen Mary, University of London) [see also]

2005-2006 ODPM New Horizons - Assessing the Local and Regional Impacts of International Migration (with a number of CURDS colleagues)

2012 Catherine Cookson Foundation - Researching Relationships: Family, Friendship and Community in Cullercoats

2019-20 Leverhulme Research Fellowship - Potential Space and Playing Out: Exploring Play, Neighbours and Streets



I am not teaching during the academic year 2019/20 as a result of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

Undergraduate Teaching

  • GEO1015 - Contemporary Human Geography of the UK
  • GEO2110 - Social Geographies
  • GEO2111 - Doing Geographical Research
  • GEO3099 - Dissertation
  • GEO3143 - Everyday Emotional Geographies

Postgraduate Teaching

  • GEO8017 - Human Geography: Concepts in Action