The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Niall Cunningham

Lecturer in Human Geography

Background

I am a human geographer with an interest in the application of quantitative methods to issues of social and historical change. I have taught and conducted research at universities across the north of England and prior to that I taught at secondary schools in both the UK and Japan. I am a UK-state qualified secondary school teacher and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Previous University Positions

2015-2019: Lecturer in Human Geography, Geography Department, Durham University, UK

2011-2015: Research Fellow in Quantitative Analysis of Socio-Cultural Change, CRESC: Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, University of Manchester, UK

2008-2010: Research Associate in History, History Department, Lancaster University, UK

Qualifications

2008-2014: PhD in Historical Geography, Lancaster University, UK (Part-Time)

2006-2007: MSc in Geographical Information Systems, University of Leeds, UK

2000-2001: PGCE in Secondary Education (History), Institute of Education, University of London, UK 

1997-1998: MA in History, University College Dublin, Ireland

1994-1997: BA(Hons) in Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, UK




Research

Boundaries, Belonging and Conflict

My research interests and outputs can be broadly classified into two main areas of activity. The first is within the sub-discipline of political geography and coheres around issues of identity, place and boundary-making. Most of my work in this area has focussed on the Irish context. I started off in academia working on the construction of an Historical Geographical Information System or HGIS using census and other statistical data to understand long-term changes in the socio-economic and ethnic composition of the island of Ireland over the period since the Great Famine of the mid-nineteenth century. My PhD was on spatial patterns of ethnic violence in the city of Belfast during the twentieth century, covering the two greatest periods of unrest in the city's history, those surrounding partition and the creation of Northern Ireland between 1920 and 1922, and the more protracted and better-known 'Troubles' from 1969 to 2001. More recently, I have become interested in microscale approaches to social and historical change and have recently completed work on a British Academy grant to virtually repopulate some of Belfast's most contested 'interface' areas using individual census returns, alongside large-scale mapping, gazetteers and other contemporaneous archive material. I maintain an active interest in using 'traditional' historical methodologies and sources alongside innovative digital approaches. In this strand of work I am also seeking to broaden out considerations of social and political borders to think through the selective permeability of national and neighbourhood boundaries based upon the injustices associated with class and race.  

  

Class, Race, and Structures of Urban Inequality and Materiality

The other major thrust in my work lies around an engagement with issues of social class - its measurement and its implications, particularly in urban contexts. This interest stemmed from my time at CRESC: The ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), where one of the projects I was involved in was the BBC's 'Great British Class Survey' (GBCS). The GBCS sought to develop conceptions of social class beyond traditional 'employment aggregate' approaches to consider the wider social and cultural drivers and implications of class position through the adoption of a Bourdieusian conceptual lens. The initial findings were published as 'A New Model of Social Class' in 2013, and further developed in the popular monograph, Social Class in the 21st Century (Penguin: 2015). This has also led to a wider series of interventions on class structure in urban space, and I am currently thinking some of these issues through in a comparative context, through an ESRC-funded grant, designed to build a network of scholarship between the UK and Japan with a series of events to be hosted in both countries in 2020. I am also deeply interested in the wider 'costs of class' and the implications of class location and social mobility for mental and physical health and wellbeing. 

 

External Grant Funding

2019: ESRC Social Science Humanities Japan-UK Connections Call: (P.I.) 'Culture, Class, Connection: Bridging Debates on Social Class and Inequality in the UK and Japan' (£60,547)

2018: Recession and Mental Health in Scotland: Do Personal or Community Factors Promote Resilience to Labour Market (£9247.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))

2017: ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative: (Co-I) 'Recession and Mental Health in Scotland: Do Personal or Community Factors Promote Resilience to Labour Market Change?' (£163,000)

2016: British Academy: (PI) 'The Greatest Turn of the Ratchet: Belfast 1920-22' SG161841 (£5,857)

2016: European Commission Horizon 2020: (Co-I.) ‘NATure-based URban innoVATION’. H2020-EU.3.5.4.2 ID: 730243 (€7.8 million)

2013: ESRC Festival of Social Science 2013: (P.I.) ‘Class Matters: Understanding Inequality in Contemporary Britain’, Public Event, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, 8 November 2013 (£1,750)

2010: British Academy: (named researcher) 'Mapping the Congregations of God: The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, 1851-2001' SG090803 (£7,031)

 


Teaching

In academic year 2019-20, I teach on the following modules:                                                                                                              

  • GEO1015: Human Geographies of the UK
  • GEO2110: Social Geographies (Module Leader)
  • GEO2043: Key Methods for Human Geographers
  • GEO2111: Doing Human Geography Research: Theory and Practice
  • GEO2128: Comparative Urbanism and Central Europe: Vienna and Bratislava Fieldcourse
  • GEO8015: Doing Geographical Research

My office hours in 2019-20 are:

  • Mondays: 11-12
  • Tuesdays: 9-11

I currently co-supervise four PhD students with colleagues at Durham and Northumbria Universities and have supervised the following students to successful completion to date: 

  1. Victoria Smith (May 2019) ‘Using Agent-Based Modelling and Social Network Analysis to understand power and interaction in CAtchment Based Approaches (CABA) to water network management’ 
  2. Mildred Ajebon (June 2019) ‘Geographical Perspectives on the Social Determinants of Inequalities in Under-Five Mortality in Nigeria: Towards an Integrated Approach. 

I would be pleased to receive enquiries on potential PhD supervision relating to my areas of research activity.



Publications