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Dr Leila Dawney

Dr Leila Dawney

Associate Professor in Human Geography


 Amory D439


Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK


Prior to working at Exeter I have worked at the University of Brighton, in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. I completed an AHRC-funded PhD in Cultural Geography in 2012 at the University of Exeter. I have also been an 'A' level lecturer and an arts marketing specialist. 

Broad research specialisms:

Geographies of authority and experience
Cultural geography, geographies of affect and non-representational theories
Infrastructure, deindustrialisation and change


PhD Human Geography (Exeter)
MA Sociology and Philosophy of Culture (Exeter)
BA Cultural and Political Studies (Exeter)
Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy
LTHE, University of Exeter
PGCE (Secondary English), 

Research group links

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Research interests

A social theorist and cultural geographer, my research focuses on the politics of affect and experience, on classical and emergent thinking on authority and on forms of experience in late capitalist life, contributing to ongoing debates on power, authority, affect and the commons. My research falls into the following three areas:

Experiential forms of late capitalist life

The principal conceptual thread running through my research is an ongoing concern with the relationship between politics, affect and experience. My PhD research focused primarily on recent theoretical work on embodiment, politics and affect, and developed a politics of the body through an engagement with Spinoza and his relation to critical theory, particularly through new materialist thinking.

I have worked on various projects exploring modes of experience of late capitalist life, including my PhD research on landscape, practice and identity, a project on the experiential politics of debt in the UK, and on the emergence of cultures of militarism in Britain during the war in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2015. My most recent research has focused on the relationship between deindustrialisation and modes of endurance and temporality through fieldwork in a former nuclear town in Lithuania, and focuses on emergent forms of social and collective life in the wake of deindustrialisation and urban decline.

Postfoundational approaches to authority

I have an ongoing interest in accounts of authority in classical and poststructural social theory. In collaboration with other members of the Authority Research Network, I explore understandings of authority-production and the emergence of a politics of immanence through an engagement with the classical work on authority of Weber, Foucault and Arendt, as refigured through postfoundational thought, leading to an edited collection Authority, Experience and the Life of Power (Routledge, 2014). In particular, I am concerned with experiential forms of authority, particularly as articulated through cultural “figures of authority” and the figure as a conceptual and methodological tool in social and cultural critique.

My research on authority has led me to think about the idea of the common as a means of understanding alternative political subjectivities to neoliberal individualism. This interest spans the historical and imaginary understandings of the “commons”, the idea of the common in contemporary philosophy and the material production of common life through practice. This has led to the production of an edited collection: Space, Power and the Commons (Routledge, 2015)

Methodological innovations in cultural critique

My interest in affect theory has led me to develop expertise in methodological innovations for the humanities and social sciences. These draw on theoretical work from feminist science studies and non-representational theory in the production of experimental and critical approaches to the production of academic knowledge. I work closely with colleagues at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick through the development of theoretical and methodological work on the concepts of the figure and of figuration, specifically examining how figures are used in the work of Foucault and Haraway and in recent critical thought.

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students whose interests intersect with my own. Potential areas of interest could include:

  • Cultural geography, geographies of affect and non-representational theories
  • Deindustrialisation: politics, aesthetics and experience
  • Infrastructure, modernity and change
  • Nuclear spaces
  • Spaces and landscapes of authority
  • Post-humanist geographies
  • Temporalities and futures

Research networks

Authority Research Network
Nuclear Societies
Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group

Research Groups & External Responsibilities:

Founding member/co-ordinator of the Authority Research Network
Member of AHRC Peer Review College
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Committee Member: Royal Geographical Society Social and Cultural Geography Research Group.

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Bresnihan P, Dawney L (2017). Problems of Hope., ARN Press. Abstract.
Blencowe C, Brigstocke J, Dawney L (2016). Authority, experience and the life of power. Abstract.
Blencowe C, Brigstocke J, Dawney L (2016). Introduction: Authority and experience.
Kirwan S, Dawney L, Brigstocke J (2016). Space, power and the commons: the struggle for alternative futures. Abstract.

Journal articles

Dawney L, Jellis T (2023). Endurance, exhaustion and the lure of redemption. cultural geographies, 31(2), 153-166. Abstract.
Dawney L (2023). múltiplas temporalidades da infraestrutura. Aurora. Revista de Arte, Mídia e Política, 15(45), 117-134. Abstract.
Segurado R, Amaral A, Dawney L, De Alencar Santos N (2023). É preciso olhar para as montanhas. Aurora. Revista de Arte, Mídia e Política, 15(45), 9-27. Abstract.
Dawney L, (tradutor) AA, (tradutor) NDAS (2022). Locais desativados: ruínas, resistência e cuidado no final da primeira era nuclear. Ponto Urbe(30 v.2).
Bevilacqua I, Emery J, Mustafa D, Shaw J, Tillotson M, Dawney L (2021). Arendtian Geopolitics after the 2021 UK Defence Review. Antipode: a Radical Journal of Geography, 2021
Brigstocke J, Bresnihan P, Dawney L, Millner N (2021). Geographies of authority. Progress in Human Geography, 45(6), 1356-1378. Abstract.
Dawney L (2021). The multiple temporalities of infrastructure: Atomic cities and the memory of lost futures. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 39 (3), 405-422.
Dawney L (2020). Figurations of Wounding: Soldiers’ Bodies, Authority, and the Militarisation of Everyday Life. Geopolitics, 25(5), 1099-1117. Abstract.
Dawney L, Kirwan S, Walker R (2020). The intimate spaces of debt: Love, freedom and entanglement in indebted lives. Geoforum, 110, 191-199. Abstract.
Dawney L (2019). Affective War: Wounded Bodies as Political Technologies. Body and Society, 25(3), 49-72. Abstract.
Uprichard E, Dawney L (2019). Data Diffraction: Challenging Data Integration in Mixed Methods Research. JOURNAL OF MIXED METHODS RESEARCH, 13(1), 19-32.  Author URL.
Dawney LA (2019). Decommissioned places: Ruins, endurance and care at the end of the first nuclear age. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 45(1), 33-49.
Dawney L, Huzar TJ (2019). Introduction: the Legacies and Limits of the Body in Pain. Body and Society, 25(3), 3-21. Abstract.
Dawney L (2018). The affective life of power. DIALOGUES IN HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, 8(2), 217-219.  Author URL.
Dawney LA, Harris OJT, Sørensen TF (2017). Future world: Anticipatory archaeology, materially affective capacities and the late human legacy. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 4(1), 107-129. Abstract.
Blencowe C, Brigstocke J, Dawney L (2013). Authority and experience. Journal of Political Power, 6(1), 1-7.
Dawney L (2013). The figure of authority: the affective biopolitics of the mother and the dying man. Journal of Political Power, 6(1), 29-47. Abstract.
Dawney L (2013). The interruption: investigating subjectivation and affect. ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING D-SOCIETY & SPACE, 31(4), 628-644.  Author URL.
Dawney L (2011). Social imaginaries and therapeutic self-work: the ethics of the embodied imagination. SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 59(3), 535-552.  Author URL.
Dawney L (2011). The motor of being: a response to Steve Pile's 'Emotions and affect in recent human geography'. TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS, 36(4), 599-602.  Author URL.
Dawney L (2010). Therapeutic Landscapes. Emotion, Space and Society, 3(2), 121-122.


Dawney L, Brothwell L (2022). Conversations on benches. In  (Ed) Ecological Reparation Repair, Remediation and Resurgence in Social and Environmental Conflict, Bristol: Bristol University Press. Abstract.
Dawney L (2022). The work that figures do. In Lury C, Wark S, Viney W (Eds.) Figure Concept and Method, Palgrave Macmillan. Abstract.
Dawney L (2020). Dramatising deindustrialisation: experiential authority, temporality and embodiment in a play about nuclear decommissioning. In Rhodes M, Price W, Walker A (Eds.) Geographies of Postindustrial Place, Memory, and Heritage, London: Routledge. Abstract.
Kirwan S, Dawney L, Walker R (2019). ‘Choose your moments’: discipline and speculation in the indebted everyday. In  (Ed) The Sociology of Debt, Bristol University Press, 119-144.
Kirwan S, Dawney L, Walker R (2019). ‘Choose your moments’: discipline and speculation in the indebted everyday. In  (Ed) The Sociology of Debt, Bristol University Press, 119-144.
Dawney LA, Kirwan S, Walker R (2019). ’Choose your moments’: Discipline and speculation in the indebted everyday. In  (Ed) The sociology of debt, Bristol: Policy Press. Abstract.
Dawney LA (2018). Diffracting. In  (Ed) Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Research Methods, London: Routledge. Abstract.
Dawney LA (2018). Figurationing. In  (Ed) Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Research Methods. Abstract.
Dawney LA (2017). On finding hope beyond progress. In Dawney L, Bresnihan P (Eds.) Problems of Hope, Lewes: ARN Press. Abstract.
Dawney LA (2016). Into Eternity. In  (Ed) Listening with Non-Human Others, Lewes: ARN Press. Abstract.
Dawney L (2016). The figure of authority: the affective biopolitics of the mother and the dying man. In  (Ed) Authority, Experience and the Life of Power, 29-47. Abstract.

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Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • Adarsh Yadav


  • Garikoitz Gomez Alfaro Postcards for a European Memory: placing 20th century memory and trauma through public and digital space in Spain and Northern Ireland. Brighton.
  • Elona Hoover Nurturing Collective Ethical Politics: re-imagining practices of commoning through human-non-human relations.
  • Adam Philips The Ethics of Migration and Hospitality: gestures of welcome and exclusion. Brighton.
  • Li-Kheng Poh In Search of Environmental Accountability: ignorance, mobilisation, litigation and implications for citizenship (completed 2015).
  • Feargus Roulston Justa Nother Teenage Rebel: Belfast Punk and the Troubles 1974-1979.
  • Xavier Rusillo Emerging Forms of "Commoning" in Spain: theoretical and practical grounds for new worlds.

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