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James McNally (PhD Student)

James McNally

Research Interests: Historical epistemology, sociology of knowledge, science and technology studies, problem-solving, pragmatist and post-structuralist philosophy.

Supervisors: Professor Noortje MarresLink opens in a new window and Dr Matt SpencerLink opens in a new window.

Thesis (working title)

On the Concept of the Problem

Research Topic

My research is an attempt to understand our contemporary, collective, fascination with problems and problem solving, in light of recent calls from a number of academic fields and political and economic institutions for a re-thinking of what a 'problem' is, and what our modes of engagement with problems should be.

My work asks the question of why it is that we think about problems in the ways that we do - that is, in the ways that contemporary critics have claimed are inadequate. To pursue this question, my work focuses on developments in the humanities and human sciences in the late 19th and 20th centuries, where 'problems' first became objects of empirical and experimental investigation, such as in psychological studies of human and animal 'problem solving,' or sociological studies of 'social problems.' Within and alongside these investigations, there were also various inquiries of a more philosophical or theoretical nature, especially as concerned understandings of subjectivity, science, and history. I am interested in the intellectual currents that led to problems being thought about in the ways that they were, but also in the practices through which problems were made into objects of knowledge. It is my hope that, by beginning to understand why and how it was that so many scholarly fields and intellectual milieus in the last 150 years - many of them in isolation from one another - turned their attention to these things called 'problems,' we may advance some way in knowing what is to be done about our 'problems' today.

The methods through which I conduct my research are largely drawn from the fields of historical epistemology and the sociology of knowledge, which includes thinkers such as Ian Hacking, Lorraine Daston, and Hans-Jorg Rheinberger. My work is also informed by my background in post-Kantian philosophy, especially 20th century French thought.


    • As of Winter 2021 I have been working as a research assistant at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at the University of Columbia in the City of New York.
    • I am currently an editorial assistant for Sociologica: International Journal for Sociological Debate, published by the University of Bologna. More information can be found here:
    • From 2019 to 2021 worked as a postgraduate research assistant on Horizon 2020 BLINDSPOT: Diversity and Performance in Networks and Teams, a European Research Council (ERC) project headed by principal investigator Professor David Stark.
    • In Summer 2020 I worked as a copy editor for Professor Elena Esposito at the University of Bielefeld, for her book Artificial Communication: How Algorithms Produce Social Intelligence (MIT Press, 2022).
    • In Spring 2020 I worked as a research assistant on the ResiCAV (Resilience in Connected Autonomous Vehicles) project led by principal investigator Professor Carsten Maple at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick.
    • In December 2018 I provided research and organisational assistance for the Put to the Test international workshop. More Information on the workshop can be found here. Following the workshop, from Winter 2018 to Spring 2020 I worked as a research assistant for the production of a special issue of the British Journal of Sociology focused around the themes and contributions from the workshop.


    • I currently do not teach any classes, but have previously worked as a sessional tutor at CIM, as well as teaching the centre's Study Skills classes.


    • 2017: Bursary Award for outstanding CIMasters applications – Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, £2000
    • 2018: Outstanding Performance and Best Dissertation for MA in Digital Media and Culture – Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies
    • 2018-present Gibraltar Discretionary Scholarship Award (PhD)
    • 2020: Research Development Programme bursary for student-led conferences – Warwick Doctoral College, £600


    • July 31st 2020: (Organiser) Technology and Global Governance Virtual Forum

    Call for abstracts can be found here; conference programme and list of speakers can be found here)



    Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies

    University of Warwick CV4 7AL

    Email:j dot mcnally at warwick dot ac dot uk