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Claire Blencowe


Dr Claire Blencowe

Associate Professor of Sociology

Term 1 2019/20: Research Leave

Term 2 2019/20: Director Social Theory Centre 


Room: E0.16 Social Sciences

Telephone: +44(0)24 761 51706


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Overview: I specialise in social theory and the politics of knowledge and culture in the context of (racial) capitalism. My first book  Biopolitical Experience: Foucault Power & Positive Critique sets out a critical account of the role of values associated with evolution, health and vitality to the constitution of European political authority and racism (biopolitics). In a series of collaborative projects and publications with members of the Authority Research Network I am researching contemporary emergent forms of authority - both to understand the changing formations of political power in their relation to material and cultural life, and to explore the potential of participatory cultural and research practices as means of resisting or surviving contemporary forms of oppression, denigration and dehumanisation. Our publications include a series of accessible creative essay collections that are avalible to download for free here - Problems of Participation, Listening with Non-Human Others, Problems of Hope, and Problems of Debt. I am currently involved in a collaborative project working with community organisers in Rio called Transforming  Atmospheric Authority: Experimental Embodiments in the Maré, Rio de Janerio - further details of this project below. With Anna Harpin in Theatre Studies I hold an IATL academic fellowship to develop a community action project and interdisciplinary MA module that uses social theory, applied theatre and creative practice to explore the social, collaborative and politico-economic basis of mental illness and healing under neoliberalism (this project has been on hold since 2017 but we look forward to reviving the project as soon as circumstances allow).

Areas of Expertise: Social and Cultural theory (esp biopolitical, feminist/queer/decolonial theory; materialism; post-structuralism); Creative and Participatory Methodologies; Political Sociology and Authority Studies; Religion and Capitalism/Colonialism; Political Spirituality/Spiritual Activism; Biopolitics.

Selected Publications:

'Disenchanting secularism (or the cultivation of soul) as pedagogy in resistance to populist racism and colonial strucutres in the academy' British Education Research Journal (2020 - 'early view' online publication). Open Access:

‘Engines of Alternative Objectivity: Re-articulating the Nature and Value of Participatory Mental Health Organisations with the Hearing Voices Movement and Stepping Out Theatre Company’. Health 2018, 22(3): 205–222, with Noorani T.,& Brigstocke J: Open Access

Problems of Hope 2017, ARN Press edited with Dawney, & Brenihan P. Open Access:

‘Foucault & Political Sociology’ in Outhwaite, W. and Turner, S. eds Sage Handbook of Political Sociology, 2017 Sage. :

‘Ecological Attunement in a Theological Key: Adventures in Anti-fascist Aesthetics’ Geo-Humanities. 2016, 2(1): 24-41. Open Access:

Problems of Participation: Reflections on Authority, Democracy and the Struggle for Common Life edited with Noorani, T. & Brigstocke J. Open Access:

Authority, Experience & the Life of Power 2014 Routledge, edited with Dawney L. & Brigstocke, J:

‘Biology, Contingency and the Problem of Racism in Feminist Discourse’ Theory, Culture & Society, 2011 28 (3): 3-27:

Biopolitical Experience: Foucault, Power & Positive Critique 2012, Palgrave:

Current Research Project

Transforming Atmospheric Authority: Experimental Embodiments in the Maré, Rio de Janerio

This project explores the materialisation, and contestation, of suffocating authoritarian atmospheres in the largest informal urban community in Rio de Janerio. With residents being subjected to increasingly extreme symbolic and physical racialised violence by the regime of Jair Bolsonaro, the Maré occupies a particular intensity within the planetary story of growing authoritarianism and state racism. The project focuses on the embodied knowleges and creative collaborative practices of women who (seek to) organise in the Maré. Using participatory action research methods, it centres on a series of workshops in which participants will co-produce analyses, outputs and capacity. Together we will ask: What is the political economy of the violence to which Maré residents are subjected? What are its material effects in terms of producing spaces, atmospheres and conditions of urban life? How does it shape and constrain the emotional, psychological and physical capacities of the collective and individual bodies in the Maré and beyond? What bodies does it disallow or ‘debilitate’ (Puar 2017). And what are the practices through which women organise to survive, heal, breathe, find joy and movement – refuse and transform suffocating atmospheres? How do creative practices challenge incapacitating effects of violence, foster community authority and capacities for collective life? The workshops also seek to build community authority, solidarity, and capacity amongst participants. This two year project is led by a team including community partners Redes de Maré and academics from Cardiff, Warwick, and the Federal University of Rio de Janerio (UFRJ).

Principle Investigator Julian Brigstocke, Cardiff; AHRC funded, 24 month project commencing January 2020.

PhD Supervision

I am interested in supervising research in social theory, especially materialist/new materialist, feminist/queer, post-structuralist, decolonial and cultural theory; as well as contemporary and historical research on authority, colonialism/racial capitalism, bio-politics, spirituality/religion and politics, aesthetics, and creative forms of political participation. Email enquiries welcome.

My previous and current PhD students include:

  • Lizzy Le Quesne (Midlands 4 Cities Doctoral Partnership, cosupervision with Ruth Gibson & Sarah Whatmore, Coventry University) 'A Dance of Becoming: Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT), embodied emancipation and a dance practice of somatic autobiography'.
  • Paola Patino-Rabines 'Deviant Politics in Contemporary Peru: Aesthetic Transgressions and the Political Dispute over Diversitiy's Terms of Recognition'
  • Seb Rumsby (2020) 'Social Factors Affecting Economic Development in Vietnam's Highlands'
  • Kathryn Medien (2018) 'Intimate Occupations: Sexualised Biopolitics in Colonised Palestine'
  • Wonseok Kim (2018) A Critical Investigation into the Discourse of Educational Neutrality in South Korea (1987-2017)'
  • Leonardo Vasconcelos de Castro Moreira (2018) ‘The Universal Church of Kingdom of God in Madrid: A church without borders'
  • Morteza Hashemi Madani (2015) 'Social Theory and the Secular Fundamentalisms' (2015)
  • Sam Burgum (2014) 'Occupy London: Post-Politics versus Politics Proper in an Era of Consensus'

Current Teaching

I am passionate about teaching sociology. My teaching practice is bound up with my interests as a critical sociologist and social/political theorist - through teaching I strive to foster capacities for agency, critique and collaboration.

In 2019/20 I am on research sabattical in Term 1. I will be leading Modern Social Theory in Term 2.

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Postcolonial Studies