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Politics of Inequality


This programme explores the practices of resistance, mobilisation, and contestation which constitute a politics of inequalities from a bottom-up perspective. Research within this programme has an international and comparative focus, adopting an intersectional lens to explore collective action and everyday resistance against various social, cultural, economic and political inequalities.

The key focus of this programme is on the diverse forms of popular agency which animate the grassroots politics of inequality.

This programme is co-led by Dr Armine Ishkanian and Professor Ellen Helsper 

This research programme draws together the expertise of LSE academics from different Departments and is committed to a cross-disciplinary approach.  We also aim to work with international partners, including those in the global south. The programme will support research collaborations, funding bids, as well as knowledge exchange activities. The programme will be an open and inclusive space for researchers across LSE and beyond to forge new connections, knowledge, and practices in the politics of inequalities. 

This programme is linked to the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme, which is based in the International Inequalities Institute (III).  Given that the AFSEE programme is committed to building a community of people who are “committed to using collective leadership to work towards social and economic justice for all”, it is intended that research within this programme will inform the teaching on AFSEE modules, the AFSEE Fellows’ projects and MSc dissertations, and that it will seek to engage with and to include the expertise of Fellows.

Themes and projects: 

Research focus and aims 

The focus of the programme

In defining the focus and aims of the programme, we engaged in discussions with colleagues across LSE via Zoom and over email. We view the programme as a participatory, collaborative, and inclusive project which advances research, supports collaborations and knowledge sharing, and encourages engagement with practitioners and communities beyond academia.

Embracing a broad definition of civil society as a space for uncoerced collective action, research within this programme addresses how a range of actors working within the space of civil society, from social movements, grassroots groups, NGOs, trade unions, solidarity networks, as well as ordinary citizens and non-citizens are confronting, challenging, and resisting political, social and economic inequalities at various levels, including the local, (trans)national, and international. We adopt a critical view, challenging normative assumptions about civil society. As subaltern actors have always created ways of resisting, concepts and networks, within and beyond the constraints of organisations, institutions and hegemonic discourses, the research in this programme considers popular self-activity, direct action, as well as everyday, micro-level processes of reproduction and resistance.

Alongside examining the forms of action, our research will consider the (re)-production of  ideas, understandings, and knowledge. We set out to consider how and under which circumstances grassroots actors are challenging and transforming narratives and public debates around inequalities, as well as how inequalities are reproduced and resisted in everyday practices, discourses and interactions. We aim to understand how ordinary people experience, accept, resist, or reproduce inequalities - in families, households, peer and community networks, media discourses, neighbourhoods and online platforms. Our research investigates emergent forms of political organising among subaltern groups, popular struggle, the “vernaculars” of collective action,  and engages with struggles for epistemic justice. In doing so, it critiques the epistemic violence occasioned by social inequalities and probes different conceptualisations and instantiations of justice, equity, inequality, and imaginations of a better world.

Finally, given that part of the resistance to equality comes from within sections of civil society, such as right wing and conservative movements, research will consider the movement-countermovement dynamics as well as the dialectical relationships between such movements and popular struggles seeking to tackle inequalities.

Programme Activities

The programme will be an open and inclusive space for researchers across LSE and beyond to forge new connections, knowledge and practices in the politics of inequalities. In that interest, the programme will host and support the following activities:

  1. Seminars/webinars – where programme members and other researchers working on issues related to the programme’s focus, can present work in progress
  2. Programme reading group – we will hold a monthly meeting where members will read and discuss a newly published book related to the programme’s focus
  3. Platform for knowledge exchange and dissemination – the programme will host (or co-host) events by programme members, such as public events, book launches, or exhibitions
  4. Platform for putting together collective funding proposals
  5. Opportunity to connect and work with practitioners, activists, and researchers from the AFSEE programme.  Details of the incoming cohort of AFSEE Fellows can be found here

Members 

LSE-based members 

Dr Akile Ahmet

Head of Inclusive Education, LSE Eden Centre for Educational Enhancement

Dr Paul Apostolidis

Associate Professorial Lecturer, Department of Government

Professor John Chalcraft

Professor of Middle East History and Politics, Department of Government 

Dr Flora Cornish

Associate Professor in Research Methodology, Department of Methodology 

Dr Dina Davaki

MSc International Health Policy Placements Officer, Department of Health Policy

Dr Dena Freeman

Senior visiting fellow, Department of Anthropology 

Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan

Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communication 

Dr Duncan Green

Professor in Practice and Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB, International Development 

Dr Shalini Grover

Research Officer, International Inequalities Institute 

Professor Ellen Helsper

‘Politics of Inequality’ Programme Co-Convenor and Professor of Digital Inequalities, Department of Media and Communications 

Dr Timothy Hildebrandt

Associate Professor of Social Policy and Development, Department of Social Policy

Dr Jonathan Hopkin

Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Government 

Dr Armine Ishkanian

‘Politics of Inequality’ Programme Co-Convenor and Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy 

Professor Naila Kabeer

Professor of Gender and Development, Department of Gender Studies

Dr George Kunnath

Research Fellow, International Inequalities Institute 

Dr Sumi Madhok

Associate Professor of Transnational Gender Studies, Department of Gender Studies 

Dr Francesca Manzi

Assistant Professor of Management, Department of Management

Dr Fabrício Mendes Fialho 

Research Officer, International Inequalities Institute 

Dr Rishita Nandagiri 

LSE100 Fellow

Dr Tahnee Ooms

Research Officer, International Inequalities Institute 

Dr Pedro Ramos Pinto

Visiting Senior Fellow, International Inequalities Institute 

Liz Sayce

JRF Practitioner Fellow, International Inequalities Institute 

Dr Hakan Seckinelgin

Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy

Professor Alpa Shah

Professor, Department of Anthropology 

AFSEE Affiliates

Nicola Browne

Coordinator, Act Now Northern Ireland

Georgia Haddad Nicolau

Co-founder and director, Instituto Procomum

Jenny McEneaney 

Governance specialist, UNDP

Johnny Miller

Photographer and Filmmaker

Foluke Ojelabi 

Social Policy Officer, UNICEF

Anita Peña Saavedra

Researcher and a Doctoral candidate

Jite Phido 

Program Director, ARDA Development Communication Inc.  

Barbara van Paassen

Advocate and civil society and social justice professional

Publications 

Events and Podcasts

Previous Politics of Inequality events: 

AFSEE Keynote Lecture - Doughnut Economics: a new economic vision for cities

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute and the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity

Thursday 10 November 6.30pm to 8.00pm. Online public event. 

Speakers: Kate Raworth (Co-founder of Doughnut Economics Action Lab and Senior Associate, Oxford University Environmental Change Institute) and Maria Carrasco (Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity, LSE and Executive Director, Entramada)

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian, Research Programme Co-Leader (Politics of Inequality) and Executive Director AFSEE programme, LSE III and Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy, LSE

In the AFSEE Keynote Lecture, Economist Kate Raworth will discuss how we can create equal and just cities without overburdening the environment. She will be joined by Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity, Maria Carrasco, for the discussion.

Doughnut Economics, a framework coined by Raworth, sets out a 21st-century economic vision of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the living planet, through regenerative and distributive design. Over 40 cities and regions worldwide have already started to engage with the concepts and tools, aiming to turn these concepts into practice in place. How are they getting started, and what are the challenges they face?

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Resistance Doesn't Walk Alone - exhibition

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute, Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity, and LSE Arts

Atrium Gallery, Old Building, LSE Campus

The collaboration between photographer and AFSEE Fellow Johnny Miller and the Politics of Inequality research programme, showcases the ways that individuals and communities are confronting, challenging, and resisting political, social and economic inequalities in Brazil. 

The exhibition works were captured in eight cities across Brazil in 2022. The research project was commissioned by the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme and the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute. 

More information on the exhibition can be found here 


Decolonising Pedagogy: race, gender, and marginal voices in higher education

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute and the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity

Tuesday 07 June 2022 

Speakers: Professor Heidi Safia Mirza (Emeritus Professor of Equality Studies in Education, UCL Institute of Education and Visiting Professor of Race, Department of Social Policy, LSE) and Dr Sara Camacho Felix (Assistant Professorial Lecturer and Programme Lead, Atlantic Fellows in Social and Economic Equity, III)

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian (Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity, III and Associate Professor,  Department of Social Policy, LSE) 

Fundamental to decolonising pedagogy is an understanding of the way we ‘talk’ about race, gender and social justice in our taken for granted systems of knowledge and power. In this AFSEE Keynote Lecture, Heidi Mirza will discuss how we situate the raced and gendered ‘Other’ in everyday discourse and why and how marginalised groups articulate alternative world views. Professor Mirza will be joined by discussant Dr Sara Camacho Felix.

Watch the video here


Policy and Social Change

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute, the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity, the Atlantic Institute, LSE Department of Social Policy, and LSE Cities

Tuesday 31 May 2022 

Speakers: Dr Amara Enyia (Manager of Policy and Research, the Movement for Black Lives and Founder, Global Black) Tracy Jooste (Senior Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity), Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey (Assistant Professor in International Social and Public Policy, Department of Social Policy, LSE)

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian (Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity, III and Associate Professor,  Department of Social Policy, LSE) 

The world is facing multiple crises that are responsible for widening economic and social inequalities and insecurities, ranging from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past decade, movements such as Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, Occupy, and the Indignados have confronted States and elites, challenged inequalities and mobilised to bring about greater justice, democracy, and progressive policy changes. This panel brings together speakers who are working at the intersection of research and policy to discuss the question: what is the relationship between policy and social change?

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Civil Society, Solidarity and Emergent Agency in the Time of COVID-19

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute and the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Speakers: Dr Paul Apostolidis (Department of Government, LSE), Dr Irene Gujit (Oxfam, GB), Dr Armine Ishkanian (Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity), Anita Peña Saavedra (Atlantic Fellow, LSE III)  

Chair: Dr George Kunnath (Research Fellow, LSE III) 

In the wake of COVID-19, a range of civil society actors, from grassroots groups, social movements, and NGOs, stepped in to provide support and assistance to communities. Alongside providing material support (e.g., food, medical supplies etc.) and mutual aid, civil society organisations have been at the forefront in campaigning for better policies and social protections for communities. In this panel, we bring together speakers who have been working with communities across the globe, from Chile, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and the US to document practices of solidarity, resistance, and mutual aid. They will discuss how civil society organisations are responding to the new challenges and examine the forms of solidarity and agency that are emerging. 

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


The Digital Disconnect

Hosted by the Department of Media and Communications and International Inequalities Institute

Monday 07 March 2022

Speakers: Professor Marta Arretche (Professor, Department of Political Science University of São Paulo), Professor Ellen Helsper (Professor of Digital Inequalities, Department of Media and Communications, LSE), Professor Karen Mossberger (Frank and June Sackton Professor of Public Affairs, Arizona State University) and Professor Mike Savage (Martin White Professor of Sociology, LSE)

Chair: Professor Bart Cammaerts (Head of the Department of Media and Communications, LSE)

With the increased digitisation of society comes an increased concern about who is left behind. From societal causes to the impact of everyday actions, leading experts will discuss Ellen Helsper's latest book, The Digital Disconnect which explores the relationship between digital and social inequalities, and the lived consequences of digitisation.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Changing the Story on Disability?

Hosted by the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity and International Inequalities Institute

Speakers: Liz Sayce (JRF Practitioner Fellow, LSE III), Tom Shakespeare (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Fredrick Ouko (Atlantic Fellow, LSE III), Kate Stanley (FrameWorks UK)

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian 

This event will hear from those who are striving to shift narratives around disability through public awareness campaigns globally and will explore whether and how an empirical approach to ‘framing’ could effectively move public perceptions and behaviours.

Thirty years after the world’s first disability discrimination law (the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990), and fourteen years after the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, debate remains fierce on how to influence public attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people: how to erode and replace discriminatory stereotypes. Disability rights advocates argue that charities (perhaps inadvertently) reinforce negative imagery in their promotion and fundraising. Yet arguably defining disability as a core equality issue has not, as yet, lit up public consciousness and action.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Youth and Inequalities in the UK

Hosted by the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity and International Inequalities Institute

Speakers: Jason Allen (St Mary's Youth Team Manager), Jeremiah Emmanuel (entrepreneur, youth activist and author) and Michaela Rafferty (III Atlantic Fellow; Young People’s Development Worker, Just for Kids Law)

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian 

Even before the pandemic, young people in the UK faced many forms of inequality and their health and wellbeing was being eroded by a lack of jobs, a shortage of affordable housing, and cuts to public services. As the gap between the generations grows and young people’s voices and concerns are not adequately taken into account by policy makers and politicians, it is no surprise that young people increasingly feel anxious of what the future holds. This panel brought together three young leaders who are working in and beyond their local communities to address inequalities in education, housing, employment and the criminal justice system.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


For a Reparatory Social Science

Hosted by the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity and International Inequalities Institute 

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Speaker: Professor Gurminder K Bhambra

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian

In the inaugural Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity Keynote Lecture, Professor Bhambra explored the social sciences’ failure to acknowledge the extent to which modern nation-states were bound up with relations of colonial extraction and domination. Without putting such relations at the heart of our analyses, we cannot address global inequality effectively. Positing colonial histories as central to national imaginaries and the structures through which inequalities are legitimated and reproduced, she explored a framework for a reparatory social science, oriented to global justice as a reconstructive project of the present. The past cannot be undone, she concluded, but its legacies can be transformed to bring about a world that works for us all. 

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Refusing Discriminatory Technologies of Power: racial justice and the challenge of hi-tech policing - Inequalities Seminar Series

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Speaker: Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan 

Chair: Professor Ellen Helsper 

From informational capitalism to biased code, technological systems increasingly form part of larger structures of oppression and domination. This talk tackled the topic of technology, injustice, and inequity with a focus on bottom-up practices of resistance, rejection, and refusal of digital and automated systems that increasingly govern people’s lives.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


When Violence Endures: inequality, resistance, and repression in India's Maoist guerrilla zones - Inequalities Seminar Series 

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Speaker: George Kunnath 

Chair: Professor Ellen Helsper 

This talk engaged with the concept of violence in the context of the ongoing Maoist insurgency and counterinsurgency in India. During the five-decade-long armed conflict involving the Maoist guerrillas and the landless/poor peasants on the one side, and the state security forces and upper-caste/private militias on the other, violence has taken multiple forms. It has spiralled, giving rise to new formations and new theatres of war, especially in the forested areas which are home to indigenous populations. The speaker conceptualised this enduring violence and reflect on the possibility of resolutions, drawing on twenty years of his research in conflict-affected regions in India, and recently in Colombia.


How to Fight Inequality: and why that fight needs you - Book Launch

Hosted by the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity

Thursday 18 March 2021 

Speakers: Masana Ndinga-Kanga, Ben Phillips, and Pedro Telles  

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian

Inequality is the crisis of our time. The growing gap between a few at the top and the rest of society damages us all. No longer able to deny the crisis, governments across the globe have pledged to address it – and yet inequality keeps on getting worse. In his new book, How to Fight Inequality: and why that fight needs you, international anti-inequalities campaigner Ben Phillips discusses why winning the debate is not enough: we have to win the fight. Drawing on his insider experience, and his personal exchanges with activists and leaders of successful movements, Phillips shows how the battle against inequality has been won before, and shares a practical plan for defeating inequality again.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Precarious Work, COVID-19 and Latino Immigrants in the US

Thursday 25 February 2021

Speakers: Genoveva Roldán Dàvila, Paul Apostolidis, Patricia Pozos Rivera, and Juan de Lara

Chair: Daniela Castroa Alquicira


The Politics of Inequality: why should we focus on resistance from below? 

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Speakers: Professor John Chalcroft, Dr Flora Cornish, Professor Ellen Helsper, Dr Armine Ishkanian, and Dr Sumi Madhok 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

While it is now widely accepted that inequality is the defining issue of our time and there is growing research on the drivers and impacts of inequalities, there has been less focus on how inequalities are experienced and resisted by ordinary people and communities. The newly launched Politics of Inequality research programme at the International Inequalities Institute explores the practices of resistance, mobilisation, and contestation from a bottom-up perspective.

Watch the video here

Listen to the podcast here


Oxfam Emergent Agency project launch

Thursday 12 November 2020 

This event was part of the AFSEE Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund initiative

Speakers: Katherine Marshall, Laurence Cox, and Yogesh Kumar Ghore 

Please click here for a summary about the meeting by Dr Duncan Green. 


Research presentation by Anita Pena Saavedra (AFSEE Senior Fellow) based on AFSEE Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund project

Thursday 12 November 2020

Conversatorio: Pobladoras, Memoria y Resistencia: Reflexiones a partir de los derechos humanos y los feminismos (Jueves, 19 de noviembre de 2020 - 18:00 a 20:00 Hrs)

Click here for details

Past Research