Politics of Inequality

LSE III and AFSEE Research Theme

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

The Politics of Inequality theme, which had its formal launch in January 2021, explores the practices of resistance, mobilisation, and contestation which constitute a politics of inequalities from a bottom-up perspective. Research within this theme will have an international and comparative focus, and it will adopt an intersectional lens, in order to explore collective action and everyday resistance against a wide range of social, cultural, economic and political inequalities.

This theme, which is co-convened by Armine Ishkanian (III/Social Policy) and Ellen Helsper (Media and Communications), 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 theme will support research collaborations, funding bids, as well as knowledge exchange activities.

This theme 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 theme 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.

Read more about The Politics of Inequality

The Focus of the Theme

In defining the focus and aims of the theme, we engaged in discussions with colleagues across LSE via Zoom and over email. We view the theme 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 theme 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 theme 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.

Theme Activities

The theme 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 theme will host and support the following activities:

    1. Seminars/webinars – where theme members and other researchers working on issues related to the theme’s focus, can present work in progress

    2. Theme reading group – we will hold a monthly meeting where members will read and discuss a newly published book related to the theme’s focus

    3. Platform for knowledge exchange and dissemination – the theme will host (or co-host) events by theme 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

Events and Podcasts

Ongoing Politics of Inequality events: 

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 theme, 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 

Previous Politics of Inequality events: 

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 theme 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


LSE Affiliates

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 Fellow, International Inequalities Institute 

Professor Ellen Helsper

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

Dr Jonathan Hopkin

Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Government 

Dr Armine Ishkanian

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

Professor Naila Kabeer

Professor of Gender and Development, Department of Gender Studies

Dr George Kunnath

Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, International Inequalities Institute 

Dr Sumi Madhok

Associate Professor of Transnational Gender Studies, Department of Gender Studies 

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


Sub-themes and Research Projects:

Inequalities in an Increasingly Digital World: Reproduction and Resistance in Everyday Life

This research aims to deepen understanding of how digital inequalities are related to inequalities in socio-economic, socio-cultural and well-being. It examines the reproduction and resistance to inequalities in everyday life or from below within the context of the (unequal) digitisation and datafication of societies. This research develops and improves theoretical models and measures of people’s access, skills, and outcomes related to engagement with Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) mapping these onto social and regional inequalities. It does so across generations, with the work under the umbrella of the From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes (DiSTO) focussing on global research amongst the general population and the  youth skills (ySKILLS) project focussing on young people and adults in Europe. In addition, the research looks at representations of inequalities around the world in the A Communication Crisis: Media Representations of COVID 19 inequalities project.

A multi-method comparative approach is central to this research: using qualitative interviewing and observation methods, quantitative survey research, the mapping of social and digital resource data at the regional and neighbourhood level, as well as visual and textual analyses of media representations.

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:


Professor Ellen Helsper 
Department of Media and Communications

Research assistants working on this project:

Luc Schneider
Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science

Ludmila Lupinacci
Department of Media and Communications


Publications can be found on the DiSTO and ySKILLS websites.  

Movements, Policy and the Politics of Inequality

This research examines how movements and activists engage with, challenge,  and seek to shape policy processes and wider political transformations to tackle inequalities through forms of mobilization as well as everyday forms of action and resistance. Adopting a comparative and international perspective, the research considers the agency of actors and the ways in which movements  and activists are challenging inequalities, demanding social justice, and advancing critiques of neoliberalism. Looking beyond forms of resistance, the research also examines how social movements and activists  prefiguratively adopt alternative social relations and models of wellbeing as well as  how they imagine and enact utopian futures. The research seeks to advance our  understanding of the factors which shape the ability of movements to achieve wider socio-political and cultural transformations  as well as policy change through collective action. The driving question is not whether social movements matter in or for social policy, but under which circumstances and due to what factors movements’ ideas and actions influence and inform social policy and broader socio-political processes.    

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:

Dr Armine Ishkanian
Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme and Associate Professor in Social Policy


Ongoing research projects:

1. Movements, transnational welfare, and alt- humanitarianism

This research examines the responses of civil society organisations to contemporary migration in Greece. The objective is to analyse the ways in which civil society actions, from the formal (e.g., NGOs) to the informal (solidarity initiatives),  have shaped the understandings, politics, and  practices of transnational solidarity. The research contributes to policy debates around civil society action and migration, humanitarianism, solidarity, and the emergence of alternative practices of wellbeing and care. 

Researchers working on this project: 

Dr Armine Ishkanian
Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme and Associate Professor in Social Policy

Dr Isabel Shutes

Dr Isabel Shutes
Associate Professor in Social Policy, LSE


Christina Psarra
Researcher and General Director of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF Greece)
See bio here



2. Emergent Agency in a Time of Covid-19  

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a flood of written material and webinars. Most international coverage of the crisis in low- and middle-income countries concentrates on the impact of the disease and the official response, for example the impact of governments’ lockdown measures on citizens. What often goes missing is an examination of human agency – how individuals, communities and grassroots organisations respond to the new challenges, both of the disease and the official response, and how this agency is emerging or changing in its nature. The Emergent Agency in a Time of COVID-19 initiative looks at this missing element. 

Researchers working on this project:

Duncan Green

Dr Duncan Green 
Professor in Practice in International Development, LSE and Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB  Email:

Dr Irene Gujit
Head of Evidence and Strategic Learning, Oxfam GB 

Filippo Artuso

Filippo Artuso
Research Manager, Oxfam GB 

Katrina Barnes

Katrina Barnes
Evidence Uptake Lead, Oxfam GB 

Niranjan Nampoothiri

Niranjan Nampoothiri 
Portfolio Research Assistant, Institute of Development Studies 


This project has produced a database of case studies of emergent agency. 

3. Women’s Solidarity Networks Take on Covid 19: the Case of Valparaíso, Chile  

This project connects with two International Inequalities Institute/Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity lines of research: “Global Economies of Care” and “The Politics of Inequality”. In the first case, we note how pobladora women’s survival networks in Valparaiso, Chile, are largely sustained through community ideas on “care”, while at the same time we consider their grassroots organising to be key in the re-definition of collective care strategies. In the second case, this project contributes to the creation of new, intersectional, feminist knowledge about the inequalities that working-class women in Latin America experience, which we hope will, in turn, enrich the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity research programme.

Researchers working on this project: 

Anita Peña Saavedra

Anita Peña Saavedra
Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity and University of Diego Portales


Alondra Castillo

Alondra Castillo
University of Valparaíso


Collaborators working on this project: Hillary Hiner, Paula Santana, Camila Rodo, Catalina Flores and Catalina Valenzuela

Publications and resources:

  • Working paper: “Women's Solidarity Networks' take on COVID-19: The case of Valparaiso, Chile - Recommendations for local social policies”, Anita Peña Saavedra, Alondra Castillo Delgado, and Magdalena Rodriguez Torres (Download in English and in Spanish)

  • Policy inform: "Políticas públicas y violencia contra las mujeres: Reflexiones de activistas feministas", Paula Santana Nazarit, Anita Peña Saavedra, and Alondra Castillo Delgado (Download in Spanish).

  • Documentary Film: “Solidarity and resistances: the experience of pobladoras in Valparaíso, Chile”. Watch the trailer and the film.

  • Fanzine: "Rutas de derivación para la respuesta local de la violencia contra las mujeres en Valparaíso," Anita Peña Saavedra, Catalina Valenzuela, and Alondra Castillo Delgado (Download in Spanish).

4. Demanding a ‘just recovery’ from below: the role of grassroots accountability activism in safeguarding labour migrants’ rights in the pandemic era

What are the opportunities and limitations for grassroots accountability activism to assert the political potentials for a 'just recovery' for labour migrants in post-Covid Nepal? This project seeks to examine this overarching question. Using the Covid-19 disaster as a site of political possibility, the project will draw on the perspectives and experiences of labour migrants, youth activists and volunteers to understand the potential of grassroots activism in challenging intersecting inequalities facing labour migrants in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis in Nepal. 

Researchers working on this project: 

Nimesh Dhungana

Dr Nimesh Dhungana
Lecturer, Disasters and Global Health at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), University of Manchester 

Flora Cornish

Dr Flora Cornish
Associate Professor, Department of Methodology, LSE   


Profile photo of Narayan Adhikari

Narayan Adhikari
Co-Founder and South Asia Director, Accountability Lab, Nepal

Kripa Kasnyat

Kripa Basnyat
Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity and Gender, Rights and Policy Expert, Nepal


5. Activism, Policy and Transformation

The project on social movements, activism, and social policy, which launched in April 2022,  examines: a) the relationship between social movements and policy processes and b) the agency and transformative capacity of movements and their ability to affect policy and social change. Adopting a broad understanding of ‘impact’ to not only include the direct impacts on policy or legislation, we also consider what the transformations movements engender in culture, consciousness, and practices in everyday life,  because such changes in norms, attitudes, and beliefs can lay the foundations for future policy transformations.  The overarching research question that this project seeks to answer is:

Under which circumstances and due to what factors do movements’ ideas and actions influence and inform social policy and wider socio-political transformations?

The project’s starting point is to look beyond the Global North, as  studies of movements in North America and Europe have dominated the field of both social movement studies and  Social Policy. Our epistemological and ontological approach is based on an international, collaborative and comparative research methodology that foregrounds and brings into dialogue the research and perspectives of scholars and practitioners based in Africa, post-socialist Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and South America. By adopting a critical, decolonial lens, and through a commitment to epistemic justice  this research will seek to:  1) develop our empirical understandings of the movements’ agency and relationship to policy processes and 2) to consider the extent to which social movement theories “travel” beyond the Global North and to push the theoretical and analytical boundaries in the study of movements by drawing on knowledges and practices from the Global South and the borderlands of the North. 

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:


Dr Armine Ishkanian
Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme and Associate Professor in Social Policy

Researchers working on this project:


Arpy Manusyan
Researcher and President, Socioscope NGO


Nvard Margaryan
Researcher & Program Director, Socioscope NGO


Mariam Khalatyan
Researcher & Project Assistant, Socioscope NGO


Mohammed El Agati
Director, Arab Forum for Alternative Studies, Lebanon


Shimaa Elsharkawy
Researcher and Project Manager, Arab Forum for Alternative Studies, Lebanon


Dr Shauna Mottiar
Director, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZuluNatal, South Africa


Dr Sofía Donoso
Assistant Professor, University of Chile


Ewan Forrest
Research Assistant, LSE


Inequalities, Conflict and Peace

The projects under this sub-theme focus on the relationship between conflict, inequalities, and peace.  Challenging the mainstream liberal peacebuilding paradigm, the research under this subtheme examines how different forms of inequality  not only lead to conflicts, but how conventional approaches at times hinder conflict transformation and conflict resolution processes making peace more difficult to achieve.  Projects consider how the politics of inequality operates through forms of epistemic injustice and the marginalisation of particular actors within conflict situations, as well as examining the agency and forms of collective action that emerge to transform those politics and processes. 

Ongoing research projects:

1. Decolonising Conflict Transformation: Agency, Ideology and Power in the Karabakh Conflict 

Since the first Karabakh war ended in 1994, there have been civil society level efforts at peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and conflict transformation.  These Track II efforts stood alongside official Track I negotiations and even when the latter stalled, they continued to work. Following the 44-day war in 2020, we began this research project which involved interviews with a range of actors involved in the Karabakh conflict transformation process and discourse analysis of relevant publications and social media posts, to examine the evolution of Track II civil society efforts. Adopting a sociological perspective, we seek to extend the analysis of civil society actors in conflict transformation beyond the usual normative, functionalist analyses to critically consider the agency of actors, the role of ideas and discourses, and the factors which shape how ‘actually existing civil societies’ engage in conflict transformation.

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:

Dr Armine Ishkanian
Executive Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE) programme and Associate Professor in Social Policy


Researchers working on this project: 

Arpy Manusyan, Researcher and President, Socioscope NGO

Nvard Margaryan, Researcher & Program Director, Socioscope NGO

Mariam Khalatyan, Researcher & Project Assistant, Socioscope NGO

Aneta Leska

Aneta Leska, Research Assistant            Email:



Publications and resources:

2. Peace and Gender (In)equality: Lessons from the Colombian Peace Agreement of 2016

This research, supported by the Atlantic Equity Challenge (AEQ) Fellowship, examines the special provisions for gender equality in the Colombian Peace Agreement of 2016. It assesses the effectiveness of their implementation as perceived by the target communities, with the aim of envisioning measures for more effective delivery, and also drawing lessons from the Colombian model for other conflict settings.

The Colombian Peace Accord, which ended over 50 years of armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the state, marked a watershed moment in the history of peacebuilding as it aimed to redress the disparate impact of armed conflict on women and LGBTQ+. To develop an in-depth analysis of the implementation of the Peace Agreement’s gender commitments, the project focuses on two areas, namely: comprehensive rural reform for gender equality and gender-sensitive reincorporation of ex-combatants. The project outlines a model for a more effective implementation by bringing into focus the voices of the target communities, especially indigenous and Afro-Colombian women, female ex-combatants and LGBTQ+ – the four priority groups of this research. This roadmap, emerging from the margins, guides the project’s engagement with other stakeholders, including NGOs, policymakers and international organisations.

This research adopts a multi-method approach informed by interdisciplinarity and intersectionality. It employs qualitative and quantitative methods, and multi-media tools for data collection and dissemination. 

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:

George Kunnath

Dr George Kunnath
Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, LSE III


Project co-principal investigator:

Dr Erika Marquez Montaño

Dr Erika Marquez Montaño
Assistant Professor of the Sociology Program, Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, Universidad Icesi, Cali, Colombia

Researchers working on this project:

Hobeth Martinez Carrillo

Hobeth Martinez Carrillo
Senior Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity and Senior Research Officer, School of Law, University of Essex


Dr Dilia Consuelo Fuertes

Dr Dilia Consuelo Fuertes
Researcher, Peace and Conflict Observatory, Universidad Nacional, Bogota; Advisor, Agency for Reincorporation and Normalisation, Colombia 



Alejandra Erazo Gomez
Researcher, Territorial Management Office of the Truth Commission, Colombia 



Publications and resources:

The Rise of Authoritarianism and Populism in the Twentieth-First Century

This research examines the rise of authoritarianism and populism in the Global South and North in the twentieth-first century. The electoral success of right-wing populist leaders and their appeal to “strongman” leadership, “us versus them” and exclusionary discourses, and overt anti-democratic principles have sent shockwaves and created political instability across the world in what is oftentimes dubbed as part of a global “Authoritarianism’s New Wave”. The project examines public opinion surveys carried worldwide since the 1990s to map out the values, perceptions of social change, and political preferences underpinning support for right-wing populism in varied social contexts, and under which circumstances leaders of such political movements have been successful to capitalize on such attitudes and expectations. It also advances methodological contributions in the use of social surveys to measure authoritarian and populist attitudes in comparative social research. Looking beyond the European and North American contexts, it contributes to our understanding of the populist dynamics in the Global South and acknowledges important differences in their social and political experiences.

Lead investigator and co-ordinator at LSE:


For further information or details please contact Armine Ishkanian or Ellen Helsper