Dr Polly Withers is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre, where she leads the project “Neoliberal Visions: Gendering Consumer Culture and its Resistances in the Levant”. Polly’s interdisciplinary work questions and explores how gender, sexuality, race, and class intersect in popular culture and commercial media in the global south. She is particularly interested in examining how different media and cultural modalities frame, produce, and/or challenge dominant subjectivities and social relations in the Middle East and beyond. In her current work she consider how gendered images in neoliberal and commercial media practices reflect and communicate shifts in gender and sexuality norms in post-Oslo Palestine, which will shortly be expanded to incorporate Jordan and Lebanon.
Prior to starting her Leverhulme fellowship, Dr Withers worked as an LSE Fellow in Media and Communications, where she was also the Associate Programme Director of the Global Media and Communications MSc (with USC), at the Department of Media and Communications at LSE (2020-2021). In addition, Polly led the project “Neoliberal Visions: Exploring Gendered Adverts and Identities in the Palestinian West Bank”, funded by the LSE Middle East Centre’s Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme, and in collaboration with Birzeit University in Palestine (2019-2021). She was also an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the LSE Department of Media and Communications and the LSE Middle East Centre (2018–2019), and a Visiting Fellow at the CBRL’s Kenyon Institute in East Jerusalem, Palestine (2017–2018).
Dr. Withers’ ESRC-funded PhD in Middle East politics (University of Exeter) won the 2018 BRISMES-Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the humanities and social sciences. This doctoral research explored the gendered and classed politics of popular music in Palestine. It is the backdrop to her forthcoming monograph developed from two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Palestine (Haifa, Ramallah, and Jerusalem) and its diaspora (in Amman and London) on the politics of ‘alternative’ music in Palestine.