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School of Geography

Dr Philippa Williams


Professor of Human Geography, Director of Education

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 6977
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 215
Twitter: @PhilippaGeog


My research and teaching intersects political, economic and development geography, with a focus on everyday political life in India and its transnational community. More specifically, I am interested in questions concerning how the state is experienced, how citizenship is articulated and how marginality, particularly in the context of violence/nonviolence is lived and increasingly how digital technology is mediating everyday political life in India. In the UK my research has also explored the lived implications of the Indian emigration state and the UK government’s hostile immigration policy for recent South Asian migrants.

I am Primary Investigator on two live projects:

1) Social media and everyday life in India  with Lipika Kamra examines how WhatsApp is shaping everyday political life from the family to political party and the nation. The initial phase of this research was funded by WhatsApp. We are now embarking on a second phase focused on lived experiences of digital privacy in India. (2019-)

2) Surviving violence: Everyday resilience and gender justice in rural-urban India is funded by the British Academy and in partnership with colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay), the Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata, Nari Samata Manch and Prajnya. (2020-)

My book on Everyday Peace?: Politics, Citizenship and Muslim Lives in India  is published by  the RGS-IBG Book Series and was awarded the 2016 Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award by the Political Geography Speciality Group at the American Association of Geographers. I also have an edited book on Geographies of Peace with Nick Megoran and Fiona McConnell and another co-edited volume with Will Monteith and Olivia Vicol on Beyond the Wage: Ordinary work in diverse economies for Bristol University Press due out in June 2021.

Before joining Queen Mary in 2013 I was a Research Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge having completed an ESRC-funded PhD in Geography also at the University of Cambridge.

At Queen Mary I am a member of the South Asia Forum (SAF) at QMUL and previously academic lead for the Resilient Futures India Initiative which is a part of Queen Mary’s new Global Policy Institute. I currently sit on the British Association for South Asian Studies Council.

In 2019 I was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Geography and will be on research leave 2021-2023 to further my research on the politics of digital technology and feminist-legal approaches to gender justice in India.


Academic Articles

  • Williams, P (2019) Emigration State Encounters: The everyday material politics of a diaspora technology Political Geography
  • Williams, P., A. James, F. McConnell and B Vira (2017) Working at the margins? Muslim middle class professionals in India and the limits of ‘labour agency.’ Environment and Planning (A)


  • Kamra, L and P. Williams (2019) Strategies to tackle extreme speech on WhatsApp must bring together socio-political, digital worlds, Scroll 11 May 2019
  • Williams, P and L. Kamra (2019) India’s WhatsApp election: political parties risk undermining democracy with technology, The Conversation 28 February 2019


Teaching is a big part of why I enjoy work as an academic. I convene two third-year modules GEG6129 Contemporary India: Politics, Society and Economy and GEG6120 Development Futures: Mumbai unbound which both draw on my own fieldwork in India and close understanding of current issues. My lectures focus on key themes (such as Democracy, Citizenship, Violence, Post-liberalising India, Middle classes, Work) that examine the theoretical arguments within geography and other disciplines, and then ground these in real life case studies. Beyond the lectures students explore the issues further through wider reading as well as films and documentaries, all available on QMplus. I also teach on the MA in Global Development Futures, and supervise 2 PhD students.

In 2018-2019 I will convene and teach the following undergraduate modules:

  • GEG6129 Contemporary India: Politics, Society and Economy
  • GEG6120: Development Futures: Mumbai Unbound

Through tutorial teaching and dissertation supervision I contribute to:

  • GEG4000 Introduction to Geographical Ideas and Practice
  • GEG5103 Geographical Research in Practice
  • GEG6000 Independent Geographical Study (dissertation)

In in 2018-19 I will convene and teach the following graduate modules:

GEG7130 Democracy, citizenship and rights

I also contribute to teaching on:

This is what students have had to say about GEG6129:

  • ‘The lectures are engaging, the support for our assessments are great, materials and weekly reading and film tasks are extremely useful.’(2016-2017)
  • ‘Great lectures, creative power points, very informative. Well taught. Philippa is a friendly professor, and always available for questions’ (2016-2017)
  • The lectures are engaging and stimulating. Philippa has an astounding knowledge of India and this is portrayed through her delivery of lectures’(2013-2014)
  • ‘This is genuinely one of the best modules, if not the best, that I have taken in 3 years of studying – brilliant’(2012-2013)


Research Interests:

My current and recent research projects can be split into the following themes:

Geographies of Peace book cover

i) Geographies of peace: This work challenges the dominance of scholarship within geography and the social sciences that privileges attention on practices of violence at the risk of occluding spaces of peace and nonviolence. My research has been developed in collaboration with Nick Megoran (Newcastle University) and Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford) in Geographies of Peace as well as through my PhD and postdoctoral fieldwork in Varanasi, north India. My book, Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India was published in 2015 by the RGS-IBG Book Series and offers insights into the ways in which the city produces and is produced through sites and networks of everyday living and working together across difference. It rethinks ideas about citizenship and Muslim identity in urban India and intervenes in dominant thinking about relations between India’s Hindus and Muslims as intractably violent. Instead, it reveals how diverse processes such as cooperation, indifference and friendship more often constitute an everyday urban ‘peace’. It was awarded the Julian Minghi Prize, American Association of Geographers, Political Geography Group.

ii) Democracy, citizenship and the state in India, and its transnational community: Underpinning much of my research is a concern with examining experiences of the state, and the intersections between democracy, secularism and citizenship within India and India’s transnational community. It has illuminated the disjunctures between democracy in practice and reality, and the importance of exploring situated experiences of injustice, marginality and subaltern agency. I am currently pursuing these lines of enquiry through a project on the material and lived politics of Indian transnational lives as they encounter the Indian emigration state and the UK’s hostile immigration environment.

iii) Ordinary work and everyday life: This research contributes new, cross boundary perspectives on people’s relationships to work in India, and global South more broadly. I am co-editing a volume on ‘Ordinary Work’ for Bristol University Press with Will Monteith (QMUL) and Olivia Vicol (QMUL) that brings together a collection of ethnographic examinations of ‘work’ to disrupt conventional (northern) conceptualisations of waged work. In collaboration with Al James (Newcastle University), Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) and Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford) I have examined questions of worker agency, skills upgrading and socially inclusive growth against the backdrop of India’s economic growth. Our paper on ‘Muslim middle class professionals’ won the Ashby Prize for most innovative paper in Environment and Planning (A) 2017 and used a novel hybrid geographical approach to centre marginalised professionals in the global South.

iv) The politics of the digital: In the last two years my research questions have coalesced around how ‘the digital’ is transforming the relationship between state, corporates/platforms and citizens, with a focus on everyday political, financial and working lives. I lead a WhatsApp funded project with Lipika Kamra (O.P. Jindal Global University, India) on ‘Social media and everyday life’ which examines the role of WhatsApp in shaping political life and subjectivities during India’s 2019 elections to ask broader questions about the relationship between the digital and democratic life. We have now extended the project to examine situated experiences of (digital) privacy (not funded by WhatsApp). For further information see the project website. On how digital imaginaries are transforming urban presents I have a chapter under review on ‘Making the ‘smart heritage city’: banal Hinduism, beautification and belonging in ‘new India’. 



Journal articles

  • Williams, P and L.Kamra (under review) No room for dissent: Domesticating WhatsApp, digital private spaces and lived democracy in India. Antipode.
  • Williams, P (2019) Emigration State Encounters: The everyday material politics of a diaspora technology Political Geography 68: 1-11 Available here
  • Featherstone, D., Björkdahl, A., Chatterjee, I., Jazeel, T., & Williams, P. (2018). Review Symposium for Everyday Peace? Politics, Citizenship and Muslim lives in India, Philippa Williams, Wiley Blackwell (2015), RGS-IBG Book Series. Political Geography.
  • Williams, P., A. James, F. McConnell and B Vira (2017) Working at the margins? Muslim middle class professionals in India and the limits of ‘labour agency.’ Environment and Planning (A) 49(6): 1266-1285 Available here
  • Williams, P.  (2013) Reproducing everyday peace in north India: process, politics and power Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103(1): 230–250.
  • Williams, P. (2012) India’s Muslims, lived secularism and practicing citizenship. Citizenship Studies 16(8): 979–995.
  • Williams, P. (2011) An absent presence: experiences of the ‘welfare state’ in an Indian Muslim mohalla. Contemporary South Asia. 19(3): 263–280.
  • Chopra, D., B. Vira and P. Williams (2011) Citizenship and the politics of marginality in India Contemporary South Asia. 19(3): 243–247.
  • Williams, P. and F McConnell (2011) Critical geographies of peace. Antipode. 34(4): 927–931.
  • Williams, P., B. Vira and D. Chopra. (2011) Marginality, agency and power: experiencing the state in contemporary India Pacific Affairs 84 (1): 7–23.
  • Williams, P. (2007) Hindu Muslim Brotherhood: Exploring the Dynamics of Communal Relations in Varanasi, North India Journal of South Asian Development 2(2): 153–76.


  • Williams, P. (2015) Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India. RGS-IBG Book Series.

Edited Book

  • Monteith, W. D-O Vicol and P.Willams (2021) Beyond the wage: Ordinary work in diverse economies. Bristol. Bristol University Press. See here
  • McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams (2014) Geographies of Peace. Eds. London, I. B. Tauris.

Book Chapters

  • Williams, P (2021) Making the ‘smart heritage city’: Banal Hinduism, beautification and belonging in ‘new India’ Editor István Keul Spaces of religion in urban South Asia.
  • Williams, P. (2017) Moral Geography for International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Wiley-AAG
  • Megoran, N. F. McConnell and P.Williams (2016) Dimensions of Peace: Disciplinary and Regional Approaches. In Dimensions of Peace: Disciplinary and Regional Approaches Richmond, O., S. Pogodda and J. Ramovic. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Williams, P, N. Megoran and F. McConnell (2014) Introduction: Geographical Approaches to Peace In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Williams, P. (2014). Everyday Peace, agency and legitimacy in north India In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Megoran, N, P.Williams and F. McConnell (2014) Geographies of Peace, Geographies for Peace In Geographies of Peace. McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams, eds. London, I. B. Tauris. 
  • Williams, P. (2014) Working narratives of inter-community harmony in Varanasi’s silk sari industry In Failed development and identity politics: India through the lens of Uttar Pradesh Jeffery, R. C. Jeffrey and J. Lerche. London, New Delhi: Sage.
  • Williams, P. (2011) Hindu-Muslim Relations and the ‘War on Terror’ In The Companion to an Anthropology of India. I. Clarks- Deces, ed., 241–259. Oxford: Blackwell.

Book Reviews

  • Williams, P. (2018) on In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, citizenship and inequality in contemporary Delhi by Guatam Bhan. Athens GA. The University of Georgia Press. 2016. Pacific Affairs
  • Williams, P.  (2013) on India Today: Economy, Society and politics by Stuart Corbridge, Craig Jeffrey and John Harriss. Cambridge: Polity. 2012. Pacific Affairs online early view.
  • Williams, P. (2011) on The Vernacularisation of Democracy. Politics, caste and religion in India. Exploring the Political in South Asia. By Lucia Michelutti. London, New York and New Delhi: Routledge, 2008. Pacific Affairs 84 (4): 792-4.
  • Williams, P. (2008) Shock Aversion? Stealth, shock and India’s economic reforms In Nally, D. (ed) Considering the Political Utility of Disasters. Review of Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein The Geographical Journal 174 (3): 284-287.


Current PhD Students

  • Ekta Oza (with Catherine Nash) PhD - QMUL: 'Children as Political Beings: Voices of Children Living and Protesting in the Conflict in Kashmir, India' QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award (2020-)
  • Natasha Sharma (with Will Monteith) PhD – QMUL: ‘Waste, Working lives and caste subjectivity in the Sanitation Economy: Manual scavengers in the time of Swaccha Bharat (‘Clean India’) Mission’ (2019-) QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award
  • Kavita Dattani (with Kavita Datta) PhD – QMUL: ‘Sexuality in the Digital City: Everyday pleasure, violence and solidarity in women’s lives in Mumbai’ ESRC LISS DTP 1+3. (2018-)
    Kavita has a paper recently published: Dattani, K (2018) “Governtrepreneurism” for good governance: The case of Aadhaar and the India Stack. Area


  • Faith Taylor (with Catherine Nash) PhD-QMUL: Love in the Time of Precarity: Reproduction and Intimacy Among Millennials in Hackney (2016-19) QMUL Arts and Humanities Studentship (supervisor for 2018-19).

Recent article published by Faith: Reproduction at the end of humanity for Public Seminar

  • Eimear Kelly (with Catherine Nash) PhD-QMUL: Alternative forms of Irish dance (2015-2019) ESRC 1+3 Studentship (supervisor for 2018-19)
  • Aditya Ray (with Al James). PhD – QMUL: ‘Work in India's New Service Economy: Employee experiences in the domestic voice‐based consumer‐interaction industry in Pune’ (2014–18). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award.
    Aditya is now a Research Fellow at the Open University

Future Students

I would be really excited to hear from students interested in the following areas, preferably in, but not limited to, India/South Asia:

  • Digital life and politics
  • Citizenship
  • The everyday state/experiences of the state
  • Political economy of violence and non-violence  
  • Geographies of peace

Public Engagement

Recent Seminars and Presentations

  • March 2021 WhatsApp and surveillance: Grassroots Authoritarianism and neightbourhood politics. London International Development Centre Seminar series, UK. (with Lipika Kamra) 
  • March 2021 No room for dissent: WhatsApp's 'digital living room', kinship and lived democracy in India.  Science and Technology Studies Seminar Series, UCL, London
  • September 2020 Grassroots authoritarianism: Resident welfare associations and physical-digital boundaries in New Delhi Borders, bordering and sovereignty in digital space. Symposium at the LSE (with Lipika Kamra)
  • September 2019 The WhatsApp group and digital-analogue politics in urban north India Morgenstierne Seminar, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Language, University of Oslo, Norway
  • July 2019 Peace Geographies, a view towards the future. Roundtable Advancing peace geographies: Transformations, collaborations and new directions. Coventry University, UK
  • June 2019 The WhatsApp group, digital-analogue politics and the city in India, Plenary for Cities, Infrastructure and the 'digital turn' in the Postcolony' hosted at King's College London
  • June 2019 The WhatsApp group, ‘digital living rooms’ and everyday political life in urban India Workshop on Digital politics and the politics of the digital, Queen Mary University of London, UK.
  • June 2019 Digital technology and democracy, Public talk for Brave new digital worlds: the influence of technology on democracy. Tata Consultancy Services Spark Salon in partnership with Nesta, London.
  • March 2019 Party politics, digital mediations and the analogue city, Workshop on Political Parties and Democracy in the City' Queen Mary University of London, UK.
  • August 2018 State-led digital financial futures: Transforming India’s relationship to cash, financial inclusion and development. With Kavita Datta. 2018 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK, Cardiff.
  • June 2018 From demonetisation to digital financial inclusion: Transforming a nation’s relationship to cash. With Kavita Datta. Centre for International Development, Northumbria University Newcastle.
  • March 2017 States of ambiguity: the material and emotional politics of an emigrant state strategy. University College London. Human geography seminar series.
  • February 2017 ‘The politics of lived secularism and peace cultures in north India' University of Nottingham. Historical and Cultural Seminar Series.
  • November 2016 ‘Hindu-Muslim relations, the silk industry and everyday peace in north India’. Grinnell College, Iowa, USA. Public lecture.
  • August 2016 Author meets critics session at the RGS-IBG International Annual Conference 2016with Tariq Jazeel, Katherine Brickle and Claire Dwyer on my book Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India. 2016 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • August 2016 Aspirational infrastructures: Making elite private housing in India. With Romola Sanyal. 2016 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • August 2016 ‘Digital Labour’ at the margins?  Muslim professional (im)mobilities in India’s New Service Economy.  With Al James and Bhaskar Vira.  2016 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • March 2016 Working at the Margins: Muslim middle class professionals in India's New Service Economy. Philippa Williams, with Al James and Bhaskar Vira. Centre for the Study of Social Sciences (ICAS workshop), Calcutta, India
  • August 2014. Peace, Geography and the political With Fiona McConnell. 2014 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • August 2014. Negotiating the lived politics of UK and Indian citizenship. Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • July 2014 ‘Lived politics of overseas Indian ‘citizenship’. ECSAS Annual Conference, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • March 2014 Muslim graduates in India’s new economy’. BASAS Annual Conference, Royal Holloway ‘
  • March 2013 Guest Lecture on MA in Political Geography. ‘Geography and the politics of peace’. University of Zurich.
  • April 2013. ‘Justice and the politics of development in India’. BASAS Annual Conference, SOAS
  • March 2012 ‘The politics of peace in north India’. Martin Society Dinner, St John’s College, University of Oxford.
  • February 2013 ‘Marginality, citizenship and justice’. American Association of Geographers, New York.
  • February 2012 ‘Marginality, citizenship and justice in north India’. South Asian Studies Council, Brown Paper Bag Series. Yale University, USA.
  • September 2011 ‘Countering Terror: vernacularising peace in north India’. Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Annual Conference, London, UK.
  • November 2011 ‘Critiques and narratives of peace’. Roundtable discussion. Newcastle University, UK.
  • January 2011 Reproducing everyday peace in north India: process, politics and power’. ODID Contemporary South Asia Seminar Series, QEH, University of Oxford
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