School of Geography

Dr Philippa Williams

Philippa

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Senior Tutor

Email: p.williams@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 6977
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 215

Profile

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. My current projects in India explore the impact of digital transformations on everyday life especially digital payments systems and digitally mediated work, and in the UK, the lived implications of the UK government’s hostile immigration policy for recent South Asian migrants.

I completed an ESRC-funded PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge before taking up a Research Fellowship at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. I have been at QMUL since January 2013 and am currently the Senior Tutor in the School of Geography, supporting students with their wellbeing and studies.

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.

Philippa is a member of the South Asia Forum (SAF) at QMUL.

Recent publications

  • Featherstone, Dave, Annika Björkdahl, Ipsita Chatterjee, Tariq Jazeel and Philippa Williams (forthcoming) Review Forum Everyday Peace? Politics, Citizenship and Muslim lives in India, 2015, Wiley Blackwell, RGS-IBG 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)

Teaching

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:

Through tutorial teaching and dissertation supervision I contribute to:

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

Research Interests:

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

1. Politics of peace, Muslim lives and citizenship in north India.
This project incorporates both PhD and postdoctoral fieldwork in Varanasi, north India where I am particularly interested in Muslim experiences of citizenship against a background of their material inequality and social difference as a minority religious group in a majority Hindu nation. The research 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’. My book, Everyday Peace? Politics, citizenship and Muslim lives in India was published in 2015 by the RGS-IBG Book Series.

Geographies of Peace book cover

2. Geographies of Peace.
My work in north India has prompted me to think about how we understand peace in Geography and what a Geography of peace might look like. More often, it seems that peace is conceptualized as something that happens after the violence and politics has taken place. Whilst war and violence have been compellingly deconstructed within geography the same kind of critical lens has not been applied to peace. My work seeks to redress this balance by making visible the politics of peace. Together with Fiona McConnell and Nick Megoran (both Newcastle University) I have edited a book on the Geographies of Peace that aims to put peace on the agenda and demonstrate the utility of geographical analysis for an interdisciplinary community of scholars that study peace. Far from romanticizing peace, the books emphasizes the importance of problematizing and conceptualizing what we mean by peace; seeing it as process not an endpoint; exploring how actors make peace in certain ways and in certain places; and emphasizing how practices of peace are embedded in power relations.

3. Experiencing the state, justice and development.
Central to my research is a concern with the nature of state-society relations, marginality, justice and development in South Asia. I have examined these issues through a series of workshops, conferences and publications coordinated with Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) and Deepta Chopra (Institute of Development Studies). Building on this collaborative work I am currently developing a research project to investigate the meaning and lived reality of ‘justice’ within the Indian development context. This will bring political theory and development studies into conversation to examine situated experiences of justice/injustice for contrasting marginal groups in New Delhi, India.

4. Geographies of work in India’s post-liberal economy.
In collaboration with Al James (Newcastle University), Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) and Fiona McConnell (Newcastle University) I am working on a project which takes up questions concerning worker agency, skills upgrading and socially inclusive growth in India. Within the context of India’s economic growth and the recent ‘global’ economic downturn the project critically examines the labour market experiences of India’s urban youth as they seek to build careers in India’s New Service Economy. The project focuses on the experiences of Northeast migrants and Muslims and examines the developmental role of labour market intermediaries in upgrading workers’ skills and brokering upward mobility amongst these historically marginalised groups. This work shifts my focus on everyday Muslim citizenship to the post-liberal spaces of India’s private sector and metropolitan middle class spheres. In relation to this project I am also conducting research that examines the career trajectories and experiences of graduates from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. We have two papers currently forthcoming and in preparation from this project.

5. Political transnationalism and overseas citizenship for the India diaspora.
Extending my interest in citizenship beyond India’s borders, this project looks at the material cultures of identity documents amongst the UK Indian diaspora. The project examines the institutions, discourses and technologies that construct the overseas Indian as ‘citizen’. Through qualitative research it explores how Non Resident Indians (NRIs) may negotiate, manipulate and/or resist their relationship to Indian political transnational identity documents. In so doing the research begins to understand the broader implications of these choices and practices for citizenship beyond territory.

Publications

Journal articles

  • Williams, P. and Datta, K. (in preparation) State-led digital financial futures: Transforming India’s relationship to cash, financial inclusion and development. Environment and Planning C
  • Williams, P (under review) Emigration State Encounters: The everyday material politics of a diaspora technology Political Geography
  • 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 (in press) Working at the margins? Muslim middle class professionals in India and the limits of ‘labour agency.’ Environment and Planning (A)
  • 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.

Book

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

Edited Book

  • McConnell, F., N. Megoran and P. Williams 2014 Geographies of Peace. Eds. London, I. B. Tauris.

Book Chapters

  • 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.

PhD Supervision

Current PhD Students

  • 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’ (2014–17). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award.

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

  • Citizenship
  • Marginality
  • Development and justice
  • State-society relations
  • Political economy of violence and non-violence  

Public Engagement

Recent Seminars and Presentations

  • 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