Dr Leila Dawney is Lecturer in Human Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter. A social theorist and cultural geographer, Dr Dawney’s research focuses on the politics of affect and experience, on classical and emergent thinking on authority and on forms of experience in late capitalist life, contributing to debates on power, authority, affect and the commons.
Her most recent research has been focused on the relationship between deindustrialisation and modes of endurance and temporality through fieldwork in a former nuclear town in Lithuania, exploring emergent forms of social and collective life in the wake of deindustrialisation and urban decline. She is currently developing a larger project on nuclear afterlives, which will explore the shifting temporalities of the nuclear project and its aftermath through a series of scenographic analyses focusing on the mundane experiential worlds of the nuclear age.
Experiential forms of late capitalist life
The principal conceptual thread running through Dr Dawney’s research interests is an ongoing concern with the relationship between politics, affect and experience. Her PhD research focused primarily on recent theoretical work on embodiment, politics and affect, and developed a politics of the body through an engagement with Spinoza and his relation to critical theory, particularly through new materialist thinking.
She has worked on various projects exploring modes of experience of late capitalist life, including her PhD research on landscape, practice and identity, a project on the experiential politics of debt in the UK, and research on the emergence of cultures of militarism in Britain during the war in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2015.
Postfoundational approaches to authority
Dr Dawney has an ongoing interest in accounts of authority in classical and poststructural social theory. In collaboration with other members of the Authority Research Network, she explores understandings of authority-production and the emergence of a politics of immanence through an engagement with the classical work on authority of Weber, Foucault and Arendt, as refigured through postfoundational thought, leading to an edited collection Authority, Experience and the Life of Power (Routledge, 2014). In particular, She is concerned with experiential forms of authority, particularly as articulated through cultural “figures of authority”. Dr Dawney is currently working on a monograph which engages with the figure as a conceptual and methodological tool in social and cultural critique.
Her research on authority has led her to think about the idea of the common as a means of understanding alternative political subjectivities to neoliberal individualism. This interest spans the historical and imaginary understandings of the “commons”, the idea of the common in contemporary philosophy and the material production of common life through practice. This has led to the production of an edited collection: Space, Power and the Commons (Routledge, 2015)
Methodological innovations in cultural critique
Dr Dawney has developed expertise in methodological innovations for the humanities and social sciences. These draw on theoretical work from feminist science studies and non-representational theory to generate experimental and critical approaches to the production of academic knowledge. She works closely with colleagues at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick through the development of theoretical and methodological work on the Harawayan concepts of diffraction and figuration, specifically examining how figures are used in the work of Foucault and Haraway and in recent critical thought.