• Olivia Anness

    MSc Student in Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck, 2023 to 2025

    Olivia is a MSc student in Gender and Sexuality at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her interests lie in the intersection of gender theory, policy and law, with a particular focus on women in detention settings.

    Olivia is interested in feminist legal practice and her MSc research will focus on the experiences of women in immigration removal centres, and their access - or lack thereof - to complaint mechanisms and processes, together with the social and cultural obstacles associated with ‘complaining women’.

    Olivia is a practising solicitor and is studying the MSc part-time.

    Olivia Anness
  • James Handy

    PhD Student in History, Birkbeck, 2023 to 2026

    James (he/him) is a PhD student in History at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research employs queer oral histories to examine the life and work of England’s queer teachers from the post-partial decriminalisation era of the 1970s to the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.

    In this way, the project historicises this particular intersection of the professional and the (putatively) personal and provides the first detailed and sustained account of the ways in which queer teachers' lives were shaped by factors within and outside of the school environment over this 30-year period.

    The research is motivated by his own experiences as a gay secondary school teacher in East London. Prior to his PhD, James was a school teacher, and has been a policy advisor within the Civil Service since 2018 where he worked on forestry and the UK Net Zero Strategy.

    In 2020, he attained an MA in European History at Birkbeck having been awarded an Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarship. His MA research explored mid-century print media representations of queer people in public service occupations.

    He passionately believes in the importance of queer space and is an advocate for queer-led social organising to improve LGBT+ health and educational provision and outcomes. He is a mentor with MOSAIC LGBT+ Young Persons' Trust and a member of KNOCKOUT LGBTQ+ boxing club.

    James Handy
  • Roj Ranjbar

    MA student in Contemporary History and Politics, Birkbeck, 2024 to 2026

    I will be studying MA in Contemporary History and Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, 2024-2026. I have a keen interest in the historical roots of modern conflicts and the efforts that governments and communities make to overcome war-time sectarianism and post-conflict woes.

    I am drawn to studying how cross-community adhesion to peaceful coexistence influences peacebuilding opportunities towards post-war reconciliation and recovery. I would like to explore the impact of intercultural communication on countering historical narratives that fuel the politics of prejudice, a powerful barrier to coexistence. My research also aims to investigate theory and practices of policies that intend to assist the strengthening of cohesive communities committed to long-term conflict resolution.

    I am eager to discover more about the global climate crisis and the strategic challenges it poses to social peace and sustainable security when left unaddressed, especially in areas where desertification and droughts continue to hit farming communities at an alarming rate.

    I completed my BA in Journalism at the University of Leeds in 2012. My undergraduate dissertation assessed the impact of embedded journalism on conflict reporting. Since graduation, I have worked as a journalist and media analyst.

    In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with friends. I like improvisational cooking, creating new dishes and listening to music of all types. I cycle on and off road and enjoy exploring rural greenery. I watch feature films at the cinema when time allows and continue to be fascinated by observational documentaries.

    Roj Ranjbar for website
  • Temi Mwale

    PhD Student in Law, Birkbeck, 2023 to 2026

    Temi is an advocate for marginalised Black communities. She focuses on fighting against institutional racism and is passionate about building a world where we use a radically different approach to resolving conflict within society. Temi has discussed the importance of grassroots organising at a roundtable with the Obama Foundation. Temi has appeared in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee to give expert evidence about institutional racism in the police. She was part of the ministerial roundtable that examined serious youth violence.

    She has worked with Mexican institutions to consult on their "Building Movements, Tackling Violence" strategy. Temi was one of sixty change makers from across the world selected to participate in the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum. She was asked to consider how UNESCO can support and amplify the voices of young people who are actively engaged in peace-building across the world and presented these recommendations at the 39th UNESCO General Conference to representatives from across the world.

    Temi has been a commentator on numerous outlets, including The Today Programme, Sunday Politics, Channel 4 News, Sky News, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, as well as being featured in Vogue and Elle. She has spoken about racial equity at various universities and companies.

    Temi’s work at The 4Front Project is changing the way that people understand how to support young people who have been affected by violence.

    Temi grew up on Grahame Park Estate in North West London. It was her early experiences of injustice that formed her primary motivation to create change. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science where she was a High Spen Scholar. During her studies, she sought to bridge the gap between the academic theory and grassroots movements.

    Temi Mwale
  • Dan Levy

    MA student in Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity, Birkbeck, 2022 to 2024

    Dan Levy is an MA student in Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity at Birkbeck College, University of London. He began his studies in October 2022 and is interested in ways of communicating shared histories of marginisalisation between minority communities, and how doing so can form the basis for greater solidarity.

    He is interested in asking what factors shape our understanding of ‘solidarity’ and whether there are any limitations to working across difference. He is then motivated by the question of if/how they can be overcome.

    He is also particularly curious about the East End’s radical Jewish history in the late 19th/early 20th Century, as well as the resurgence of the Jewish Labour Bund in the popular imagination.

    Dan’s completed his BA in Philosophy at UCL in 2019. Since graduating, he has worked in film programming, literary publishing, and as a freelance researcher for charities and social enterprises.

    He also serves on the advisory board for JW3’s youth engagement programme, Young JW3.

    Dan Levy
  • Rebecca (or Bex) Shorunke

    MA student in Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity Birkbeck, 2021 to 2023

    Rebecca (Bex) Shorunke is an MA student in Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity at Birkbeck College, University of London. She began her studies in October 2021 and is interested in understanding the histories and discourses that have contributed to the construction of identity categories such as ‘race’ and ‘gender’ and their psychosocial legacies and capacity to be reframed or reinvented.

    She is also interested in how we can use intersectional frameworks to better understand how marginalised communities are treated by the police, welfare agencies and the criminal justice system, whilst acknowledging the capacity for communities to support themselves and each other, outside of the state.

    Bex completed her BA in English Literature at the University of Manchester in 2016. Her dissertation focused on the representation of African American women in poetry and prose in the seventies and eighties, and their use of the arts as an act of resistance to racist and sexist attitudes of the time. Following graduation, she worked at arts publishers and continued to build her portfolio in freelance journalism.

    She writes about intersectionality, social welfare, homelessness, and culture and has written about issues such as FGM, portrayals of blackness in the arts and the deportation of asylum seekers for Inside Housing, Stylist, Gal-dem, Dazed, Time Out, Stonewall and more.

    Up until November 2021 Bex was working at the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity Akt (formerly the Albert Kennedy Trust) to raise public awareness into LGBTQ+ youth homelessness and its wrap-around themes. These include racism, gender-based violence, mental health, substance misuse, sex work and trauma. She now manages the media, press and PR at Mermaids, a charity supporting trans and non-binary children, young people and their families. Through well-placed media, political campaigns and advocacy work she is platforming the experiences of trans young people and challenging the anti-trans rhetoric that is so pervasive in the government and wider society. In her spare time, Bex enjoys reading, documentaries, theatre and Crossfit.

    Rebecca Shorunke
  • Aleph Ross

    MA student in Contemporary History and Politics, Birkbeck, 2021 to 2023

    Aleph Ross is an MA student in Contemporary History and Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, 2021-2023. She currently works part time for a charity supporting unpaid carers and has an interest in the history of social reproduction and the hidden or neglected work of care, domestic and sexual labour. She is also curious about the absorption of this work into the welfare state, and the role of feminist groups, trade unions and charities in shaping how gendered labor is performed and paid for.

    Meanwhile, she has developed a growing curiosity in Jewish migration to London in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is eager to explore the points of overlap between this period of history and the feminist and gender histories with which she is most familiar (e.g. the role of friendly societies in funding and organising care-work in the East End). One day a week, she also works as a cheesemonger in an outdoor market and is involved in organising with the community union ACORN.

    Aleph Ross
  • David Rypel

    PhD Student in Slavonic and East European Studies UCL, 2020 to 2023

    (The Bonnart Trust UCL Endowed Fund)

    David’s ethnographic research investigates how practices of security affect and are affected by the question of where we and others belong. The relation seems rather worrying: Various endeavours supposedly aimed at enhancing our security, such as anti-terrorist measures, have notoriously produced categories of undesired people and at times with lethal consequences. But cannot security be done differently? We should not forget that security is a cultural phenomenon; it is not the same thing across (and even within) different cultural and historical contexts, and we can learn from those other “possibilities of being”. Focusing on the experience of queer people in Georgia as creative agents of security (rather than mere passive victims of hate crimes), David is particularly interested in whether non-dominant understandings and practices of security can escape the violent and exclusivist logic the concept is infamous for.

    That is, if the prevalent conception of security is the problem, perhaps there are ways to queer it. This way, he simultaneously contributes towards filling the gap in research on queerness in Georgia (and Eastern Europe in general) and furthers our understanding of queer (in)security beyond victimology.

    Before joining UCL SSEES, David received an MSc in Social Sciences (Research) from the University of Amsterdam and an Mgr in Security & Strategic Studies from Masaryk University.

    David Rypel
  • Jennifer Putnam

    PhD student in History. Birkbeck, 2020 to 2023

    Jennifer is a PhD student in History at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research focuses on contemporary graffiti in sites of the Holocaust. She is interested in individual acts of resistance against the Nazi regime, how prisoners and guards interacted with the built environment around them, and unconventional forms of communication. She will document and catalogue the graffiti herself, creating a template that can be used at other sites of imprisonment and genocide.

    Jennifer received an MA in Modern History and Politics from Birkbeck College as the Eric Hobsbawm scholar for the 2019–2020 class. Her dissertation focused on the mail system in Auschwitz, comparing the official rules against the lived experiences of prisoners. She also has an MPhil in Linguistics from Trinity College Dublin, writing a dissertation entitled “Critical Discourse Analysis & Graffiti: A Case Study of Prisoner Number Graffiti in Auschwitz I”. Her BA is in Literature and Languages from Loyola University Chicago.

    Her wider research interests include modern graffiti, comparative genocide research, philately, Jewish history, Cuban history, and resistance movements. Jennifer speaks four languages – Polish, French, Spanish, and English – and is learning two more – Yiddish and German.

    Jennifer Putnam