PhD Studentship: Faith Capital: Gender & Resilience in the City

United Kingdom
Jan 03, 2018
Mar 23, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

The Aim is to investigate how urban religious communities use faith capital to generate resilience. Resilience is a vital mechanism for developing peaceful, safe and inclusive societies (UN Sustainable Development Goals 11 & 16). The PhD will focus on religious communities in 3 multicultural urban environments: Paris, Birmingham and Beirut. The first objective is to uncover how faith capital (or social capital of religion) contributes towards resilience for urban communities. The second, using the same cases, is to show how resilience and faith capital are experienced in gendered terms. Mainstreaming gender perspectives of resilience will further the empowerment of women in religious communities (UN SDG 5). Together the PhD explores how religion can be understood as a gendered urban resource in the generation and maintenance of resilience.


The Context

Resilience is a central organising principle of security politics. It concentrates on minimising impacts of risks and shocks upon communities (Brand & Fregonese 2013). Large-scale terrorist plots targeting multicultural cities and fears of urban hotbeds of radicalisation have focused attention on the possibilities for urban resilience (Meerow & Newell 2016). Beirut, Birmingham & Paris have seen the implementation of policies designed to promote resilience following plots originating in or targeting them. However, a review of these suggests that resilience is treated as a universal set of best practices and policy makers do not take into account local cultures or human security concerns. There is little reflection of how the urban environment and social-ecology of cities contribute to resilience, even though such geographical awareness is demonstrated in other areas of public concern (e.g. health, economic poverty and criminology).

Religious communities are often the targets of such top-down resilience and security policies. They are viewed as supportive secondary interest groups or as spoilers (UK Resilience Strategy 2011). In both cases religion is seen as a problem ideology that requires moderation or containment (Brown 2014). This ignores how religious communities draw on communal and context-dependent resources of belief, belonging and behaviour that cannot be reduced to doctrine or interests. Faith capital is barely understood in relation to resilience; yet it is developed in other areas of policy, such as development projects, neighbourhood planning and natural disasters (Butt 2014; Karner & Parker 2008; Cheema 2014).

Women’s security is often understood in a compartmentalised fashion, separating insecurities in the private sphere (fears of spousal murder, rape and child abuse) from those in the public (e.g. radicalisation and gang violence). This is despite evidence that these crimes are regularly preceded by situations of domestic violence. Ignoring women’s insecurities, in anti-radicalisation programmes it is presumed that they are already resilient, able and willing to moderate the behaviour of their male relations. There is little attention to the gendered differential impact of broader resilience and counter-terrorism policies on women (Brown 2014). This approach to security fails to consider women’s experiences of resilience as meaningful (Guru 2015), and ignore UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 & 2242 highlighting women’s valuable contributions to countering terrorism and promoting security.

This overview highlights 3 exclusions in resilience to date.

  1. policies and research are largely focused on location and systems rather than place
  2. religion is identified as a problem and not as a potential resource
  3. women’s security is instrumentalised and their insecurities minimised.

This PhD will fill these knowledge gaps, providing both a conceptual and empirical contribution to the field of resilience. In doing so it will contribute directly to UN SDGs seeking peaceful, safe and inclusive cities (16, 11) and for gender equality (5).



The PhD will adopt a feminist research methodology, drawing upon religious studies, security studies and geography. It will carry out an in-depth comparative case study of religious communities’ faith capital and experiences of resilience in Beirut, Birmingham, and Paris. These three cities are chosen because they are multicultural and sizable efforts have been made to foster resilience in each case. They match the research expertise of the supervisory team. This research will involve a mixture of interviews, mapping, and participant-observation to co-produce knowledge with participants. Extra funding will be sought to help cover fieldwork costs.



1st yr: training in research methods; planning fieldwork to ensure productivity, ethical conduct, and minimise any risks; producing a literature review
2nd yr: 3 work packages, with 4 months fieldwork at each site
3rd yr: analysing findings & writing up




  • Brand, R. & Fregonese, S. 2013. The radical’s city. Urban environment, polarisation, cohesion. Ashgate
  • Brown K. 2014. Influencing Political Islam: Moderation, Resilience & De-Radicalization in UK domestic Counter-Terrorism policies. In Tuck C. & Kennedy G. Eds. British Propaganda and Wars of Empire. Ashgate
  • Butt, A. 2014. A Theoretical Framework for Engaging with Religion in Development Projects. Journal of Developing Societies
  • Cheema et al. 2014. Unnoticed but important: revealing the hidden contribution of community-based religious institution of the mosque in disasters. Natural Hazards
  • Guru, S. 2015. Childhood Radicalisation Risk. Practice: Social Work in Action
  • Karner, C. & Parker, D. 2008. Religion versus Rubbish: Deprivation & Social Capital in Inner-City Birmingham. Social Compass
  • Meerow S. & Newell J. 2016. Urban resilience for whom, what, when, where, and why? Urban Geography


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