Dr Alison Stenning
I am a social and economic geographer, based in the Centre
for Urban and Regional Development Studies, School
of Geography, Politics and Sociology at the University
of Newcastle upon Tyne. You can contact me through those sites.
My research has particular thematic interests in work, community
and local economic development issues, and a regional focus
in east central Europe and the former Soviet Union.
In addition to the Nowa Huta project, with colleagues at the University
of Gloucestershire and the Jagiellonian University of Kraków,
I am currently investigating the politics of development in Oswiecim
(Auschwitz). A recently completed project (with Jane Hardy, University
of Hertfordshire) explored the remaking of women’s work in Poland.
More details of these projects are available below. The methodological
emphasis is on qualitative research methodologies - interviewing, the
analysis of documents and events, life history work and group interviews.
Previous and Current Research
The Politics of Local Economic Development in the Russian Federation
(funded by an ESRC research studentship)
This project explored the restructuring of local economic development processes in the Siberian city of
Novosibirsk during a period of deep and wide-ranging social and economic transformation. The focus lay in analysing
the presentation, mediation and promotion of strategies for post-Soviet
growth and survival; with particular attention paid to the contexts through which
those strategies were being constituted and the to the variety of influences,
both local and non-local, on the development of the local political arena.
Out with the Old, in with the New? The Changing Experiences of Women's Work in Poland
(funded by Nuffield Foundation, with Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire)
This project analyses the changing employment experiences of Polish women
in the light of profound and wide-ranging economic transformations. The
focus lies in a qualitative exploration of women's work histories, the changing
conditions of work and employment and an assessment of the challenges and
faced by women in a restructuring labour market. Following a quantitative
overview of local labour markets, the research is centred in two Polish regions
and Wroclaw - where work experiences in traditional state owned enterprises,
the growing foreign-owned retailing sector and the public sector have been
The Other Auschwitz: Economic Change and the Dead Hand of History in Poland
(funded by ESRC, with Andy Charlesworth, University
of Gloucestershire and Robert Guzik and Michal Paszkowski, Jagiellonian
This project explores the experiences of socialism and post-socialism in the
particular context of the most famous Holocaust site in the world - Auschwitz,
or Oswiecim. It investigates alternative histories of the town and analyses
the conflicts present in debates over the town's development, paying particular
attention to the roles of Auschwitz museum and the town's chemical plant. It
employs a range of archival and interview methodologies to contribute to debates
over both the geographies of the Holocaust and the geographies of post-socialist
transformations. The project website for this research can be found here.
One of the key themes running through all of these projects is
the remaking of the relationship between work and community, as
an expression of the wider economy-society relationship. This exploration
of work has developed to become one of the most important foci of
my research and I am beginning to develop a set of future projects
which interrogate the transformation of work, class and geographies
of working-class communities. In the first instance this is being
developed through an ESRC Seminar Series on Working
Class Lives with Chris Haylett, University
of Manchester, Jane Wills, Queen
Mary, University of London and Tim Strangleman, London
A list of current and forthcoming publications can be found here.
Future Research Questions/Potential PhD Topics
- The paucity of local-level studies of post-socialist transformations reveals
a research gap for work on the lived experiences of change. There is scope
for projects exploring the articulation of general processes of change
with matrices such as gender, generation, class, and ethnicity in localities
across east central Europe. Not only does such work create opportunities for interpreting
and presenting new empirical material, but also for exploring the use of
qualitative research methodologies in post-socialist contexts.
- There are ever-increasing opportunities to research the 'spaces of
socialism' and their experiences under post-socialism. What happens
to towns, cities, localities when the rules of the game change and they
make no 'sense' any more? Echoing research in the UK in the 1970s
and 1980s, what does it mean for these places to be seen as 'redundant'?
Have any of the spaces of socialism in east central Europe and
the former Soviet Union managed to construct positive new futures, or are
to social and economic collapse?
- How do such spaces compare to similar communities in the West? What contrasts
and comparisons can we draw with, for example, steel towns in the UK and North America? How universal were images of steelworkers and their
communities? What parallels can be drawn between the deindustrialisation experiences
of Western steel towns and the current restructurings of such communities
in east central Europe and the former Soviet Union?
The Polish community in Britain, though significant, is woefully under-researched,
especially at a time when there is a growing interest in white minorities.
How does the British Polish community construct its identities? What
role do links back to Poland play in these identities? Which institutions
and events shape the identity of Polish British communities?
What role might these communities play in contemporary debates over European
integration, transnational trading networks and ethnic entrepreneurship?
- What is the position of central European migrant workers in Britain and
western Europe? What are the connections between migrant workers and their
communities at home? What role do remittances play in the construction of
post-socialist economies? How do migrant workers travelling from east central
to western Europe assist in the construction of Europe?
- How might we understand mobility in a post-socialist context? How do patterns
analyses of the development of housing and labour markets in post-socialist
states? How might growing mobility affect the form and value
of local communities?
- What alternative economic activities have taken the place
and paternalist work in central European communities? What role do informal
economic practices such as ‘traditional’ survival strategies,
informal work, multiple jobs, unpaid labour within the extended family and
community networks of support/finance play in the construction of post-socialist
economies? How are these practices articulated with the formal sphere? How
might we connect these activities to
economy/geography themes which validate multiple stories of the economy?