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Research at St Andrews

Sharon Leahy


Research overview

Sharon’s principal research interests lie in the often hidden social geographies of difference, marginalisation and belonging. Her PhD focused on a critical study of televisual archives, providing an interrogation of the construction and transmission of discourses of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ and their relations to ‘place’, “belonging’ and ‘Irishness’ on Ireland’s national broadcasting channel. This study incorporated a multi-method approach of content and critical discourse analysis, interviews, surveys and discussion groups. It employed Foucauldian and post-structural critical geography theory.


Sharon’s interests have built on the work applied to her PhD, to further critically assess the discursive construction and consequent actualisation of difference and its impact on the social construction of the most forgotten in society. She has acquired a specific interest in the ways in which elites produce and regulate knowledge in particularly nuanced ways, allowing for the creation and legitimisation of particular understandings in relation to a variety of social geographies, most especially issues focused on cultural difference, juridico-political processes, the constitution of threat, and discourses surrounding illegal transnational flows. Her research involves content, discursive and textual analysis and the use of qualitative surveys, focus groups and interviews. More recently, in conjunction with Prof Findlay, she has started to investigate geographies of third-level education, with a focus on student migration between Ireland and the UK and the economic, cultural and citizenship issues that surround this. Furthermore, Sharon is currently researching the ways in which the sex trafficked person is constituted as homo sacer in juridico-political contexts. This is a study interested in revealing the social reproduction of barelife, focusing on how the creation and final enactment of trafficking law is often intimately tied to bio-political markers of identity creation (for the victim) and securitisation (of the state).

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