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Dr Joanie Willett

Senior Lecturer (Education and Research) - Cornwall


01326 253798

My broad research and teaching experience focusses on the inter-relationship between identity, communities, and the environment; using political philosophy to provide new ways of looking at the world to improve economic development and governance.  I have a strong interest in the use of artistic methods such as performance as research tools; and use phenomenological post humanist, materialist political philosophies to understand the identities, motivations, and behaviours of communities.

My research has been published in journals such as The Journal of Rural Studies, Sociologia Ruralis, Political Studies, Environment and Planning C: Population and Space, and British Politics.  I am currently finalising the manuscript of my book Affective Assemblages and Local Economies, where drawing on ethnographic, embodied research in peripheral parts of the US and the UK, I imagine regions as complex adaptive regional assemblages to explore a more effective regional development.   

I have been PI or Co-I on AHRC and ESRC research projects, and have contributed to a number of Parliamentary Inquiries, such as the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy “Time for a Strategy for the Local Economy”, and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s “Fixing Fashion: Clothing, Consumption, and Sustainability”.  I am invited to present my research internationally in both policy and academic settings, including the European Union Committee of the Regions (with the European Association for Local Democracy), University of California Berkeley, the Virginia Tech Office for Economic Development, Feile Belfast, the National Association of Local Councils, and the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government.

I am co-director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, a former trustee of the Political Studies Association, and help to coordinate the Creative Exchange, a UoE programme which brings together artists and researchers to develop joint projects.  I have been interviewed by local, national and international media, including BBC Sunday Politics, The Guardian, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  Follow me on Twitter on @JoanieWillett   



Research interests

The inter-relationship between identity, the environment, and the economy.

This work follows several themes:

1.Improving Economic Development: How people, the economy, and the environments of peripheral regions become discursively constructed and the impacts that this has on socio-economic development.

2. Local Government: How can we improve local governance  in order to foster and maintain engaged, sustainable, resilient communities. 

3. Sustainable Fashion: How trends and fashion shape our attitudes to the environment.

My work has tended to involve comparisons and collaborations across the UK and EU, but I am increasingly starting to develop networks in the United States. 

I use critical political theory, complexity theory, new materialisms, post-humanism and a politics of affect as methodological tools to explore these questions, and consider the role that art and theatre has as a research method that best grasps the nuance, complexity, and dynamism of contemporary socio-environmental issues


External impact and engagement

Impact and public engagement is very important to my work. Much of my resaerch interests have direct and obvious policy implications, and I am always keen to explore these as much as possible, with individuals and organisations to whom they might be useful.  To this end, I am always seeking to extend my relationships with community/policy/business groups, and have worked with or developed relationships with a number of local, national, and international organisations.  These include Cornwall Council, the National Association for Local Councils, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the European Association for Local Democracy. 

In addition to my research, I am always keen to explore public engagement activities and have participated in several ESRC Festival of Social Science events over the past few years, including “Citizens Take-over of Cornwall Council”, "On The Throne", and "Taking Overy My Town".  These were engagement and research events designed to explore the relationships of participants with local democracy·     

Finally,  I am always keen to engage with the local and national media, and have appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall, BBC Sunday Politics, BBC News 24, BBC Radio 4. 

      Aditionally I have contributed to a number of political blogs, including Democratic Audit; The Conversation; and Political Insight.


Modules taught


I took a Bsc in Combined Social Sciences with the University of Plymouth, and an MA in Critical Global Studies with the University of Exeter.  My PhD, entitled ‘Why is Cornwall So Poor, Narrative, Perception and Identity’ was completed in 2010 with the University of Exeter’.  In 2009/2010 I taught social theory on a social work degree with the University of Plymouth, and joined the politics department at Exeter at the start of the 2010/11 academic year.

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