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Under the directorship of Professor Leila Choukroune, the Democratic Citizenship theme focuses on two distinct areas: Global Justice and Rights, and Culture and Heritage.

Looking beyond nations, borders, communities, languages, histories, genders and bodies – our research addresses many of the fundamental issues of our time, and aims to promote equality, citizenship and civic engagement in a multidisciplinary manner. 

An introduction to the Democratic Citizenship theme

Under the leadership of Professor Leïla Choukroune, the Democratic Citizenship research theme addresses some of the most pertinent social issues of our time. Find out more about the vital, multidisciplinary research we're doing now.

Leïla Choukroune: As you know, 2020 has been quite a dramatic shift, a year of changes. And yet at the same time, a number of things have not changed. The most vulnerable have become more vulnerable. It's also a year, which is a massive challenge for human rights everywhere in the world. 

It's even more important to question the concept of democracy. We're not talking about democracy as an institution, as an electoral system, but also democracy from the below at the ground level, at the community level. 

At the University of Portsmouth, we have five different research themes. These teams work across faculties, across disciplines and are designed to make sure that colleagues from the University of Portsmouth, but also nationally and internationally, work together on extremely important issues of our time.

Having a theme on democratic citizenship is particularly important for the University of Portsmouth University, a university which is becoming one of the top modern universities in the UK. 

Our graduates, our alumni, our students often come from sometimes deprived, sometimes less deprived backgrounds. For many of them, it's the first generation to go to university. For many of them, it's the first time they are exposed to issues of rights, justice, equality, diversity. So I think it makes great sense for the University of Portsmouth to insist, to address, to further these thematics. 

Today, more than ever before with the global pandemic, it's extremely important to reinvest democracy, justice and rights. In doing so, at the University of Portsmouth, we have created two hubs. The first hub, Culture and Heritage deals with issues of heritage and culture, at the local level in Portsmouth, but also nationally and internationally. The second hub, Global Justice and Rights, addresses issues of gender, equality, rights, social discrimination, poverty – nationally and internationally. 

Under the Culture and Heritage hub, we have a colleague, Dr. Tarek Teba, who has done fantastic work during the pandemic on heritage in the Middle East, in Syria, in Egypt, in Lebanon. He's been able to recruit people on the ground to see how resilient are the communities facing the pandemic. 

To give you another example, this time on Global Justice and Rights, together with colleagues of the University of Portsmouth, Professor Tamsin Bradley, but also Dr. Matthew Anderson, have carried out very interesting research on modern slavery in the textile and garment supply chain, nationally and internationally. 

My colleague, Dr. Simon Stewart, has won a prestigious grant to work on homelessness. He works with St. Mungo’s, the NGO, to address the stature, the evolution, the challenges faced by homeless people here nationally and to some extent internationally. 

Another colleague we have invited, Professor Bogues from the US, has addressed the Black Lives Matter movement in giving a webinar on how to become or how to be a critical intellectual. 

Today, more than ever before, cemocratic citizenship is of particular importance. Democracy for all in all its forms and manifestations. 

Explore the two strands of our Democratic Citizenship theme

The Global Justice and Rights Hub is an interdisciplinary network which focuses on research into equality, diversity, gender, migration, development and human rights, rule of law and social justice.

Taking an international perspective, the hub is home to leading research across the University's faculties, and recent and current projects have looked at the topics of gender, justice, citizenship, hate crime, the #MeToo movement and the ethics of fashion.

Our research projects

The Listening Zones of NGOs

Dr Angela Crack (SASHPL) recently concluded this AHRC-funded research project in collaboration with the University of Reading and INTRAC, a civil society organisation. The project explored the role of language in development work and how it shapes relationships with NGOs and communities. Data was collected in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Peru with the involvement of dozens of international and local NGOs. The main findings are detailed in the final project report. They include the following: a) Local languages are not generally integrated into development programmes by NGOs; b) Translation and interpretation needs for NGO development projects do not tend to be budgeted for in advance; c) Many words commonly used in the anglophone development world are not directly translatable into other languages. d) The failure to accommodate local languages leads to certain groups in the community being excluded from fully participating in projects. This can have a negative impact on building relations of trust between NGOs and communities, and can lead to project failure. The project produced a series of recommendations about language policy and practice that have been adopted by NGOs in several countries.

The language of cybersexism

Dr Alessia Tranchese (SLAL) currently completed (as PI) a University of Portsmouth faculty-funded research project on the language of cybersexism. The project took an interdisciplinary approach involving linguistic analysis of Reddit forum data (more precisely the r/incels thread), feminist analysis, and research into digital behaviours to study the links between misogynistic online communities, mainstream pornography, and violence against women. The project led to the collection of a 50m+ word corpus of online comments on Reddit, five publications in international journals and edited collections, as well as the establishment of a network of experts, activists and practitioners (including two high-schools in the South of England, the sex education company Sexplain, and teacher training providers at the University of Portsmouth) that will be part of a follow-up project to be submitted for an external funding bid in 2020.

From Fritzl to #metoo: An analysis of ten years of rape coverage in the British press

Dr Tranchese (SLAL) is currently working on the completion of a monograph (Palgrave Macmillan, publication in 2021 in the series “Palgrave studies in language, gender and sexuality”). The book is part of her work as co-investigator on the “Celebrity, Citizenship and Status” faculty-funded project and offers a longitudinal investigation of the coverage of rape in the British press between 2008 and 2019. It employs both statistical and qualitative analysis of linguistic data to explore changes and/or constants in representation over time and determine whether new socio-historical events and trends, such as high-profile rape cases and the raise of the #metoo movement, coincided with a change in public discourse about rape that may signal a shift (or lack thereof) in the public understanding of sexualised violence against women.

Institutional responses to staff sexual misconduct in Higher Education

Dr Anna Bull (FHSS) has been awarded an ESRC New Investigator Grant for this project, which will examine institutional responses to staff sexual misconduct in Higher Education over a period of 24 months. The #MeToo movement became prominent in 2017 following exposure of allegations of sexual misconduct in the film industry. It has led to wider exposures of similar cases in other industries and provoked a media debate. Dr Bull’s study will document and assess ongoing interventions into how to address power-based sexual misconduct by staff towards students in higher education (HE) in the UK, US and Australia in order to provide guidance on how to tackle this within and outside academia. 

Dr Bull is a co-founder of The 1752 Group, a research and lobby group that addresses the issue of staff sexual harassment in higher education. The ESRC grant is a fruit of several years of previous research, and was supported in the final stages of application by research and innovation funding from the Democratic Citizenship Theme.

The contemporary transformations of Catholicism in France and in North Africa

Dr Alexis Artaud de la Ferrière’s current research focuses on the contemporary transformations of Catholicism in France and in North Africa. In France, Alexis’s work focuses on the politicisation of Catholic communities, on Catholic engagement with the political public sphere, and on the internal transformations of Catholicism as a result of immigration. He is a co-investigator on the RELIMIG project, which investigates the social and religious trajectories of Catholic migrants in France and is funded by the French National Research Agency. In North Africa, Dr Artaud de la Ferrière’s research investigates how the institutional Catholic Church has evolved, in its ecclesiology and in its missiology, following the national independence of former French colonies (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco) and the associated collapse of Catholic lay congregations.


  • Dr Alexis Artaud de la Ferrière (Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) – The  contemporary transformations of Catholicism in France and in North Africa
  • Dr Anna Bull (Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) – Institutional responses to staff sexual misconduct in Higher Education
  • Dr Angela Crack (Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) – The Listening Zones of NGOs
  • Dr Simon Stewart (Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) – Director of the Centre for European and International Studies Research.
  • Dr Alessia Tranchese (Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) – The language of cybersexism; From Fritzl to #metoo


Democratic Citizenship Director: Prof. Leïla Choukroune

Research assistants: Claudia Viggiano and He Yuan

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The Portsmouth Culture and Heritage Hub is a research network aiming to connect multi-disciplinary researchers from the University of Portsmouth with stakeholders in local sites of cultural and historical interest in the Portsmouth and Solent region, the wider UK and internationally.

In the Portsmouth and Solent region, our aim is to enrich the community through preservation, conservation, interpretation and education about our rich and unique regional history – from the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period, through the maritime history of our island port city, to our place in history as the launch point for much of the D-Day Landing fleet in 1944. In this way, we can help to protect our heritage, understand how it has shaped our life today, and how it might inform our future.

The work of the hub spans across several Faculties, including Creative and Cultural Industries, Science and Health, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Business and Law. It was officially launched in the summer at the Mary Rose. If you would like to be involved with the hub, please contact us below.

Our interdisciplinary streams include:

  • Conflict and heritage
  • Heritage and climate change
  • Interpreting the past
  • Empowering communities through culture and heritage
  • Digital heritage

Our research projects

Mary Rose Ancient DNA Project

Dr Sam Robson and Dr Garry Scarlett from the University of Portsmouth are working with Dr Alex Hildred from the Mary Rose Museum to look at ancient DNA from the skeletons of crew members raised from the wreckage. Using whole genome sequencing techniques, they hope to develop an understanding of phenotypic characteristics, disease traits and geographic information of crew members of one of the most famous shipwrecks in history. Dr Robson and Dr Scarlett are continuing to explore the DNA of additional crew members to understand in more detail the ethnic variation amongst the crew, as well as understanding the genetic variation amongst Tudour individuals. In addition, they are extending their techniques in order to explore additional artifacts from the collection to increase our understanding of this unique snapshot into the Tudour age.

Fishbourne Roman Palace collaboration

A collaboration between Fishbourne Roman Palace, zooarchaeologist Prof. Naomi Sykes (University of Exeter), archaeogeneticists Prof. Greger Larson (University of Oxford) and Dr. Laurent Frantz (Queen Mary University), and members of the Ancient DNA Research Group from the University of Portsmouth will explore the origin of the cattle remains found at the Palace and surrounding areas, particularly the relationship with Celtic or continental breeds. The results will provide insight into agricultural practice at the transition from Celtic to Roman period, and relationship between the Roman and Celtic culture in the region. More info here.

The use of UV-C in the remediation and control of biofilms on historical buildings and artefacts

The research being undertaken at the Roman villa at Newport, Isle of Wight is a collaborative research project with external stakeholders Paul Simpson (Isle of Wight Council), John Stewart and Andrew More (Historic England). Biofilms growing on historic buildings and artefacts can cause serious damage, with critical implications for their conservation and preservation. We are investigating novel on-site biofilm detection methods and the use of UVC as a cost-effective, reliable and non-destructive remediation tool for endangered historic buildings. To investigate the use of UVC treatment in historic buildings Dr Joy Watts (Biological Sciences), Dr Rob Inkpen (Geography), Dr Andy Gibson and Dr Emily Butcher (both School of Earth and Environmental Sciences) are working to create rapid monitoring and remediation tools that will be suitable for application at other historically important sites and buildings. 

“Middle East-Europe” Heritage Forum (June 2020)

In collaboration with the Lebanese American University–LAU Louis Cardahi Foundation, the heritage hub aims to bring a multidisciplinary event through which scholars from different countries in the Middle East, Europe and UK will come together and discuss heritage challenges in the regions particularly in relation to conflict spreading in different countries in the Middle East. Call for papers.

Co-Visualisation of the invisible past using the present values and debates (January - June 2020)

Working with Fishbourne Roman Palace, the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries aims to reframe the current interpretation of the palace through the co-creation of digital interpretations that engage younger generations in exploring the ruins. It aims to link the ruins and the missing parts in order to establish a complete narrative when visitors head out the sheltered ruins towards the formal garden. Academics will work with Architecture and Creative Technologies students and the local primary school in order to 1) enhance the younger generation's understanding and sense of ownership of their heritage, 2) visualise the interpretation of the missing parts of the palace, and 3) co-create new activities for children and visitors within the ruins.

Regenerating Cities during Crisis: Culturally-routed and sustainable strategies for Middle Eastern Cities (July 2020)

In collaboration with the University of Jordan, Portsmouth School of Architecture establishes a research workshop that offers networking and educational activities concerning urban regeneration, a crucial working and research issue in Middle Eastern cities. It aims to promote the international exchange of knowledge and experience about novel theories, strategies and methods for regenerating culturally accepted and inclusive cities. The workshop intends to enhance urban regeneration knowledge using input from both theoretical and practice platforms. It utilizes the Live Project model of education to apply theoretical knowledge on a real case study in order to generate solutions for cities that have exacting and urgent conditions without affecting its identity.

Port Towns and Urban Cultures research group

The Port Towns and Urban Cultures group is dedicated to furthering our understanding of the social and cultural contexts of ports across the globe from the early modern period. The research group has recently joined a new European network to study the History of Health in Port Cities which is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Dr Bassett and Seiter were invited to provide insight into the work of PTUC, who employ a social and cultural history methodology to the study of port towns and cities.


  • Dr Rob Inkpen (Faculty of Science and Health) - The use of UV-C in the remediation and control of biofilms on historical buildings and artefacts
  • Dr Sam Robson (Faculty of Science and Health) - Mary Rose Ancient DNA Project
  • Dr Garry Scarlett (Faculty of Science and Health) - Mary Rose Ancient DNA Project
  • Prof Deborah Sugg Ryan (Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries)
  • Dr Tarek Teba (Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries) - “Middle East-Europe” Heritage Forum; Co-Visualisation of the invisible past using the present values and debates; Regenerating Cities during Crisis.

Partners and external stakeholders

Dinosaur Isle, The Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Historic England, Isle of Wight council, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Southwick House, Portsmouth Cathedral, Lebanese American University, University of Jordan.


Email: portsmouth-heritage-hub-group@port.ac.uk

Democratic Citizenship Director: Prof. Leïla Choukroune

Research assistants: Claudia Viggiano and He Yuan

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Research areas

Many of the University's research areas deal directly with issues of Democratic Citizenship, including:

Politics and international relations

We're exploring pressing issues in politics and international relations and working with organisations, governments and individuals to find solutions.

Kamala Harris and Emmanuel Macron
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We're studying the patterns of relationships, social interaction, cultures and communities, and how people live their lives. Explore our sociology research.

Central london
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We're exploring the many ways that laws and the legal system shape society and affect the daily lives of people at all levels within it. Explore our law research.

Law courts statue
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Women's and gender studies

We're exploring women’s issues and gender issues in social and cultural contexts through time, and how gender is represented in the media. Explore our women's and gender studies research.

Ethnic women
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We're researching how people, businesses, societies and nations manage and allocate scarce resources such as land, labour or capital. Explore our economics research.

pound coins
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Area studies

We're exploring international relations, history, politics, economies, cultures, languages and geography across specific regions.

river boat holidays
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Centre for Blue Governance

We're committed to the protection, restoration and sustainable governance of our aquatic environments

blue governance
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Research features

Explore our features for a snapshot of our recent research work in this research theme.

Brexit: Why EU Investment Doesnt Mean A Vote for the EU

What shapes our feelings about the EU? Our PERCEIVE project has found that communication and identity play the biggest roles in deciding how people feel about Europe.

row of european flags
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Why Game Theory could be the key

Dr Ansgar Wohlschlegel has researched how Game Theory can keep civil disputes out of court, and save both parties involved, and the legal system, a lot of money. 

finance meeting
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Could better public services lead to better jobs and pay?

Professor Dan Finn has researched the development of employment and welfare services around the world, and is now working to help developing countries create similar services.

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News, blogs and podcasts

Find our more about our latest research successes, read blogs by our academics and listen to the latest ideas and discoveries that look set to change our lives in our Life Solved podcast.