Leah Burch

Leah Burch


I completed my undergraduate degree, 'Eduation Studies (Special Educational Needs) and Masters 'Disability Studies' at Liverpool Hope University. I studied in the Faculty of Disability and Education, and worked closely with the Centre for Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. Following this, I received ESRC 1+3 funding at the University of Leeds in 2016 to work within the School of Sociology and Social Policy. As part of this funding, I completed my Masters in Social Research in 2017, and began my PhD research. I am currently at the beginning of the second year of my PhD, where I aim to better explore and understand disabled people's experiences of 'everyday hate' and 'hate crime' focusing particularly upon the role of intersectionality in making sense of these experiences, as well as recognising the forms of resistance that are enacted in everyday life.

I have taught at the University of Leeds and Liverpool Hope University. My role as a TA at the University of Leeds involved leading seminar series for two modules, 'Key Debates in Social Policy,' and 'Education, Culture & Society.' I have been an hourly paid tutor at Liverpool Hope University since 2018 and been involved with undergraduate and postgraduate teaching within the faculty of Disability and Education. I lead a module in 'Special Educational Needs' as part of a PGDE course, and recently began teaching in the Network of Hope, at Holy Cross campus. 

Publications to date

Journal Articles

Burch, L. (2018) ‘You are a parasite on the productive classes’: online disablist hate speech in austere times. Disability & Society. 33(3), pp. 391-415. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1411250

Burch, L. (2018) Governmentality of adulthood: a critical discourse analysis of the 2014 Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice. Disability & Society. 33(1), pp. 94-114. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1383231

Hodkinson, A. and Burch, L. (2017) The 2014 special educational needs and disability code of practice: old ideology into new policy contexts? Journal of Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2017.1412501

Current Issues

Burch, L. (2017) ‘A World Without Down’s Syndrome?’ Online Resistance on Twitter: #worldwithoutdowns and #justaboutcoping. Disability & Society. 32(7), pp. 1085-1089 https://doi.org/10.1080/20550340.2017.1330453

Book Review

Burch, L. (2016) Tackling Disability Discrimination and Disability Hate Crime: A Multidisciplinary Guide. Disability & Society. 31(10), pp. 1408-1409. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2016.1221663

Comment from the field

Burch, L. and Sirotkin, J. (2018) Studies in Ableism Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. 12(2), pp. 239-243. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2018.17

Burch, L. (2017) Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. 11(3), pp. 357-363. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2017.27

Mapley, H. and Burch, L. (2017) Disability in ‘Fact’ and ‘Fiction’ Seminar, Manchester Metropolitan University. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. 11(3), pp. 365-368. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2017.28

Burch, L. (2016) Disability and the Human Symposium, Manchester Metropolitan University. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. 10(2), pp. 245-248. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2016.20

Burch, L. (2016) Challenging ‘Hate Crime’: Research, Policy and Practice, International Criminological Research Unit. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. 10(1), pp. 113-116. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2016.9

Research interests

My PhD project aims to explore experiences of hate crime through the reflective accounts of disabled people. By researching hate crime as a social experience, this research will grapple with recurring questions surrounding the concept and relevance of hate crime to the lives of disabled people, and draw attention to the diverse ways that hate can be expressed, experienced and responded to. In addition, the research adopts a theoretical framework of intersectionality in order to capture the layers of meaning that disabled people attach to their experiences of hate crime particularly in relation to the ways in which identity is shaped in the process. Intersectionality hopes to further widen the focus of this research, by understanding hate crime as a complex phenomenon that can occur at the intersection of multiple, overlapping identity intersections. While the harms of hate crime are well-researched, there is less awareness of the intricate ways that disabled people navigate hate in their everyday lives. Therefore, this project seeks to unveil narratives of collectivity and resistance that arise as a response to hate crime. Such an approach recognises the harmful ways that hate can impact one’s sense of identity and belonging, whilst simultaneously harnessing some of the ways that disabled people navigate everyday hate, and capture the collective resistance that occurs as a result.

Previously, I have conducted research projects focusing on disablist hate speech. I have used storytelling as a tool for disabled people to share and make meaning of their own experiences of hate speech. This aimed to better understand the relevance of hate speech to the lives of disabled people, and identify some preliminary themes of inquiry to take forward into the PhD project.

Prior to this, I conducted an analysis of disablist hate speech on the online bulletin board, Reddit. Contextualised within a climate of financial instability and austerity, I considered how online disablist hate speech became coated within the justifiable and socially accepted rhetoric of welfare. Namely, centred upon the narrative of 'scrounger' and 'fraud.' 

I am also interested in special educational needs policy, and particularly the 2014 Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice. I have researched how this piece of policy constructs particular types of 'successful adulthood' that operate within the wider context of financial instability and individual responsibility. 


  • BA (Hons) Education (Special Educational Needs) - first class
  • MA Disability Studies - Distinction
  • MA Social Research - Distinction