Pictured: Leah Burch

Leah Burch

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (including previous study)

I graduated from Liverpool Hope University in 2015 with a BA Hons in Education (Special Educational Needs). Throughout this course, I engaged closely with the field, Disability Studies and particularly around the workings of special educational needs policy. Following this, I completed MA Disability Studies, supervised by Professor David Bolt at Liverpool Hope University. I researched online disablist hate speech, with a particular focus upon the context of austerity. I joined the University of Leeds in 2016, having been awarded 1+3 ESRC funding to undertake MA Social Research and PhD in the School of Sociology & Social Policy. Outside of the PhD, I live in Manchester with my fiancé and two dogs, Lucas and

What motivated you to undertake a PhD and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

My motivation to undertake a PhD arose from my interest in disability hate crime, having engaged with the work of Katherine Quarmby. The PhD offered me an opportunity to work with disabled people more closely and provide a platform for sharing their experiences as a means of learning more about hate crime, and different approaches to challenging it.

The University of Leeds is home to the Centre for Disability Studies, and thus a great place to work within the field.

Please tell us about your research topic and what makes you passionate about this area of study.

My PhD is focused upon disability hate crime, and how this is both understood and experienced by disabled people. Importantly, I am exploring the ordinariness of hate crime for many people, constituting the notion of ‘everyday hate.’ In addition, I am seeking to consider how disabled people are navigating hate within their everyday lives, and how we can harness a collective sense of resistance against this. By working with disabled people, I hope to think more critically about the concept of hate crime, and work towards an understanding that has greater relevance to the everyday lives of disabled people.

How would you describe the research environment and community in the school and in the university generally? Are you involved in research centres and/or do you work with other academics and postgraduate researchers whether inside the school or across the university?

There is a strong postgraduate community at the University of Leeds in the School of Sociology & Social Policy. We have PGR Reps, who organise social events and relevant research groups. In addition to this, the School has a number of research centres, including the Centre for Disability Studies.

What would you say about the learning, training and research facilities in the School and at the University?

The School regularly holds research seminars, inviting internal and external academics to present their research on a variety of topics. These seminars often bring together interests located in all of the School’s research centres. In addition to this, PGR’s are given the opportunity to teach on a number of subjects across the school.

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD?

Upon completing my PhD, I hope to continue to work within the field of disability studies. I am looking to continue involvement within research projects, and would also like to continue teaching in this field.

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School?

There are lots of great opportunities to get involved with, and a wide range of subjects to choose from.

Are there any other highlights of your PhD experience so far that you would like to tell us about (eg. any awards, conferences, publishing achievements or social events)?

I was awarded funding by WRDTP to attend and present my research at an international Conference in Copenhagen, organised by the Nordic Network for Disability Research. In addition, I have received funding to present at a number of conferences in the UK, including: ‘Disability and Disciplines: The International Conference on Educational, Cultural and Disability Studies’ in 2019, and the ‘Lancaster Disability Studies Conference’ in 2018.

Whilst studying my PhD, I have published 3 journal articles in the journals ‘Disability & Society’ and ‘Journal of Education Policy’ and have 3 book chapters in press, due to be published in 2019 and 2020.

Alongside Josephine Sirotkin (University of Leeds) and Martina Smith (University of Sheffield), I helped to organise a postgraduate symposium, held at the University of Sheffield July 2019. This event sought to bring together emerging scholars in the field of disability studies, and provide a safe and collaborative space for PGRs to share their research. The event was titled: ‘New Directions in Critical Disability Studies.’