About Dr. Shona Hunter
Updated: Jan 9
I am a big, critical, innovative and multi-dimensional thinker working internationally and across disciplines in this area of power.
I have spent over two decades challenging various mythologies around professional institutional and political power; researching, teaching, writing and speaking about the complicated and contested and often confused relationships we all have to broader categories of social and cultural power.
I specialise in creating collaborations that develop intellectual emotional and practical space for the difficult and challenging dialogues necessary to shifting the deeply ingrained systemic and intersectional relations of cultural power (race, class, gender, generation and sexuality). I do this work in the spirit of generating personal and collective responsibility for reparative social change and transformation, rather than allocating blame for histories of privilege oppression and dominance. In the spirit of public intellectualism I work from an understanding of the general capacity and desire for informed, intelligent but difficult and critical conversations about power in the public domain.
My working process is multidimensional. Rooted in my thinking and writing on ‘relational politics’ it engages with the interconnected shifting dynamics between the material contexts and practices, the symbolic cultural norms and the affective dynamics which come into play when working with power.
My primary vehicle for much of this work is WhiteSpaces, but these core themes and practices run throughout my academic, educational and public work.
An engagement with my own relationship to power has fuelled much of my writing and I am developing this more explicitly in my current work on relational choreography and the book project white states of mind.
In my current academic role I am a Reader in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, England UK. I am the Programme Director for Research Degrees (PhD, MRes, EdD) in the School and is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Race Education and Decoloniality.
My work is interdisciplinary and intersectional in its approach. I have been writing, teaching and researching into the social, cultural and emotional politics of the state for over twenty years, holding academic posts in a range of arts, humanities and social sciences academic contexts nationally and internationally: The Universities of Birmingham, Lancaster, Latterly Leeds, Universities of Sydney, Australia, Mannheim Germany, Cape Town, Rhodes, Johannesburg South Africa.
My work has been funded through various personal fellowships and grants from the UK Economic and Social Research Council, Research Council’s UK, The British Academy, The UK Social Policy Association, The Feminist Review Trust, The World Universities Network, The Economic and Social History Society, the National Research Foundation, South Africa.
My scholarly interests are framed through an engagement with feminist anti-racist decolonial critique and include all aspects of welfare politics and governance, state practices, identities and the broader material-cultural-affective politics through which ‘the’ state(s) is enacted nationally and globally as a global colonial formation.
This interest in the state brings me to consider questions of whiteness and masculinity as they relate to national ideals and expressions of state power as this gets lived in the everyday through informal cultural practices as well as formal state bureaucratic practice.
It is these interests that led to me to establishing the White Spaces Research Network and then the broader common intellectual project WhiteSpaces.
The core question driving my work is: why do racism, sexism and other unequal social relations persist within the context of contemporary supposedly pro-equality democracies, despite the myriad of policies designed to combat these inequalities?
In thinking through these issues, I explore the cultural-discursive, material-bodily and subjective-emotional intersections of ethnicity, gender, class and profession as drivers for institutional practice. The aim is to challenge mainstream approaches to exploring diversity power and privilege as static, essentialised properties of people or institutions, using a different set of ideas to understand power as shifting and dynamic produced through informal aspects of everyday culture.
The novelty of my approach is the way it links these ‘big’ questions of governmental power to everyday practices and identities via ideas of relationality. It is this development of relational theorizing around power and identities that dovetails the themes and concerns of most of her collaborators in the UK and internationally whether these are framed in terms of diversity, anti-racism or post/decoloniality. I call my approach the ‘relational politics’ of governance and I outline it comprehensively in my book, Power, Politics and the Emotions: Impossible Governance?
As part of my interdisciplinary experience my work in the education context is extensive where I have been Lead and Co-Investigator on empirical projects across post 16 education settings. My current writing for my second single authored book, working title ‘White States of Mind: fantasies of power and vulnerability in the academy’, continues this line of educational analysis. It builds on my first book that knitted together my empirical research in education, health and social care to produce an analysis of the impact of neoliberalising processes across public sector governance as framed through the unspoken cultural ideal of whiteness. In Power, Politics and the Emotions, I write about this unspoken ideal in terms of ‘neoliberal whiteness’. ‘White States of Mind’ extends this earlier work to explore the processes and dynamics of HE as part of this neoliberalising processes (re)instantiating whiteness as a global colonising ideal. It moves through personal experiences of teaching and learning, classroom and research practice and supervision dynamics, through institutional cultures to processes of international collaboration and academic mobility working at the global level.