The Psychosocial dynamics of superdiversity and conviviality in educational contexts

Principal Supervisor: Ben Gidley (Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck)

Co-Supervisor:       Mette Louise Berg (Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Social Research Institute)

Project Description

This is an opportunity to do a fully funded ethnographic doctoral research studentship to study the psychosocial dynamics of superdiversity. The broad research agenda for the project would be located within the context of urban superdiversity and conviviality, and specifically focus on “welfare micropublics” (Berg, Gidley and Krausova 2019) where the local state, and specifically street level bureaucrats, use the limited discretion they have to mediate relationships between members of different groups and thus play a crucial role in shaping which differences make a difference. The ethnographic fieldwork will be designed to develop a more robust account of the range of ways in which the spaces of the local state and street level bureaucrats can enable or block different forms of encounter and conviviality. Specifically, the fieldwork site for the project will be within the education sector broadly understood. Depending on the interests and training of the successful candidate, the field settings could include early years provision, primary, secondary, or tertiary schooling, or youth work (or another educational setting as defined by the candidate). It could focus on e.g., classroom interactions, institutional leadership, and/or parental interactions at the school gate, all of which offer rich opportunities to observe the granular patterning of lived diversity. We welcome proposals for fieldwork in London or in another superdiverse city.

The studentship will address the psychosocial dynamics of intergroup encounter in such settings, speaking to the unique expertise of the lead institution, the Psychosocial Studies department at Birkbeck. A key insight of the diversity turn is what Les Back has named the “metropolitan paradox” (1996): that the sites of the most intense hostility and exclusion are also the sites of the most generative forms of solidarity and affinity. We know that there are a range of possible affective registers emerging from super-diverse encounters – from fear or antipathy to conviviality, but also blasé indifference and ambivalence. The successful applicant will benefit from co-supervision in and affiliation with two vibrant research communities in Bloomsbury: Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, where Gidley, the Principal Supervisor, is based, and the Social Research Institute at UCL, where Berg, the Co-Supervisor, is based. We particularly welcome applicants with a grounding in sociology, anthropology, migration studies, psychosocial studies, education studies, or related fields.

Subject Areas/Keywords

sociology, anthropology, migration studies, psychosocial studies, education studies conviviality, superdiversity, ethnography, welfare micropublics, psychosocial encounters

Key References

Back, L., 2017. New ethnicities and urban culture: Social identity and racism in the lives of young people. Routledge.

Berg, M.L., Gidley, B. and Krausova, A., 2019. Welfare micropublics and inequality: urban super-diversity in a time of austerity. Ethnic and Racial Studies42(15), pp.2723-2742.

Berg, M.L., Gidley, B. and Sigona, N. eds., 2016. Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space. Routledge.  Berg, M.L. and Nowicka, M., 2019. Studying diversity, migration and urban multiculture: Convivial tools for research and practice. UCL Press.

Further details about the project may be obtained from

Principal Supervisor:


How to Apply

  • Please follow the online application process for the Psychosocial Studies PhD at Birkbeck, clearly stating your interest in the ‘Bloomsbury PhD Studentship’ with Dr Ben Gidley.
  • Please use the supporting statement in the application to outline why you are applying for this project, and why you are a suitable candidate for it. 
  • Queries about the PhD and training should be sent to Dr Ben Gidley, Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck.

Closing date for applications is: 
27 March 2023