Fiona McConnell is an Associate Professor in Human Geography and Tutorial Fellow at St Catherine's College. She joined the School of Geography and the Environment in December 2013. Prior to this she was a lecturer in human geography at Newcastle University and has also held a Junior Research fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge (2011-2013) and an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship at Newcastle University (2010-2011). Fiona has a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge (Fitzwilliam College) and completed her ESRC-funded PhD at Queen Mary, University of London in 2010.
As a political geographer Fiona's research aims to develop new areas of thinking regarding governance beyond the state and different modes of political legitimacy. In particular, she is interested in how communities officially excluded from formal state politics are nevertheless engaging with aspects of statecraft, and in using such seemingly anomalous cases as a lens to critically examine the 'norms' of governance. At the core of her approach to research is asking important geopolitical questions through a commitment to ethnographic methodologies, and her work intersects with scholarship in political geography, critical international relations and political anthropology. A significant part of her research to date has focused on the political structures and practices of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile based in India. She has ongoing research projects on: cultures of diplomacy and the diplomatic practices of unrecognised polities; geographies of work and social mobility in India's post-liberal economy; geographies of peace; and constructions and contestations of political legitimacy.
Fiona was awarded the Stanley D. Brunn Young Scholar Award by the Political Geography Specialty Group of the AAG in 2013. She is the editor of the Political Geography Section of Geography Compass and is an editorial board member for European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, Political Geography and Geopolitics. She has been a committee member of the RGS-IBG Political Geography Research Group from 2010 until 2013 and is a 'young member' of the International Geographical Union, Commission on Political Geography. Fiona also sits on the Board of Directors of the Tibet Justice Center, an independent volunteer committee of lawyers and scholars which advocates for human rights and self-determination for Tibetans.
Fiona's research interests lie in the everyday construction of statehood and sovereignty in cases of tenuous territoriality. Her doctoral research focused on the political institutions and practices of the exile Tibetan government based in India, an institution which engages in state-like functions despite being legally unrecognised and lacking jurisdiction over territory. Grounded in over ten years working with the Tibetan diaspora, this research speaks directly to political geography's concerns with power and space, and contributes to four broad areas of academic debate:
- theories of sovereignty, and the relationship between territory and authority;
- theories of the state and the use of ethnographic methods to uncover everyday state practices;
- political and legal identities, including refugeehood, citizenship and diaspora;
- transnational governance, governmentality and democracy.
Fiona's forthcoming monograph draws on this research on exile Tibetan politics to consider the idea of rehearsing the state.
In developing her interest in the construction of political legitimacy and issues of marginality Fiona's current research is focused on the following four strands:
i. Geographies of Peace
Based on a co-authored intervention in Antipode and a co-edited book, Fiona is working with Nick Megoran and Philippa Williams on developing a research agenda around geographies of peace. Their focus is on contextualised and contingent practices of peace, and their work seeks to critically unpack the nature of everyday peaceful existence and ask who peace is for.
ii. Practices and pedagogy of diplomacy in the margins
Fiona has two ongoing and intersecting projects on the changing geographies and practices of diplomacy, with a particular focus on how diplomacy is taught, and on non-state diplomatic actors. She is a Co-Investigator with Jason Dittmer (UCL) on an AHRC funded research network on 'translating diplomatic cultures' which has consisted of three interactive workshops bringing together interdisciplinary scholars and diplomacy stakeholders, an edited volume in preparation and ongoing collaborations with the FCO policy unit. The second project focuses on how diplomatic practices are taught and learned beyond traditional spaces of diplomacy, and investigates what this tells us about the mechanisms of statecraft more generally. With funding from a RGS-IBG Small Research Grant Fiona has undertaken research on the diplomatic practices of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), a membership organisation of political communities not adequately represented at major international fora.
iii. Geographies of marginality in India
This research strand focuses on the spaces and practices through which minority groups negotiate their relationship with the state, experience incomplete citizenship and youth transitions, and the ways in which marginality might be conceived as a site of political mobilisation. Against a background of jobless growth in India Fiona is undertaking collaborative research with Al James (QMUL), Bhaskar Vira (Cambridge) and Philippa Williams (QMUL) which examines the extent to which India's new service economy is 'socially inclusive' for graduates from marginalised communities. With funding from a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant they have overseen a survey of labour market experiences of over 1000 graduates from Muslim and Tibeto-Burman communities in Delhi.
iv. Constructing legitimacy
Cross-cutting the above research themes Fiona has an interest in how political legitimacy is claimed, constructed and contested, particularly in the so-called margins of geopolitics. Having organised an interdisciplinary conference on 'Producing legitimacy: governance against the odds' at the University of Cambridge in 2013 she is working with Alice Wilson and Alex Jeffrey on a special issue of Geoforum on this theme, and is interested in examining intersections between political geography and questions of legitimacy more generally.
Fiona runs a Final Honour School option course 'Geopolitics in the Margins' and is convening the FHS course 'Space, Place and Society' and the UNIQ Summer School for Geography.
At St Catherine's College, Fiona and her colleagues are responsible for teaching students across the entire breadth of geographical topics for the Preliminary Examination and Final Honour School of Geography.
Fiona welcomes enquiries from individuals wishing to undertake doctoral or post-doctoral research in the following broadly defined areas: contested sovereignties; practices and pedagogies of diplomacy; peace and non-violence; the Tibetan diaspora; politics of identity in the Himalayas; marginality.
Current Graduate Research Students
Peacebuilding through natural resources - the case of Cyprus
|Tarek Kheir Eddine|
The impact of confessional politics and socio-economic stratification on the use and development of public spaces in Lebanon
(Re)imaging the geopolitics of the exiled: Bhutanese refugee identities, space, citizenship and belonging in the UK
Youth strategies and generational change in rural Gujarat, India
Publications are those that were listed on the old website. Publications database integration forthcoming.
- Wilson, A. and McConnell, F. (forthcoming) Constructing legitimacy without legality in long term exile: comparing Western Sahara and Tibet. Geoforum.
- McConnell, F. (2013) Citizens and refugees: constructing and negotiating Tibetan political and legal identities in exile. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(4): 967-983.
- McConnell, F. (2013) The geopolitics of Buddhist reincarnation: contested futures of Tibetan leadership. Area, 45(2): 162-169.
- Williams, A., Jeffrey, A., Megoran, N., McConnell, F., Askins, K., Gill, N., Nash, C., Pande, R. and Townsend, J. (2013) Interventions in teaching political geography in the UK: practical and political considerations. Political Geography, 34: 24-34.
- Springer, S., Chi, H., Crampton, J., McConnell, F., Cupples, J., Warf, B. and Attewell, W. (2012) Interventions on the ruptures and transgressions of WikiLeaks. Geopolitics, 17(3): 681-711.
- McConnell, F. (2012) Governmentality to practice the state? constructing a Tibetan population in exile. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(1): 78-79.
- McConnell, F., Moreau, T. and Dittmer, J. (2012) Mimicking state diplomacy: the legitimizing strategies of unofficial diplomacies. Geoforum, 43(4): 804-814.
- McConnell, F. (2011) A State within a State? Legal and welfare relations between India and the Tibetan Community and government-in-exile. Contemporary South Asia, 19(3): 297-313.
- Williams, P. and McConnell, F. (2011) Critical geographies of peace. Antipode, 43(4): 927-931.
- McConnell, F. (2010) The fallacy and the promise of the territorial trap: sovereign articulations of geopolitical anomalies. Geopolitics, 15(4): 762-768.
- McConnell, F. (2009) De facto, displaced, tacit: the sovereign articulations of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Political Geography, 28(6): 343-352.
- McConnell, F. (2009) Governments-in-exile: statehood, statelessness and the reconfiguration of territory and sovereignty. Geography Compass, 3(5): 1902-1919.
- McConnell, F. (2009) Democracy-in-exile: the 'uniqueness' and limitations of exile Tibetan democracy. Sociological Bulletin, 58(1): 115-144.
- McConnell, F., Megoran, N. and Williams, P. (2014) The Geographies of Peace. I.B. Tauris, London. pp. 288. ISBN: 9781780761435.
- McConnell, F. (manuscript in preparation) Rehearsing the State: The Governance Practices of the Exile Tibetan Government, RGS-IBG Book Series, Oxford: John Wiley.
- Dittmer, J. and McConnell, F. (manuscript in preparation) Diplomatic Cultures and International Politics: Translations, Spaces and Alternatives, Abingdon: Routledge.
- McConnell, F. (forthcoming) Reconfiguring Diaspora Identities and Homeland Connections: The Tibetan 'Lhakar' Movement. In, Mavroudi, L. and Christou, A. (eds.) Dismantling diasporas: rethinking the geographies of diasporic identity, connection and development. Ashgate.
- Megoran, N., McConnell, F. and Williams, P. (forthcoming) Geography. In, Richmond, O., Pogodda, S. and Ramovic, J. (eds.) Dimensions of Peace: Disciplinary and regional approaches. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Dittmer, J. and McConnell, F. (forthcoming) Diplomatic Culture. In, Constantinou, C., Kerr, P. and Sharp, P. (eds.) SAGE Handbook of Diplomacy, London: SAGE.
- McConnell, F. (2014) Contextualising and contesting peace: geographies of Tibetan satyagraha. In, McConnell, F., Megoran, N. and Williams, P. (eds.) The Geographies of Peace. I.B. Tauris, London. pp. 131-150. ISBN: 9781780761435.
- McConnell, F. (2013) Nationalising a diaspora: The Tibetan government-in-exile in India. Chapter 17 in, Chatterji, J. and Washbrook, D. (eds.) Handbook of the South Asian Diaspora. London: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-48010-9. 430 pp.
- McConnell, F. (2013) Sovereignty. In, Dodds, K., Kuus, M. and Sharp, J. (eds.) The Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics. London: Ashgate.
- McConnell, F. (2013) Democracy-in-exile: the 'uniqueness' and limitations of democratic procedures in a territory-less polity. In, Arora, V. and Jayaram, N. (eds.) Roots and Routes of Democracy in the Himalayas. New Delhi: Routledge.
- McConnell, F. (forthcoming) Book review: The Persistence of Nationalism: From Imagined Communities to Urban Encounters. Angharad Closs Stephens 2013 Routledge. Cultural Geographies.
- McConnell, F. (2014) Review of 'Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA and Memories of a Forgotten War' Carole McGranhan 2010 Duke University Press. American Ethnologist, 41(1): 207-209.
- McConnell, F. (2011) Borders and Borderlands: Windows on Statecraft. Political Geography, 30(2): 111-114.
- McConnell, F. (2011) Review of Higate, P. and Henry, M. 2009: Insecure Spaces: Peacekeeping, Power and Performance in Haiti, Kosovo and Liberia. London: Zed Books. Progress in Development Studies, 11: 170-172.