PhD Opportunity: Feminist Documentary Photography and Activist Networks Scholarship

The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a full scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project: Feminist Documentary Photography and Activist Networks.

The past two decades have witnessed a surge of scholarly and curatorial interest in feminist art production in the UK, building on the foundational feminist art histories of the 1970s and 1980s. Yet feminist contributions to – and reformulations of – documentary photography remain under-studied, particularly practices and networks beyond London. Equally, despite significant growth in interest, the work of women and non-binary photographers in wider histories of photography remains marginalised. This doctoral project builds on the University of St Andrews’s world-leading photographic collections to offer a vital opportunity to expand existing knowledge of feminist documentary in Scotland and beyond, fostering cultural understandings of transnational feminist engagements with gender, race, class and sexuality, and the extensive artist-activist networks that ensued.

The Franki Raffles Photography Collection in the University of St Andrews Special Collections forms an exceptional resource from which to base a project on this topic. Franki Raffles (1955–1994) was a Scotland-based socialist feminist documentary photographer whose collection contains over 40,000 photographs, together with extensive archival papers, which are only just beginning to be fully historicised and contextualised. The collection comprises multiple projects engaging with gendered divisions of labour in countries spanning China, Israel and Russia. It provides a unique springboard for studying how feminist photographers consciously shaped their individual practices through collaboration, both with other artists and with activist groups such as the Zero Tolerance domestic violence awareness campaign.

From this base, the candidate will be well-positioned to expand outwards to consider other related collections in Scotland and the UK. These include the wider Franki Raffles Archive Project led by Edinburgh Napier, and the significant array of holdings on feminist organisations at the Glasgow Women’s Library, together with resources held by the National Trust for Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, and the National Galleries of Scotland. The successful candidate will be supported in identifying further archival and photographic collections in the UK and internationally, in order to map the fundamentally relational way in which many feminist practitioners have worked. Excavating these alternative forms of image production entails considering photography’s institutional contexts, from sites of display to printing and publications, looking to unorthodox modes of exchange outside the official art world. This will deliver new insight into the role of feminist documentary in shaping, challenging and re-making cultural understandings of gender, race, class and sexuality, and illuminating how photography has been deployed as an activist tool as much as a repressive representational mechanism.

The student will be supervised by Dr Catherine Spencer and Dr Natalie Adamson.

The award covers full tuition fees for up to three years as well as an annual stipend payable at the standard UK Research Council rate (the 2021-22 annual rate is £15,560). The start date for taking up this award is September 2021. Applicants must not already hold a doctoral degree; or be matriculated for a doctoral degree at the University of St Andrews or another institution.

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Dr Catherine Spencer – email

More info is on the direct link.