Dr Heather McLean
- Research Associate (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences)
I am a critical urban geographer with research interests focusing on culture-led regeneration, precarity, arts interventions and everyday geographies of agency and resistance. I work from feminist, queer, postcolonial and participatory paradigms, with a key aim of actively engaged research that, both theoretically and methodologically, decentres dominant discourses and engages participants in knowledge co-production.
My current research seeks to understand underrepresented artists’ and activists’ efforts to forge cross sectoral solidarities within a paradigm of austerity urbanism. Specifically, I am exploring how arts-based social enterprise organisations and artist-run centres support marginalised communities across the UK. Situating itself within feminist community economies research, my research provides a detailed, empirical and community-engaged investigation into the heterogeneous terrain of specifically arts-based social enterprises and cooperatives.
I am also currently investigating the political potential of cabaret, alter-ego performance, stand-up comedy and urban arts interventions as world-making projects that allow us to imagine and enact alternative urban futures and theoretical orientations.
Pre-academia, I spent several years working as a community planner in Toronto, Ontario. Interested in the contradictory role of urban arts interventions within neighbourhood regeneration initiatives, my PhD research analyzed Toronto-based culture-led community planning strategies that strive to transform disinvested neighbourhoods into higher end retail and residential areas. I argued that these initiatives signal the neoliberalization of urban planning in ways that deepened racialized, classed and gendered inequalities. I also demonstrated how community organizations, residents and artists found ways to leverage these initiatives to catalyse anti-gentrification activism. I spent a further 12 months at the University of Toronto Scarborough researching community-university partnerships and service learning
2017, Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leader Award -- Arts-Based Community Economies in An Age of Austerity -- https://artsandcommunityeconomies.wordpress.com
2015, Antipode Activist Workshop Award (with David Featherstone, Laura-Jane Nolan, Katy Hastie and Susan Fitzpatrick) -- The Arts and Precarity: A Radical Cabaret and Workshop, Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow. January 22 and 23rd, 2016
Grant Anderson (co-supervisor with Professor Chris Philo). A Geographical Account of Gender Transgression in Scotland
I am a multidisciplinary urban scholar with a keen interest in active learning methodologies and community-engaged research. In lectures and seminars, I incorporate cooperative pedagogical practices that encourage students to play a role in producing knowledge. I also facilitate activities that link theory with practice and stimulate knowledge development that suites a range of learning styles.