PhD Opportunity at University of Leeds: Climate change, cultural representation, and climate justice in the Arctic

Key facts

PhD Application deadline Saturday 29 February 2020
Project start: Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility: UK and EU Funding Competition funded
Supervisors: Professor James Ford
Additional supervisors: Dr Vlad Strukov


The Arctic is witnessing the most dramatic climate change globally, warming at least twice the global average, and is projected to witness the most warming anywhere globally this century. The rapidly declining sea ice and threats to iconic species such as polar bear have put the region at the centre of media attention on climate change, underpinning claims for stronger global action to reduce emissions. Attention to the Arctic in popular discourse is welcome, as the region has often been neglected, but also comes with dangers. The Arctic, for example, is often framed as a wilderness devoid of people, overlooking the long history of Indigenous habitation in the region. Furthermore, the promotion of the Arctic as a ‘miners canary’ of climate change—however well-intentioned—neglects the fact that the canaries are real people and more than mere sentinels of impending global disaster. Such discourse matters because it shapes policies, procedures, and programmes; that is, it defines the solution-space. Whether it be calls to ban traditional Indigenous harvesting practices to protect iconic species, abandon communities to rising sea levels, or promoting geoengineering schemes (e.g. seeding Arctic sea ice), the needs and aspirations of local people rarely figure. There is growing resistance to such outside representation of the Arctic, led by Indigenous communities and Indigenous activists who are placing human rights, decolonisation, and human agency at the heart of the debate about climate change. These developments, in turn, are part of a growing global interest in climate justice. Various media have been used to this end, from community-led filmmaking, fashion, art, digital storytelling, photography, and theatre, to the more traditional activism around UN climate meetings. The proposed PhD project will examine these growing resistance movements that attempt to reclaim the debate on climate change and promote climate justice, asking: i) how is climate justice being articulated in Arctic Indigenous cultures? ii) what drives people to stand up for climate justice (e.g. motivations, ethical commitments, worldviews)? iii) how are diverse forms of media (film, fashion, digital media, art) used to promote climate justice across cultures and scales? iv) how effective have such movements been and what lessons do they offer for other regions struggling with similar issues? and v). are there examples of policy change as a result of such action? These questions will be explored through in-depth participatory research in the Canadian Arctic and the Russian Arctic. Diverse methods from the humanities and social

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the University’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the research degree you wish to be considered for is “Climate change, cultural representation, and climate justice in the Arctic” as well as Professor James Ford ( and Dr Vald Strukov ( as your proposed supervisor.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English language requirements (below).

We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

Entry requirements

Applicants to PhD research degree programmes should normally have a Master’s degree and at least a first class or an Upper Second Class Bachelors Honours degree. If you hold relevant work, or other, experience the Faculty may consider this in lieu of a Masters qualification, please check with the relevant school prior to making an application. To study a Masters by Research degree you should hold, or currently be studying towards, a Bachelors Honours degree, in an appropriate discipline where your current or predicted award is at least a first class or upper second class degree. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the Graduate School prior to making an application.

English language requirements

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate study is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking), or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some Schools, such as the School of Media and Communications, have a higher requirement.

Funding on offer

This is a 3 years scholarship funded by the University of Leeds through the Priestley International Centre for Climate. The award will provide tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant of £750 per annum

Contact details

For information about the project, please contact Prof James Ford ( or Dr Vlad Strukhov (  For further information about the application procedure, please contact the Graduate School Office

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