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School of Geography

Katie McQuaid Dr Katie McQuaid

Contact details

School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



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Research overview

Katie studied Social Anthropology (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh, before completing an MA in the Anthropology of Conflict, Violence and Conciliation (2008) and MSc in Cross-Cultural and Comparative Research Methods (2010) at the University of Sussex. Upon achieving an ESRC award Katie conducted two years’ ethnographic fieldwork in Uganda (2011-2012) for her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. Her thesis, entitled ‘Another War: Stories of Violence, Humanitarianism and Human Rights amongst Congolese Refugees in Uganda’ was passed in November 2014. She has been employed as a Research Fellow in the School of Geography since September 2014.

Her current research creatively combines social science and participatory arts-based methods to explore intergenerationality, gender and education, sexual and reproductive health, and urban climate change in Uganda, India and Malawi.

She recently jointly led an ESRC/Leeds Social Sciences Institute Accelerator Award on girls' education in Jinja, Uganda (2017-18). This project combined social science and participatory arts methodologies to engage with and mobilise schoolgirls' voices to advocate for, and critically inform debates about, their educational and livelihood outcomes through the development of a Social Platform.

Since February 2017 she has also worked with the School of English on a series of projects. She currently works on two projects:

  • Promoting sexual and reproductive health education among adolescents through creative and youth-led practice in India, Malawi and Uganda (AHRC/MRC).
  • Engendering equality: working holistically in a Ugandan slum to challenge gendered inequalities, sexual ignorance and abusive sexual behaviours (British Academy).

In 2017 she worked on a project entitled 'Performing Living Knowledge: Developing a replicable model for arts-based empowerment of marginalised urban communities in Uganda and Malawi'. This project aimed to substantially upscale and embed the impact activities and embodied legacies of INTERSECTION's work in Uganda and implement this approach in Malawi.

From 2014-16 she worked on the Uganda strand of an interdisciplinary AHRC-funded project entitled ‘INTERSECTION: Intergenerational Justice, Consumption and Sustainability in Cross-National Perspective’ in collaboration with the University of Sheffield. INTERSECTION also conducted comparative research in China and the UK, as part of the AHRC’s Care for the Future Programme. She conducted ten months' fieldwork in Uganda in 2015 (January-November) and six weeks in 2016 (March-April) drawing on a range of qualitative, narrative and arts-based methods including community theatre and PhotoVoice to explore intergenerational ‘stories’ and dialogues.

Her doctoral research explored notions and narratives of violence, humanitarianism and human rights amongst refugees from violent conflict. Katie employed an ethnographic methodology to work with urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo living in Kampala, Uganda for nearly two years (2011-2012), and conducted participant observation with a Ugandan humanitarian agency. This work considers the experiences of displaced Congolese human rights defenders and the complex persecution and marginalisation of people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression across Africa’s Great Lakes region.



(March) "Mpuliliza! Combining ethnographic and participatory arts in child-led creative research practice and action with girls in urban Uganda". Theorising young peoples aspirations in a global context: an interdisciplinary conference. Brunel University. Conference paper.

(January) "Mobilities, livelihoods and the right to the city in the lives of older people in Ghana and Uganda". Transport, Mobilities and Social Justice Seminar Series, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK. Invited seminar paper.


(November)  Expert meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Invited participation in an expert consultation for a report on the situation of human rights defenders working on the rights of people on the move for presentation at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018.

(July) "Human rights versus Humanitarianism: Investigating the situated practice of human rights defenders in the Congolese refugee population in Uganda." Human Rights Defender Hub Early Career Researcher Symposium, Human Rights Defender Hub, Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, UK. Invited symposium paper.

(June) "Mpuliliza!: Combining social science and participatory arts to engage with and mobilise girls voices to advocate for, and critically inform debates about, their educational and livelihood outcomes in Uganda." AHRC International Development Summit, British Library, UK. Presentation.

(May) "Researching Intergenerational Justice, Consumption and Sustainability: Intergenerational Methods and Creative Practice." Department of Geography Seminar Series, University of Newcastle, UK. Paper with Robert Vanderbeck. Invited seminar paper.

(February) "Reflecting on an ethno-theatre approach to understand gendered injustices and inequalities in Jinja, Uganda: An African feminist approach." Interdisciplinary Postcolonial African Studies, African Feminisms Seminar Series, University of Leeds, UK. Presented by Jane Plastow. Seminar paper.

(January) "We are Walukuba: An encounter between the arts and ethnography in Jinja, Uganda." School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex, UK. Invited seminar paper.

 2016 (June) "Intergenerational anxieties about changing generations and climates in Jinja, Uganda." Anxiety in and about African Conference. Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge, UK. Invited conference paper.

(May) "(Un)imagining urban futures: Exploring imaginaries of climate change in Jinja, Uganda." Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change Conference, Royal Anthropological Institute and the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas of the British Museum, UK. Conference paper.

(May) "'So much has changed that even people have changed themselves': Intergenerational imaginaries of climate change in Jinja, Uganda." Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change Conference, Royal Anthropological Institute and the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas of the British Museum, UK. Conference paper.

(January) "In search of the Frierean 'plenitutde of the praxis' of action and reflection for women from Walukuba: thinking through an activist approach using theatre and ethnography". Yorkshire African Studies Network (YASN) Workshop on Gender and Sexuality, University of Leeds, UK. Invited workshop paper with Jane Plastow.

2015 (December) "Generating theatre in Walukuba: Ethnography meets theatre as a community makes art to debate the environmental worlds of a worker's estate in Uganda". Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and Workshop Theatre Joint Seminar, University of Leeds, UK. Invited presentation with Jane Plastow.

(August) "Insights into Environmental Worlds - Ethnographic and Arts-based Methodologies," A Workshop and Knowledge Exchange Event Exploring how to Create and Maintain Sustainable Communities and Environments in Jinja,’ Jinja, Uganda. Presentation and photographic exhibition.

(August) "Generating Theatre in Walukuba: A Community Makes Art to Debate the Environmental World of a Worker’s Estate in Jinja," The 2nd Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies Conference, Kampala, Uganda. Plenary presentation with Professor Jane Plastow.

2014 (September) '“Sexual violence is not only on the body”: Ethnography and the challenges of hearing sexual minority voices when researching sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC," African Studies Association Conference, Sussex, UK. Conference paper.

(June) 'The 'Human' in Human Rights: Affective rights work amongst Congolese human rights defenders', Sensing War: International Interdisciplinary Conference, London, UK. Conference paper.

(April) 'Violence, humanitarianism and rights: Storytelling amongst Congolese refugees in Uganda', DPhil Lecture Series, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, UK. Lecture.

(March) '“What about us?”: Sexual minorities within Uganda’s refugee communities', 'Emerging Research Landscapes - into Public Space', Sussex Africa Centre, University of Sussex, UK. Photographic exhibition.

(March) '"We raise up the voice of the voiceless”: Voice, rights and resistance amongst Congolese Human Rights Defenders in Uganda', Refugee Voices: Refugee Studies Centre International Conference, University of Oxford, UK. Conference paper.

2013 (November): 'The Human in Human Rights: Congolese Human Rights Defenders in Uganda', Conflict, Violence and Development Cluster Seminar Series, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, UK. Invited seminar paper.

(October): 'Strains of Silence: (Gender and Sexual-Based) Violence under the Ethnographic Lens', Rethinking Sexual and Gendered Violence in War and Peace Workshop, University of Sussex, UK. Invited workshop paper.

(August): '"We fled to the country of asylum, but it is like we have entered another war": Narrating and Belonging to Crisis amongst Congolese Refugees in Uganda', 4th Bi-annual PACSA Conference, "Crisis and Conflict", Copenhagen, Denmark. Conference paper.

(June): '"In refugee life, two elephants are fighting, a mosquito is dying”: Negotiating and reclaiming the multiple truths in asylum amongst Congolese refugees in Uganda', Multiple Truths in Asylum Symposium, African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Symposium paper.

(April): 'Caught in the Middle: Mediating Intermediaries in Two Cases of Ethnographic Fieldwork with Vulnerable People', Conference Paper with Ross Wignall, London Centre for Social Studies PhD Conference: Methodological Choices and Challenges, London, UK. 

(March): ‘"Even me, my story is very bad": Refugee Women’s Experiences of State, Military and Generalised Violence in the DRC', International Women’s Week: A Spotlight on State and Military Violence against Women Workshop, University of Sussex, UK. Lecture.

2012 (October) 'Violence, humanitarianism and rights: Reflections from ethnographic fieldwork with Congolese refugees in Kampala, Kyangwali, Kyaka II and Nakivale'. Full Staff Briefing. Refugee Law Project, Kampala, Uganda                                                         

2011 (July): 'Structures of Suffering amongst Congolese Refugees: Lives as lived, experienced and told', panel: 'Thinking outside the ‘victim’ box: reflexions on the agency of forced migrants in Africa', International Association for the Study of Forced Migration 13th Conference, Kampala, Uganda. Conference paper.

(July) "Refugees as human rights defenders: Can they protect or do they need protecting?", Pambazuka News, Issue 541, July 2011.