Professor Emma Waterton 

Leverhulme International Professor

Emma (she/her) is the Director of the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre. Emma’s research is located primarily in the fields of heritage studies and cultural geography, where she works to challenge the systems, structures and institutions of power that continue to shape heritage, both in the UK and internationally. She is particularly interested in the following: the interface between heritage, identity, memory and affect; ​​anti-colonial politics and alternatives to the logics of colonialism; migrant heritage-making and social inclusion; community engagements with our past/s; and climate justice in the Anthropocene. 

Emma was first introduced to the broad field of heritage as an undergraduate at the University of Queensland, Australia, where she learnt about the importance of cultural rights, the politics of place and power, and issues of social justice. After working and travelling for a few years, Emma settled in York in order to complete her Master of Arts in Archaeological Heritage Management and her PhD in Heritage Studies. Both instilled in her a commitment to foregrounding counter-colonial and non-Western thinking. 

Emma has held academic appointments at Keele University (2006-2010) and Western Sydney University (2010-2022). Her engagements with a diversity of researchers while at the latter saw her own work expand to include an interest in the analytical shifts animating cultural tourism and political geography, which she has adapted and translated into the field of heritage studies. These shifts include the turn to affect, a return to materialities, emotional geographies, and theories of more-than-human worlds.

Learn more about Emma’s work here.
Twitter: @EmmaWaterton1

Dr Hayley Saul

Senior Research Fellow

Hayley (she/her) is the Deputy Director of the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre. Hayley undertook her PhD at the University of York, investigating prehistoric cuisine using lipid residue analysis of pottery, and plant microfossils embedded in ‘foodcrusts’. Following her PhD, she undertook a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Post-doctoral Fellowship on the Japanese Archaeo-Ceramic Residue Research Strategy project (JARRS), which established the earliest use of ceramic technology. She began AHRC funded post-doctoral research with the Early Pottery in East Asia Project in 2014, before moving to Sydney, Australia, and taking up a Lectureship in Heritage Studies at Western Sydney University. During her time at Western Sydney University she held two leadership roles: Associate Dean International (South Asia), followed by Associate Dean Engagement.

Since 2015, Hayley’s research has focused on Himalayan heritage and archaeology, with particular interests in cuisine, bioculturalism, disaster, and survivance. She strives to do research that is meaningfully engaged – with climate action, communities and industry partners. She specialises in research that sits at the intersections of archaeology, bioarchaeology and heritage. She takes a transdisciplinary approach to investigate the novel ways that heritage can tackle the complex precarities of a changing climate in the eight countries that make up the Hindu Kush Himalayas. 

Her overall aim is to explore traditional, and/or (pre)historic cultural practices that support sustainable agriculture, food security, forest relations, water conservation, disaster recovery and biodiversity in the Himalayas. Working with (often Indigenous) communities and a range of non-governmental organisations, such as the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Hayley co-develops ways to support and ‘activate’ these forms of heritage in the pursuit of flourishing mountain futures.

Learn more about Hayleys work here.
Twitter: @hedgerow_hayley

Dr Tanja Hoffmann 

Research Fellow

For more than two decades Tanja has been privileged to work with and for a number of First Nation communities in what is now called Western Canada. She holds her hands up in gratitude to the Elders and knowledge holders who continue to gift her their knowledge and support. Most of Tanja’s research is guided by community priorities. As a result, Tanja’s research interests are located where place-based and Indigenous peoples’ heritages intersect with dynamics of climate change, de-colonization, economic development, and resource management. She holds a PhD in Resource and Environmental Management (Simon Fraser University) and a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies (University of Northern British Columbia). Dr. Hoffmann’s PhD dissertation, written in collaboration with the q̓ə́yc̓əy [Katzie] First Nation of coastal British Columbia, Canada examined aspects of cultural resilience exhibited by q̓ə́yc̓əy as they in turn resisted and adapted to the construction of a major infrastructure project through the heart of their territory.

Tanja has experience designing and implementing projects ranging from archaeological excavations to social impact assessments. She has published on topics ranging from the economic, social and environmental dynamics of ancient gardening among the peoples of the Northwest Coast, to the importance of maintaining humility when practising research with and for Indigenous communities. Dr. Hoffmann is a Research Fellow in the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre. She is the research lead for Axis 1 where she is investigating the roles heritage plays in the dynamics of cultural, economic, and social inclusions/exclusions in the UK. Her overall aim is to locate and advance solutions-oriented, collaborative research initiatives that look to amplify place-based knowledges in service of local solutions to global ‘wicked’ problems. This includes promoting research that learns from not not just about place-based knowledges and knowledge holders.

Person wearing an N95 mask, holding food up to the camera using chopsticks

Dr Kaajal Modi

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Kaajal (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist and design researcher working through creative practices to explore how making in collaboration with diverse communities (human, microbial and otherwise) can be a way to recover climate heritages in ways that open up new speculations on how we might live in the future.

Their practice is rooted in co-creation, and incorporates listening, fermenting, cooking, image making and interactions to create lively and situated encounters between people, organisms and ecosystems. Kaajal’s practice-based PhD, Kitchen Cultures explored food fermentation in collaboration Global Majority women in their own kitchens over the COVID-19 lockdown as a negotiation of multispecies ontological politics. Their research at the centre builds on this work towards a critical creative practice in the kitchen, lab and landscape that explores how humans continuously negotiate microbial imaginaries through food, medicine, spiritual and sensory modes, as well as poetry, song and storytelling.

They are a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Social Study of Microbes (CSSM) at Helsinki University, and a commissioned artist on Counterpoint Arts and Art Reach’s Climate Justice and Displacement call. They were formerly RA in Responsible Interactions at Newcastle University’s Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE), where they developed artistic modes of research and engagement through which to imagine the living cities of the future. Projects invited the public to reflect on practices of inter- and intra-species care and control as a way to open up the conversation about how we live with the micro-organisms with whom we share environments, homes and even bodies.


Dr Mariana Pinto Leitão Pereira

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Mariana is Macanese, from the Portuguese-descendant community of Macau (SAR of China), and is a heritage researcher interested in the processes, uses and temporalities of heritage in migration and diaspora settings. For her PhD work, Mariana was based at the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre, University of Cambridge, where she approached diaspora as a practice of engaging with the legacies of migration. Tailoring the Critical Cosmopolitan Imagination framework as a heritage lens, Mariana used the concepts of rupture, localisation, translocal positionality and the chronotope to showcase the various ways diasporas construct and employ heritage in post-displacement contexts. Her case study sites were the São João and Lusofonia festivities organised by the Macanese in Portugal and Portuguese-speaking communities in Macau. 

For her postdoctoral research, Mariana aims to further challenge fixed geographies as the main scale for understanding heritage and social processes. Through a study of the Tanka communities in Macau, also known as floating populations or boat-dwellers, Mariana’s research asks how seascape to landscape migrations shape heritage with the aim to harness knowledge of the sea for climate-change solutions. 

She holds an MPhil in Archaeological Heritage and Museums (University of Cambridge), an MA in World Heritage Studies (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany) and an MA in Archaeology (University of Porto, Portugal). Before embarking on her PhD, Mariana worked as an archaeologist and heritage professional for the Cultural Heritage Department of the Cultural Affairs Bureau in her hometown Macau. Mariana is a board member of ICOMOS (2023-2026) and a member of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Chapter of the Association for Critical Heritage Studies. Her academic work includes the co-edited volumes Sustaining Support for Intangible Cultural Heritage’ (2022) and ‘Rethinking the Archaeology-Heritage Divide’ (2022).  

You can reach Mariana through her email and her LinkedIn.

Melissa Thomas

PhD Candidate – Axis 1

Melissa completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh in History and Archaeology in 2020. Her dissertation focussed on the preservation of a World War II heritage site in the Shetland Islands and the attitudes of the local community towards it. She received her MPhil in Heritage Studies from the University of Cambridge in 2021. Her dissertation investigated the emotional and psychological affects of archaeological ruins on their local communities. She carried out fieldwork for this project in Shetland, where alongside interviews she utilised participant produced drawings as a way to express emotions about heritage that might be difficult to put into words. She worked as a commercial archaeologist in the UK, as well as taking part in research excavations in the UK and Europe. Her research interests are primarily in rural and maritime heritage, contemporary archaeology, the importance of memory and emotion, and community heritage and participatory practices.

Melissa’s PhD is part of the ‘Inclusions/Exclusions’ axis of the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre, which explores the complex relations between heritage and society in contemporary Britain. Her PhD aims to understand how experiences of exclusion, inclusion and precarity impact relationships with heritage through the lens of current and former fishing communities in the UK. She is focussing on how gender and class impact interactions with heritage. She is also interested in the political and environmental contexts of fishing in the Anthropocene and in the experiences of precarity, liminality and loss amongst fisherfolk and fish in the past and present. She will work with two case study communities in the UK, as well as visiting a range of fishing villages across Britain. The co-production of data with these communities will play an important part in her PhD. She will also use secondary data, especially in the form of oral histories, to supplement her research.


Owen Hurcum

PhD Candidate – Axis 1

Owen (They/Them) is an AHRC (WRoCAH) funded PhD researcher who completed their undergraduate degree at Prifysgol Bangor University in 2019 in Archaeology and continued their studies at Bangor graduating with an MA in Celtic Archaeology in 2022. Their MA thesis studied the development of Queer Archaeology as a framework for archaeological analysis from its origins in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s towards the present day. Owen’s PhD builds upon this research with a focus specifically in ‘Transgender Archaeology’. The study will look at the impact of archaeological research on the transgender community, how archaeology is being (ab)used in discussions around rights and equalities for transgender individuals as well as investigating identities in the past that do not fall within the modern West’s notion of cisgender men and women.

Owen has been an outspoken trans activist using their platform as the former Mayor of Bangor, and the UK’s first openly non-binary city Mayor, to campaign for transgender equality and dignities. They have published an introductory book on the topic of transgender equality, entitled Don’t Ask About My Genitals, and continue to be an outspoken advocate within the transgender community. This activism, and their own experiences as a Non-Binary individual, drive their research and feed into their PhD project. 

Sreelakshmi Subramanian

PhD Candidate – Axis 2

After receiving her undergraduate degree in architecture, Sree gained practical experience working as a design architect for two years at various architectural firms on both modern and traditional design projects. She subsequently enrolled in a Postgraduate Diploma in Heritage Studies programme offered by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage), New Delhi. Sree participated in a variety of academic projects during the course that explored and documented Delhi’s historical layers by examining its heritage sites from the perspectives of visitors, stakeholders, governing bodies, local residents, and heritage experts. It is also worthy to note that her project was selected at INTACH to be displayed in a resident’s festival in Nizamuddin East for having used UNESCO’s Historic Urban Landscape approach towards striking a balance between development and conservation.

Following that, she pursued an MA in Conservation Studies from the University of York as her interest further grew in the field of conservation. Sree graduated with a distinction for her dissertation, where she conducted a critical analysis on the themes of conflicted heritage, conservation, and nationalism. She used the Central Vista project in New Delhi to look at the epistemological issues in the field of contemporary cultural heritage, illustrating the politics in the realm of heritage decision making.

Sree’s PhD research will connect with the “Colonial Legacies” axis of the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre, placing British colonial heritage at the centre of contemporary debates by asking how that history is understood, interpreted, repurposed, and resisted within the context of the World Heritage framework. Focusing on Infrastructures of Colonial Circulation, her PhD will explore how British colonial heritage is encountered in the immediacy of experience at two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Mountain Railways of India and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (India).

Jianing Wang 

PhD Candidate – Axis 3

Jianing’s PhD project seeks to explore how maritime heritage is embedded in contemporary social processes across China’s coastal regions. In 2013, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, seeking to borrow the historical symbols of the ancient Silk Road as a means of actively developing economic partnerships with countries along the routes. The strengthening of cultural exchanges in terms of values, local beliefs and ways of life has played an important role in the initiative’s in-depth engagement in the globalisation process. In support of the 21st- Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, the inscription of the maritime silk road as world heritage has been identified as a major national endeavour. On the southeast coast of contemporary China, important ports that were once pivots of world maritime trade in ancient China are being reinvented. These port cities provide a broad space for exploring how pre-modern heritage is manipulated and experienced in the process of globalisation. This project thus proposes to work with port communities along the Chinese coast to understand the heritagisation of the Maritime Silk Road in China under the context of globalisation.

Ben Davenport

Ben Davenport

PhD Candidate – Axis 3, 6

Ben (he/him) is a PhD candidate in the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre in the Department of Archaeology. His doctoral research is concerned with the ‘work’ food does in society and the ways European migrants to the UK use food in the maintenance and negotiation of multiple identities and senses of belonging. Ben previously worked at the University of Cambridge where he was the Coordinator of the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre between 2018 and 2023. Ben has a BA in Archaeology and an MA in the European Neolithic from Cardiff University.


Niamh Malone

PhD Candidate – Axis 3

Niamh Malone (she/her) completed her undergraduate degree in History at Durham University (2019-2021), where she also completed a Master’s degree in Social and Economic History (Research Methods) (2021-2022). Her dissertation focused on the impact of the perceived economic potential of disabled bodies on the social and governmental treatment of disabled individuals. For this dissertation Niamh worked with the prosthetics and orthotics collection at the Thackeray Museum of Medicine in Leeds, a collection which she will work with closely throughout her PhD to develop an understanding of the objects within the collection and the potential they hold for exploring and teaching disabled stories.

Niamh’s project seeks to foreground the disabled footprint and voice within a heritage investigation into the history of movement. By implementing material culture analysis, she interrogates the complex relationship between physical and social mobility and highlights the unique role of assistive technologies within this relationship. The emphasis Axis 3 places on mobility will be explored through multiple avenues; how physical mobility was affected by assistive technologies, how physical mobility impacted social mobility, and how agency over mobility became a tool for resistance within disabled communities. However, it will also be acknowledged that mobility was a resource to which there was not equal access on the basis of socioeconomic background, gender, class, and geographic location. Methodologically, this project advocates for the adoption of a novel combination of multiple methods of analysis, most notably the social, design, and interactional models. Combining models in this way ensures that the metaphysical basis of the experience of disability is engaged with without implementing reductive distinctions between users and technologies.


Fran Mahon

PhD Candidate – Axis 4

Francis “Fran” T. Mahon (he/him) is an archaeologist specializing in issues of colonization, power, and time. He is increasingly concerned with individual and community access to historic resources, memory, and land, both within and beyond institutions like the university, archives, and museums. He holds a master’s degree in historical archaeology from the University of York (2020) and a dual bachelors’ in anthropology and art history from the University of Delaware (2018). Since 2017 he has worked across the cultural heritage field in a diverse number of roles, from archives, museums, and archaeological positions in Delaware and the Caribbean, to historic preservation in Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Louisiana.  

Fran’s PhD is part of the Centre’s “Anthropocene Encounters” research axis. The project is tentatively titled, “Flooded memories: York’s imperial hydrologies”, and is concerned with York’s colonial maritime past as marked and told by its rivers Foss and Ouse. The PhD aims to challenge traditional or “settled” constructs of the city’s history through a hydrocolonial lens. It contextualises York as an imperial centre produced throughout the modern era via waterborne Asian, African, and American people, land, memories, and material culture. Whilst engaging with material and archival resources, the project is explicitly interested in understanding the city’s history through its rivers and their personal recollections of the past. The project is indebted to the works of Black, Latine, and Indigenous scholars like Saidiya Hartman, Edouard Glissant, Walter Mignolo, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Ultimately, the PhD endeavours to imagine a decolonial York, a future for the city that lies within its flooded past. 


Anoj Khanal

PhD Candidate – Axis 5

Mr. Anoj Khanal (He/him) is focusing on the organisation of traditional water management technologies in Patan (Kathmandu) and the dynamics of the liquid landscape in order to propose solutions to contemporary water scarcity in his PhD program. It is a transdisciplinary research which involves Geophysical Surveys, Isotopic Techniques and Spatial Analysis Tools in order to understand different components of liquid landscape of the Kathmandu Valley. His research at the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Center revolves around heritage-science debate for ensuring water justice for indigenous “Newa” community who built amazing water supply system centuries ago and are still protecting them. Mr. Khanal has post graduate degrees in Hydrogeology and Environment Management coupled with 7 years of work experience on Water Management and Water Governance. He will use his prior knowledge of the water system of Kathmandu Valley to propose different heritage debates in the context of contemporary water scarcity.