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The Belonging research cluster is based in The Open University Law School (OULS). Members of this group are interested in a wide range of issues which relate to questions of belonging, identity, community, and citizenship, broadly conceived.

The approaches the group takes to questioning ‘belonging’ are numerous and invite cross-political and interdisciplinary engagement on a theoretical and empirical level.


Image of Anne Wesemann

Anne Wesemann

Lecturer in Law

Image of Carol Howells

Carol Howells

Senior Lecturer in Law

Image of Caroline Derry

Caroline Derry

Lecturer in Law. Caroline’s research interests include the criminal law’s regulation of sexuality and relationships between women from the seventeenth century to the present. This area raises complex questions of belonging and identity, particularly given the dominant legal strategy of silencing women’s same-sex sexualities. Caroline is also researching issues of gender and professional belonging in the early twentieth century. In particular, she is exploring the lives of several of the first women lawyers, as well as interactions between legal and professional regulation of doctors in the 1920s.

David Dennis

Lecturer in Law. David’s research interest within the Belonging Cluster research group relates to the Government initiatives to promote local community involvement in the provision of community and public services. It considers the effect which current debates on the effectiveness, role and impact of the regulatory approach of the Charity Commission is likely to have on the autonomy and activities of local voluntary charitable and philanthropic initiatives. In particular, David is researching whether those debates and any consequent re-assessment of the regulatory oversight of charities is likely to lead to in turn to an increasing tendency by national charities to centralise the control, provision and monitoring of their activities at a local level to the detriment of those local initiatives.

Edwin Parks

Senior Lecturer in Law.

Image of Hugh McFaul

Hugh McFaul

Hugh is a member of the Open University Law School's Open Justice Centre, leading on public legal education issues. He has worked to develop a range of innovative community based experiential learning opportunities for OU students by developing partnerships with Citizens Advice, The Personal Support Unit, Young Citizens, Refugee Action and the St Giles Trust. Hugh has research interests in law and religion, legal ethics and technology enhanced learning. He has published his research in academic journals and presented at conferences in the UK, Europe and the USA. Recent published work includes Freedom of Religion and the Invention of Tradition (2018) in Giles, Jessica; Pin, Andrea and Ravitch, Frank S. eds. Law, Religion and Tradition. Law and Religion in a Global Context. 

Image of Jessica Giles

Jessica Giles

Lecturer in Law. Jessica researches at a theoretical level in the area of law and religion from the interdisciplinary perspective of theological philosophy. She looks at the underlying rationale of rights frameworks and constitutional settlements vis-a-vis religion. She also explores the involvement of theological approaches to law creation and adjudication. At a practical level Jessica undertakes action research into faith communities and the role faith groups play within society. She is a Director of the Project on Interdisciplinary Law and Religion Studies (PILARS).

Keren Lloyd Bright

Senior Lecturer in Law. Keren’s current research interests are diverse and include cultural property (art and architecture); ethics (legal and judicial); domestic abuse; prison regimes and gender; and prison-based public legal education. Within the Belonging research cluster, Keren’s research interest concerns the dynamic between cultural property, story telling, identity and belonging.

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Marjan Ajevski

Research Fellow in Law. He was previously a post-doctoral researcher at the PluriCourts Centre of Excellence, University of Oslo and a Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. His research centres on issues of global governance with a special focus on international human rights and criminal courts. Marjan’s interest in issues of belonging arise in his consideration of whether and how international courts can protect individual liberty from the mechanisms of global governance, and how a sense of belonging (who do we belong to and who belongs to us) is created and mediated in a post-national space.

Matthew Howard

Lecturer in Law. Matthew’s research interests include interrogating the link between memory, time, and identity. He is also interested in the exploring the disciplinary parameters of the study of collective memory, building on an interest in post-humanist methodologies to open up the study of mnemonic processes to greater scrutiny. Matthew’s principal focus is on exploring the active role played by commemorative events in the formation of legal and political communities and the production of standards, norms, and values. His current focus is on interrogating gender, race, and sexuality exclusions in the Australian commemoration of Anzac Day. 

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Neil Graffin

Lecturer in International Law 

Robert Palmer

Lecturer in Law

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Simon Lavis

Lecturer in Law. Simon’s research interests include the nexus between law, history and theory in relation to the Third Reich, the representation of Nazi law in academic discourse, and UK constitutional law. His research intersects with questions of belonging in particular in his focus on how law was used to foster notions of belonging in the Third Reich, among those elements of the population considered to ‘belong’ to the Nazi racial community, and the relationship between inclusion and exclusion among the ordinary population in Nazi Germany. He is also interested in the constitutional implications of belonging and the impact of constitutional developments on feelings of belonging in the UK

Image of Simon Lee

Simon Lee

Professor of Law


Past events

Symposium: Brexit, belonging, and imagination
17-18 July 2019
This symposium is organised in partnership with the OU Citizenship & Governance strategic research area, and invites and exploration of past, present, and future issues relating to the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Critical Legal Conference 2018
6-8 September 2018
The conference theme is ‘Regeneration’ and more details about the conference can be found on the conference website.

Belonging seminar series -​ ‘Britishness, Belonging and Citizenship’
Tuesday 22 May
Devyani Prabhat, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol, introduced her recent book, Britishness, Belonging and Citizenship (Policy Press, 2018). In this important book, Dr Prabhat captures the experiences of those who successfully become British citizens through stories of belonging, citizenship and the law; beautifully illustrated by artist Sam Church. Speaking to contemporary times of Brexit, the book exposes the challenges which become insurmountable for many migrants, and illuminates the gap between policy and practice in gaining British citizenship.

The Open University Law School Symposium: Belonging
18-19 April 2018
An interdisciplinary symposium on the theme of ‘Belonging’, hosted by the Citizenship and Governance Strategic Research Area took place at OULS. Invited speakers from a range of UK and European Universities, as well as academics across disciplines from the OU, presented a series of papers relating to the theme of belonging.