TJI PhD Researchers
PhD researcher profiles and research publications.
About Aaron Weah
Title of Project - “Investigating Local-Level Practices of Memorialisation in Liberia: Examining Memorials and Sites of Massacres from 1979 to 2017”
Aaron joined TJI in January 2020. His project, Investigating Local-Level Practices of Memorialisation in Liberia: Examining Memorials and Sites of Massacres from 1979 to 2017 is concerned with what memories are being memorialized at the grassroots level and how are they impacting social/intergroup relations in postwar Liberia.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Stella Maris Polytechnic University and MA in international relations, University of Liberia.
Aaron has more than 14 years of professional experience as an activist and transitional justice researcher in postwar Liberia.
Throughout this period, he has been involved with nearly all of Liberia’s transitional justice developments, including the drafting of the TRC Act and campaign at the Legislature for its passage, Coordinator of Liberia’s Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) and Programme Associate at the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) providing technical assistance to Liberia’s TRC.
In 2018, (and participating in a small group), he supported Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of Liberia, developed a technical proposal to establish a War Memorial for Liberia.
He also served as policy analyst at Liberia’s Governance Commission and Country Director for the Washington-based peace building giant, Search for Common Ground in Liberia.
Aaron has written and published in some notable academic journals, including International Journal of Transitional Justice (OUP), International Peace Institute (IPI) and International Review of the Red Cross.
He co-authored, “Impunity Under Attack: Evolution and Imperatives of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” He is an adjunct lecturer at the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT), University of Liberia and member of the African Transitional Justice Network.
About Amanda Light
Title of project -"The material effects of precarious employment on bodies"
Amanda’s research considers precarious employment and the socio-material relations that influence how precarity comes to be embodied. Her research focusses on anxiety as both a material and political ‘affect’ of precarity.
Using critical theory to conceptualise the movement of power through advanced capitalist employment practices, Amanda questions the rationality of current work and wellbeing initiatives.
An exploration of New Materialist and Feminist Posthuman scholarship sets out to extend the ways in which the problem of precarity and its embodiment might be approached.
Prior to embarking on her PhD research, Amanda worked as a Dance Movement Psychotherapist with various therapeutic groups, including: addiction recovery, mental-health, women’s groups and young adults with autism and/or special educational needs.
She also worked as an FE lecturer in the Performing Arts. She was awarded a distinction for an MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy through Christ Church Canterbury, having previously graduated from Goldsmiths with a BA (Hons) in English.
Amanda was originally a professional dancer, having trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance at Central School of Ballet in London.
Ana Martin Beringola
About Ana Martin Beringola
Intersectionality: operationalizing a gender analysis of sexual violence in international criminal law.
Ana researches ‘intersectionality’ as a method to improve the analysis of sexual and gender-based violence in international criminal law. She considers an intersectional framework based on feminism and international human rights law and applies it to case studies of international crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. The thesis demonstrates that intersectionality enables understanding of the causes, harms, and gravity of international crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, avoiding discrimination in access to justice and in consistency with a human rights interpretation.
Ana has a background as an international lawyer. She worked as a consultant for Amnesty International Spain between 2011 and 2014 dealing with the international crimes committed during the civil war and dictatorship. Ana was a legal officer for ECPAT International in 2014-2015, in Bangkok, where she worked against the commercial and sexual exploitation of children, especially online sexual exploitation. In 2016 and 2017 she joined the EU Genocide Network in The Hague, a network of Member States for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ana holds a LLM in International Humanitarian Law (Geneva Academy) and a MSc in International Crimes and Criminology (Vrije University Amsterdam). She has a LLB in Spanish law (Complutense University) and a LLB in French law (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne).
About Christina Taylor
Title of project
Women of the Troubles: Gender, Violence and the Paramilitary in Northern Ireland.
Start date: October 2014
Christina Taylor completed a BA International at University College, Dublin, RoI. In her third year, Christina was awarded a scholarship for international studies at Lund University, Sweden. In 2013/2014, she completed postgraduate studies at the INCORE centre, Ulster University. Throughout her time at university, Christina actively engaged in the areas of conflict and gender studies. She was awarded the Universitas 21; International Summer School Scholarship, 2011 - reflecting on global engagement with the conflict in Northern Ireland. She has also collaborated on a volunteer basis, with the Irish-British Studies Institute, the Women's Irish History Association and the Forum for Cities in Transition. Christina's research, based at the Transitional Justice Institute, centres on an analysis of ex-combatant women in Northern Ireland.
About Cristal Palacios
Cristal Palacios Yumar is a 3rd year PhD researcher at the Transitional Justice Institute.
Her research focuses on collective trauma and other psychosocial dimensions of the Venezuelan diaspora and its potential for agency in transitional justice processes in the country.
Cristal is a psychologist by training and was a Chevening Scholar at Ulster University's MSc program in Applied Peace and Conflict Studies last year.
Before joining TJI, she was also director of Psiquearte, a Caracas-based NGO providing creative arts based psychosocial support to communities affected by urban and political violence.
About Danielle Gallagher
Title of project
Engendering Justice? A feminist exploration of the relationship between trafficked persons and the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland.
Danielle Gallagher’s project, ‘Engendering Justice? A feminist exploration of the relationship between trafficked persons and the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland’ proposes the development of a more creative participatory methodology for researching with trafficked persons, and the relevant NGOs, to provide much needed knowledge regarding their experience of the criminal justice system. She aims to discover how gender affects access to justice in this context. Further intended outcomes include foregrounding the voices of trafficked persons in the relevant academic and policy discourse, and expanding the use of creative methodologies in sociolegal research to better serve marginalised groups.
Prior to beginning her PhD research in 2019, Danielle graduated from Ulster University’s LLB Law and Criminology programme with first class honours. She has undertaken research for the Department of Justice into defining Access to Justice, for Family Mediation NI into alternative dispute resolution, and with both Mercy Global Action (trafficking) and Mercy International Association (heritage). She has previously trained in both fine art (Belfast Met, 2012), and theatre (Lancaster University, UK, 2004-05), and has experience in community arts facilitation. In her ‘spare’ time she is the artistic director of a site-specific theatre company, Escapade, whose focus is foregrounding gender and political issues through the works of Shakespeare, and the co-director of Enniskillen Light Operatic Society.
About Deirdre Nelson
Deirdre Nelson commenced her PhD studies with TJI in October 2013. Prior to that, Deirdre had completed her LLB (Hons) Law with Government at the University of Ulster, graduating in 2008. She then went on to successfully complete her LLM Human Rights Law at the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster, graduating in the summer of 2012. Deirdre's PhD research draws on her vast experience within the sporting field. Deirdre is a former Ladies European Kickboxing Champion and has represented Northern Ireland on several occasions. She also created history by being the first woman to box professionally in Northern Ireland in October 2000. However, it was her successful sex discrimination case against the Boxing Union of Ireland, in 2001, which led to Deirdre's doctoral research. Hence, her doctoral research will critically examine the role that law plays in addressing gender equality in sport.
About Hedley Abernethy
Title of Project
The True Cost Of Reparations: Trauma, Memory and Victim-Identity in Northern Ireland
Hedley Abernethy grew up In Belfast during the height of the Troubles, and his PhD study is a direct consequence of five years with WAVE Trauma Centre, an organisation supporting victims of the political violence in Northern Ireland. Prior to this, Hedley graduated with an MA in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, before going on to work with Catholic Relief Services at their headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. He has worked with church and para-church youth organisations in Northern Ireland, and his PhD studies sees him return to Ulster University from which he graduated with a degree in community youth work in 2000.
About Howard Ayo
Howard’s project is on ‘National Action Plan On Business and Human Rights: Implications for Human Rights Obligations of the State and Business Enterprises. Comparative Study of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania’. He holds a Masters of Business Administration (2015) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management (2011) from Uganda Management Institute, and Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (2007), Uganda.
He has over eight years of experience with the United Nations Human Rights in Uganda focusing broadly on technical assistance and capacity building for different interlocutors on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and specifically, National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Human Rights Indicators and Human Rights Based Approach to Data. His current research focuses on the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and Implications for Human Rights Obligations of the State and Business Enterprises. This research is informed by the United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy framework (2011) and the increased business and human rights related impacts on the rights-holders. Further, it also addresses a call by the Human Rights Council for Member States to adopt National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights.
About Leah Rea
Title of project -"Exploring the development of human rights in constitutional arrangements through an examination of the relationship between parliamentary conventions relating to devolution and the progression of human rights standards in Northern Ireland”.
Leah commenced her research at the Transitional Justice Institute in September 2020. Her research is an inter-disciplinary examination of the role played by constitutional conventions at the UK Parliament relating to the establishment and operation of devolution in the progression of human rights in the UK, with a particular focus on the failure to advance language rights standards in Northern Ireland since its creation.
This will be examined within the context of the recognition and protection afforded to language rights, specifically the Irish language, by historic and contemporary Northern Ireland Governments, and the positioning of successive British Governments as regards compliance with its international obligations across the UK. Her research is supervised by Dr Anne Smith and Dr Mark Simpson.
Leah holds a MA (with Distinction) in Violence, Terrorism and Security, a MA (with Distinction) in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, and a LLB (Hons) degree, from Queen’s University Belfast.
During her postgraduate studies Leah was a member of a student working group on human rights, researching the necessity for a Bill of Rights for NI under the guidance of Professor Colin Harvey. During her undergraduate studies Leah was awarded a Study USA scholarship from the British Council to study at Coe College, IA USA. She was a member of the Washington Ireland Class of 2021, and drew on her PhD studies in the development of a policy paper.
Leah has several years of experience working as a communications assistant and latterly policy and research assistant at a human rights organisation, providing political monitoring and parliamentary research support.
She also has experience working as a political researcher. Prior to commencing her PhD studies, she worked as a constituency caseworker for a North Belfast MLA, providing support and advocacy services in areas such as housing, social security, education especially for children with SEN, and health.
About Leo Green
Title of project
Consociationalism – A False Dawn? An examination of the capacity of consociational power-sharing arrangements to effect a rights-based social transformative agenda.
Leo graduated from the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University with an LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice in December 2016. He has many years’ experience of politics and political negotiations in Northern Ireland, working previously as both a Special Advisor and a party-political director at the NI Assembly in Stormont. Leo’s PhD project involves a comparative study of the outworking of power-sharing arrangements in both Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and will critically examine the capacity of these arrangements to effect social transformation.
About Nada Ahmed
Title of project
Narratives of Perpetration in Transitional Justice Mechanisms: The Cases of Libya, Tunisia & Egypt
Nada Ahmed has worked as a lawyer and human rights research after she obtained a master degree in human rights law from Paris during which she worked with Human Rights Watch, in their Paris office and a bachelor degree in international law from both Paris 1 Sorbonne University and Cairo University.
She worked with Egyptian prominent human rights lawyer Negad El Borai on public opinion cases like the foreign funding case or the assembly law case in Egypt. She also worked with El Borai as a researcher as she wrote various papers about travel ban and enforced disappearances but most importantly she proposed, researched and drafted the Prisoners' handbook: a Q & A about the prison rules and regulations in Egypt. Nada also worked as a researcher interviewing torture victims, monitoring and documenting torture cases with Nation Without Torture campaign.
She joined Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in December 2018 as a non-resident fellow with a focus on Egypt security sector and transitional justice in Tunisia. To pursue her in interest for transitional justice, she joined the Transitional Justice Institute in Ulster University for her PhD focusing on Narratives of Perpetration in transitional justice mechanisms in three MENA region countries: Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
About Nisan Alici
Title of Project
Transitional Justice in an Ongoing Conflict: A victim-centred analysis of Transitional Justice mechanisms in the context of the Kurdish Conflict
Nisan joined the TJI in October 2018. Her project is on “Transitional Justice in an Ongoing Conflict: A victim-centred analysis of Transitional Justice mechanisms in the context of the Kurdish Conflict.” She holds a Master’s degree in International Conflict and Security from the University of Kent, UK and a BA in Political Science and International Relations from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey.
Nisan is the co-founder of the Demos Research Association for Peace, Democracy and Alternative Politics and has been working in Demos as a researcher since 2015. Previously, she worked as an advisor in the Turkish Parliament. Her research interests include critical peace, gender, victimhood, and transitional justice.
About Roua Al-Taweel
In her research project, Roua addresses the question of truth and justice in Syria through investigating non-SEA gendered harms such as economic and civil rights, political participation, and mental health.
Using a multidisciplinary methodology, Roua argues that a comprehensive intersectional approach to transitional justice processes in Syria is necessary to address the root causes of conflict-induced atrocities and, hence, achieve a transformative gender justice.
Roua has a dual MA diploma in Women's and Gender Studies (Poland/UK. 2014-2016).
For the past few years, Roua has worked, as a freelance consultant and analyst, closely with Syrian women-led and feminist organisations to explore Syrian Women’s experience of conflict, as well as their participation and representation in various fields, including governance, civic engagement, and media.
That came as an extension to several years of earlier engagement in the humanitarian and development fields including community and youth engagement initiatives with local, IDPs and refugee communities.
About Sasha Gillespie
After a career as a special education teacher for almost a decade, Sasha returned to study for her LLB and LLM. The combination of background and recent experiences at the Ulster Law Clinic while studying Access to Justice, her focus sharpened on Social Justice. She has a particular interest in the experiences of those who care for the disabled in employment, the welfare system and wider social participation in the context of equality law theory, and feminist perspectives.
Sasha’s project focuses on whether there is a discriminatory impact of the legal framework upon carers that is likely to cause social exclusion, poverty and significant barriers to entering or remaining in employment. Her research is interested in the experiences of carers and potential legal and policy approaches to encourage positive attitudes, inclusion and equality for this increasingly large section of society.
About Michael Hearty
Title of project
How and why do we (not) collectively remember non-combatants in Northern Ireland?
Micheál joined the TJI in September 2020. His PhD project is titled "How and why we do (not) collectively remember non-combatants in Northern Ireland?" Prior to beginning his PhD project, Micheàl pursued undergraduate studies in history and sociology at QUB and later gained an MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice from The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.
During his time at QUB, he also volunteered as a Student Research Assistant for the QUB Human Rights Centre's Historical Institutional Abuse Consultation. His assigned section was on symbolic reparations.
About Frances Hague
Frances' project is on how shifts in global focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) impact international policy discourse and the resulting implications for contexts affected by conflict.
She holds a Masters degree in International Development Studies from the University of Amsterdam (2015) and a Bachelors degree in Politics from Northumbria University (2012).
Frances has worked in policy analysis, advocacy and programme support for the civil society and international development sectors in Ireland. She is currently involved in policy development in the Houses of the Oireachtas and has worked alongside political and legislative institutions during her time as a caseworker for a Member of the European Parliament.
She has carried out research on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and SRHR frameworks across a range of contexts, which informed her project focus.
About Caitriona Mackel
About Waleed Alsagabi
Title of Project
‘’Proposed Copyright Policy and Procedures for the Protection of the Friday Sermons in the two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia’’
Waleed Joined the TJI in January 2020, His project is on intellectual property laws, specifically in developing copyrights' enforcements domestically, internationally, and digitally. He holds a master's degree in international commercial law from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. His BA is in Islamic principle and Sharia Law from Qassime University in Saudi Arabia.
Waleed is the head of the legal affairs department in the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia. His research interests include legal comparison, developing IP laws, and balancing private ownership and the public domain.
About Liam Edwards
Liam Edwards is a PhD researcher at Ulster University School of Law. His project, ‘Judicial Review and Devolved Legislation’ is a comparative analysis of judicial review in the devolved regions of the UK, and the development of divergent judicial reasoning in the administrative court system.
Prior to this, Liam worked as a research officer at Bangor University School of Law, which resulted in a report titled ‘Reviewing Judicial Review in Wales’. Liam holds an LLB from Bangor University and undertook the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law.
Liam’s research interests fall generally under public law, especially administrative law, devolution, access to justice, and language rights.
About Paula Surgenor
Paula Surgenor is a PhD researcher at the Transitional Justice Institute. Her project is funded through an ESRC NINE doctoral scholarship and aims to examine critically whether masculinity, as a theoretical standpoint can be seen as a viable explanation for the evolution and endurance of political iconography in Loyalist communities of Northern Ireland.
Paula has a BA in Art and Design and a Master’s degree in Irish Visual Culture from Ulster University. Her previous research has examined the correlation between gender and the concept of authorship, the use of political murals in communities in Belfast, and the construction of politically motivated visual discourse within the Maze prison site.
Prior to commencing her PhD, she completed a Masters in Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast where she developed her interest in gender and the construction of political and militarised landscapes within Northern Ireland.
About Marianna Espinós-Blasco
Marianna Espinós Blasco has a multidisciplinary profile. Her interests include: international law, gender, communication and peace and conflict studies. Her doctoral project at the Transitional Justice Institute.
Marianna is also part of the Research Hub on Gender, Justice and Security (GCRF) – seeks to investigate the inclusion of the sexuality dimension in conflict and post-conflict settings, taking the UN Women, Peace and Security agenda as a case study.
The thesis will focus on how to overcome gender-binary approaches when analysing issues that fall under the scope of gender, peace and security studies, and on how to include aspects that lack critical attention, such as the experiences of sexual and gender minorities.
Before starting her PhD, Marianna was part of the international think tank European Institute of the Mediterranean (2021), working in the digital communications department.
Moreover, Marianna has a long experience in collaborating with grassroots and international organisations standing for human rights, sexual and reproductive rights, feminism and decolonial approaches.
Marianna holds an LL.M in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights (Transitional Justice Institute), and two graduate diplomas: one in Conflicts and Social Movements Communication and another one in Peace Culture (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication.