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Elisa Pieri

Thesis title - 'Urban futures: How issues of security and aspirations of cosmopolitanism reconfigure the city centre'.

PhD research

This doctoral research investigates urban built environments as sites of enactment of contested visions of cosmopolitanism and securitisation.

By taking Manchester city centre as its case study, this research explores the visions and values of different stakeholders - including city councillors, developers, businesses and citizens - and analyses a variety of assumptions and projections about what constitutes a ‘good city’.

The research problematises the discourses and dynamics mobilised and maintained through imagined futures. It highlights the overlaps and tensions generated by the aspirations and practices of cosmopolitanism and securitizations in city centre spaces.

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in New York and London, there have been many attempts to step up security nationally, at borders and within cities. Citizens have been affected by the ramifications of new security measures, not just in their travel practices (particularly air travel) but also in their mobility within the very spaces they routinely inhabit or work in.

At the same time, local, national and international actors are promoting the discourses of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism to engender and reconfigure specific identities (such as that of the ‘European Citizen’) and shape new boundaries and agendas. Large urban built environments are often the sites, repositories and stages for the performance of specific instances of ethnic heritage and diversity.

The research looks at the current use of public spaces in Manchester city centre and security practices in place for events as wide-ranging as street festivals, public celebrations and large private events (such as national party conferences). It also investigates securitisation of private spaces within the city centre, mainly in new housing developments and also though design (incl. CCTV systems, intelligent building and smart access solutions).

This PhD research is funded though the Pathways to Cosmopolitanism Programme, a collaboration between MARC, RICC and CCS, at The University of Manchester, and the National University of Singapore.



Elisa is a social scientist with a background of interdisciplinary research in science, technology and policy.

She has worked as Research Fellow, Research Associate and Senior Research Associate in a series of funded projects looking at the interface of innovation, policy and public views around the development and uptake of new technologies. Her research interests and publications are in the areas of:

  • public and stakeholder engagement with science;
  • sociology of science and technology;
  • ethical, legal and social aspects of new technologies;
  • human and plant genomics (GM crops and foods, personalised medicine, psychiatric and behavioural genetics, the neurosciences);
  • biopolitics, power and surveillance - including biometrics;
  • language and power.

Previously she conducted projects on:

The Introduction of Biometric ID Cards in the UK and the Debate in the Press (ESRC National Centre for e-Social Science, The University of Manchester, 2008-2009). This work was part of JISC- funded research on 'Text Mining for Frame Analysis of Media Content'

The Policy and Practice Implications of Behavioural Genetics Research into Aggressiveness and Violence (ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Lancaster University, 2006-2008). This research was funded by the ESRC.

The Ethical, Legal and Social Dimensions of Pharmacogenetics (ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics, Lancaster University, and North West Genetics Knowledge Park, Manchester, 2004-2006). This project was funded by the UK Department of Health.

The Discourse of the GM Food Debate (University of Reading, 2003-2004). This project was funded by the ESRC.

The Communication of GM Crop Research from Expert to Non-Experts (University of Reading, 2001-2002). This project was funded by the ESRC.

Over the years, Elisa has also been actively involved in various research areas and networks (including on Biometrics, Forensic uses of DNA, the Neurosciences), as well as in the development of grant applications.

Before starting her PhD Elisa also worked as Senior Researcher at PublicSpace Ltd (until Dec 2010). Her post there was funded through an EU FP7 project looking at ‘Organising Dissemination on Results of Projects on Chemical Evaluation, Spreading Techniques for Risk Assessment’ (ORCHESTRA ). During the first year of her PhD Elisa also held a part-time Research Fellow post at Salford University Business School, working on the EPSRC-funded TOTeM project on RFID technology and  'The Internet of Things'.

Recent publications

Pieri, E (2014) 'Contested Cosmopolitanism' in Kaunonen, L (ed) Cosmopolitanism and Transnationalism: Visions, Ethics, Practices. COLLeGIUM: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 15. Helsinki: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, pp. 14–38.

Pieri, E (2014) 'Emergent policing practices: Operation Shop a Looter and urban space securitisation in the aftermath of the Manchester 2011 riots'. Surveillance & Society 12(1): 38-54.

Pieri, E (2010) Research Dissemination: A Literature Review. Deliverable for ORCHESTRA Project under EU FP7 Cooperation Contract 226521. December 2010. Cumbria: PublicSpace Ltd.

Pieri E (2010) 'Predictive Genetic Testing and the Promise of Personalised Medicine' in Wieser, B and Berger, W. (eds.) Assessing Life: on the organisation of genetic testingScience and Technology Studies Vol. 59. München/Wien: Profil. ISBN  978-3-89019-643-5. pp.175-202.

Pieri E (2009) 'Sociology of Expectation and the e-Social Science Agenda'. Information Communication and Society. Vol. 12 (7):1103-1118. October 2009. Oxon/NY: Routledge.

Halfpenny P, Lin Y and Pieri E (2009). Using Text Mining for Frame Analysis of Media Content. JISC e-Infrastructure ProgrammeJISC Final Report (Aug 2009). Manchester: NCeSS.

Levitt M & Pieri E (2009)' It could just be an additional test, couldn't it?': Genetic testing for susceptibility to aggression and violence'. New Genetics and Society. Vol. 28(2):189-200. Oxon/NY: Routledge.

Pieri E (2009) ID Cards: A snapshot of the debate in the UK press. Project Report April 2009. Manchester: NCeSS.

Pieri E (2009) 'Challenging Science: Public Views of Personalised Medicine'. In Gunning J, Holm S and Kenway I (eds.) Ethics, Law and Society Vol. IV. Farnham: Ashgate. pp.217-228.

Pieri E & Levitt M (2008) 'Risky Individuals and the Politics of Genetic Research into Aggressiveness and Violence'. Bioethics Vol. 22(9):509-518. Special issue on The Bioethics of Security. Oxford: Blackwell.

Pieri E and Wynne B (2008) 'Personalised medicine: Policy makers should take citizens' priorities seriously'. Invited contribution to Science and Public Affairs March Issue. London: The British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Pieri E and Levitt M (2007) Policy and Practice Impacts of Behavioural Genetics Research into Aggressiveness and Violence: A qualitative study. Project Report Nov 2007. Lancaster: ESRC CESAGen.

Pieri E and Levitt M (2007) 'Criminality in our genes?' in Genomics Network. Issue 5, March 2007, pp. 4-5. Edinburgh: EGN.

Pieri E (2006) 'The GM Nation Debate: Participatory Decision Making?'. In Wulfhorst, J.D. and A.K. Haugestad (eds) Building Sustainable Communities. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi Press, pp. 117-130.

Cook G, Robbins, PT and Pieri E (2006) 'Words of Mass Destruction: British newspaper coverage of the genetically modified food debate, expert and non-expert reactions'. Public Understanding of Science Vol. 15(1):5-29. SAGE Publications.

Wilson S and Pieri E (2006). 'Pharmacogenetics of addictive behaviours: Philosophical queries and public concerns'. Abstract published in Special Issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics: part B - Neuropsychiatric Genetics. Special Issue, p.709. Wiley-Liss.

Pieri E and Wilson S (2004). 'Pharmacogenetics: drugs and treatment specifically tailored to our needs'. Genomics Network Issue 1, Sept 04, pp.5-6. Edinburgh: EGN.

Pieri E (2004) 'The GM Nation Debate'. In C. Phillips (ed) Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship. Oxford: Inter-disciplinary Press, pp71-75.

Cook G, Pieri E and Robbins PT (2004). 'The scientists think and the public feels: expert perceptions of the discourse of GM food'. Discourse and Society Issue 15(4):433-449. SAGE Publications.

Robbins PT, Pieri E and Cook G (2004). 'GM scientists and the politics of the risk society'. In Haugestad AK and JD Wulfhorst (eds). Future as Fairness: Ecological Justice and Global Citizenship. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi Press, pp 85-102.

Cook G, Pieri E, and Robbins PT (2004). The discourse of the GM food debate: how language choices affect public trusts. Final Report. ESCR Research Grant RES000220132.

Cook G, Pieri E and Robbins PT (2003). The presentation of GM crop research to non-specialists: a case study. Final Report ESRC Research Grant R000223725.

Elisa also disseminated beyond academia and in formats not included in this list (incl. press releases and policy briefs).

Selected conference presentations from 2012-14

Pieri, E 'Urban Futures: Visioning Competing Trajectories and Change', British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Leeds 23-25 April 2014.

Pieri, E ‘Riskiness and Policing’, Sociology Seminar Series, University of Manchester, 2 October 2013.    

Pieri, E ‘Suspicion and Riskiness: Policing in the aftermath of the Manchester Riots’ at European Sociological Association Biennial Conference, Turin, 28-31 August 2013.

Pieri, E 'Urban Futures:  Aspirations, Visioning and Futuring’, ‘Geographies of Aspirations’ international workshop, National University of Singapore, Singapore 22-23 July 2013.

Pieri, E 'Manchester: Security and the City', ‘In the Jungle of Cities: mobs, murders, crowds, riots and crises in the Modern city’ conference, Chetham Library, Manchester 30 May 2013.

Pieri, E ‘Emergent Policing Practices: Urban Space Securitisation in the Aftermath of the Manchester Riots’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, London 3 April 2013.

Pieri, E  ‘Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitics and City Branding’ CURB Post-Crash City workshop on ‘Cosmopolitanism’, University of York, 14-15 March 2013.

Pieri, E 'The Manchester Riots’, Transforming Manchester Interdisciplinary Workshop, Manchester 30 Nov 2012.

Pieri, E 'The Manchester Riots: Emergent Policing Practices in Urban Space Securitisation', Biennial Conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), held jointly with the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Copenhagen 17-20 October 2012. View programme (PDF).

Pieri, E 'Second Generation Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and the UK Secured By Design Scheme', presented at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2012, Edinburgh 3-5 July 2012. View programme (PDF).

Pieri, E 'Contested Cosmopolitanism', at International Symposium on 'Foreign Impulses, Local Responses: Transcending National and Cultural Borders', Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Helsinki 18-19 April 2012. 

Pieri, E 'Security and the City', British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Leeds 11-13 April 2012. View programme (PDF).

Pieri, E (2012) 'Security and City Branding’, Transforming Manchester Interdisciplinary Workshop, Manchester 26 January 2012.

Research abroad

January-February 2013: Research visit to National University of Singapore (Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS), funded via the Pathways to Cosmopolitanism research collaboration (between University of Manchester and NUS).


Guest lectures within Dr May’s Urban Sociology Course (Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Nov 2012, March 2014) and Dr Darling’s 'Borders and Security in a Mobile World' Course (Geography, School of Environment and Development, Dec 2012, May 2014), University of Manchester.