Dr Patricia Gaya

Dr Patricia Gaya

Dr Patricia Gaya
Senior Lecturer in Management

The Priory Road Complex, Priory Road, Clifton
(See a map)


Telephone Number (0117) 928 8881

Department of Management


I am an action researcher, educator, feminist, and scholar-activist interested in research and educative practices that foster individual and collective capacities to imagine, articulate, and pursue possibilities for social change and alternative futures. 

My research explores how, within contexts characterised by systemic complexity, individuals and groups might usefully invoke, prefigure, and experiment in the present with radical imaginaries and forms of action that seek to challenge hegemonic regimes, particularly those that systematically marginalise, exclude, and perpetuate inequalities and various forms of oppression and ecological destruction.

I have inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral affiliations, drawing on action research, affect theory, anticipation studies, critical and feminist theory, critical management studies, organisation studies, and social movement studies.  I am particularly interested in:

  • endeavours that are supportive of radical agency and radical democracy, and that pursue anti-hegemonic critique and the dismantling of oppressive forms of power and privilege, with a special interest in how these dynamics play out at the intersections of gender, race, (dis)abilities, politics, and socio-economic privilege (or lack thereof).  
  • the organized, dis-organized, un-organized, and alter-organized conditions of civil society and social movement activism, and in how/where these intersect with contemporary political and critical debates on agency and social change. 
  • working with notions of ‘the future’ and ‘utopias’ not primarily as rhetorical devices, but as spaces that can be both pluralistically imagined and simultaneously inhabited in the here and now, in ways that open up sites for radical potentiality, hopeful action, and mindful encounters with the present(s), and which supports the development of ‘joyful agency’ and social change endeavours.
  • cartographic approaches to understanding and getting hold of critical utopian moments and associated affects: e.g., how hope and desire materialise as affective realities in the micropolitical encounters and dynamics between bodies that (re-)make worlds
  • participatory philosophies and practices that support heightened consciousness of our species' participation within a wild and intrinsically valuable planetary system.  I draw on the work of a diverse range of writers and practitioners who offer radical lenses for perceiving and experiencing anew the relational reality in which we co-exist.


Radical methodologies 

I am committed to the development of radical methodologies for knowledge-creation which explicitly set out to be ongoingly anti-hegemonic, critical, self-reflexive, pluralistic, and non-recuperative.

My roots are in action research, a democratic and participative orientation to knowledge-creation which purposefully brings together action and reflection, theory and practice, the experience of oppression with the possibility of agency.  My conviction is that action research, and other participatory, feminist, critical, creative, and arts-based approaches to inquiry, can usefully be mobilised to support individuals and communities in resisting, fighting, and constructing radical alternatives to the myriad forms of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy (hooks, 2004) that structure much of contemporary life, fuelling far-reaching and complex dynamics of violence, brutality, and ecological annihilation. 

Part of my current research explores Critical Utopian Action Research as a radical methodology for prising open democratic spaces within, alongside, and beyond the academy, in which it becomes possible to think more expansively and critically about educational presents and futures, and as a means of resisting and challenging the capture of higher education by neoliberal logics. 


Current empirical sites of interest include:


  • academic and student activism within, beyond, and against the neoliberal university
  • political activism concerned with (trans-)gender and racial justice (specifically, Black Lives Matter) and environmental and social justice (the Green Party in the UK and moves towards a Progressive Alliance)
  • the re-wilding movement as a form of prefigurative politics and critical utopian practice in the pursuit of planetary healing and restoration.      


Summary of research themes and interests

  • Action research, participatory, feminist, and arts-based inquiry methods
  • Anticipation, futures, and critical utopias
  • Social movements, political activism, and prefigurative practice seeking to challenge existing structures of power and privilege
  • Activist bodies and affect – the place of hope, joy, anxiety, dread, etc., in supporting and constraining embodied agency and political action
  • Democratisation of higher education and knowledge-creation
  • Ecological sustainability and eco-philosophies for planetary healing

I welcome expressions of interest from those wishing to undertake PhD research in related areas.

Biographical details and affiliations

I was born in Argentina during the military dictatorship of the 1970s, and my early childhood unfolded against a background of socio-economic and political unrest. My family and I left Arg entina for the Middle East when I was a young child, where I completed my schooling.  I moved to the UK in 1997, and in 2006, I completed my PhD at the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice at the University of Bath.  My thesis was entitled Repose: A personal and relational foundation for responding to ecological challenges.  Thereafter, I was appointed to a lectureship at the Centre for Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter before joining the School of Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol in 2008.  

From 2006-2016, I served as Associate Editor of the international, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal, Action Research, and co-founded the AR+ global network of action research practitioners.  I was also on the Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia of Action Research (2014), published by Sage.  I am part of the University's research group on Anticipation, and of the Graduate School of Education's research centre in Knowledge, Culture, and Society.  I sit on the Scientific Committee for the 2nd International Conference on Anticipation, to be held in London in 2017. 

I am a co-founder and co-Director of ARCIO (Action Research and Critical Inquiry in Organisations), a research centre that works across a number of research themes in the Department of Management and beyond.  Members of ARCIO are committed to researching in participative and/or capacity-building ways in organisations and communities, to develop emancipatory forms of organising focused on issues of social justice, democracy, gender, inclusivity, political activism, and sustainability. This is explicitly framed within critiques of neoliberalism and 'business as usual'.  ARCIO draws on critical theory/inquiry, arts-based, narrative, and/or feminist methods in research and scholarship.



Organisation Theory (EFIM10013, 1st year undergraduate unit)

Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (EFIM30012, 3rd year undergraduate unit)

Research for a Sustainable Society (MSc unit - from 2017/2018)

Fields of interest

Key publications

  1. Gayá, P & Brydon-Miller, M, 2016, ‘Carpe the academy: Dismantling higher education and prefiguring critical utopias through action research’. Futures.
  2. Gaya, PC & Phillips, ME, 2016, ‘Imagining a sustainable future: Eschatology, Bateson’s ecology of mind and arts-based practice’. Organization, vol 23., pp. 803-824
  3. Wicks, PG & Rippin, A, 2010, ‘Art as experience: An inquiry into art and leadership using dolls and doll-making’. Leadership, vol 6., pp. 259 - 278
  4. Paul, C & Wicks, PG, 2011, ‘Institutional Interest in Corporate Responsibility: Portfolio Evidence and Ethical Explanation’. Journal of Business Ethics, vol 103., pp. 143 - 165
  5. Wicks, PG & Reason, P, 2009, ‘Initiating Action Research: A Review of the Challenges and Paradoxes of Opening Communicative Space’. Action Research, vol 7(3)., pp. 243 - 262
  6. Ladkin, D, Case, P, Wicks, PG & Kinsella, K, 2009, ‘Developing Leaders in Cyber-Space: The Paradoxical Possibilities of On-line Learning’. Leadership, vol 5., pp. 193 - 212
  7. Nairn, A, Griffin, C & Wicks, PG, 2008, ‘Children's Use of Brand Symbolism: A Consumer Culture Theory Approach’. European Journal of Marketing, vol 42., pp. 627 - 640
  8. Wicks, PG, Reason, P & Bradbury, H, 2008, ‘Living Inquiry: Personal, political and philosophical groundings of Action Research Practice’. in: P Reason, H Bradbury (eds) Handbook of Action Research, Second Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd, pp. 15 - 30
  9. Wicks, PG, Nairn, A & Griffin, C, 2007, ‘The Role of Commodified Celebrities in Children's Moral Development: The Case of David Beckham’. Consumption, Markets and Culture, vol 10(4)., pp. 401 - 424
  10. Edge, K & Wicks, PG, 2007, ‘Collaborative Research across HEIs: Developing Effective Forms of Governance, Leadership and Management’. in: S Marshall (eds) Strategic Leadership of Change in Higher Education: What's New?. Routledge, pp. 102 - 113

Latest publications

  1. Wicks, PG, Nairn, A & Griffin, C, 2014, ‘The role of commodified celebrities in children's moral development: The case of David Beckham’. in: Brands: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 242-267

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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