Ms Karen Desborough

Ms Karen Desborough

Ms Karen Desborough
Research Associate

Room 3.05,
Helen Wodehouse Building, 35 Berkeley Square, Clifton
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Telephone Number (0117) 331 4276

School of Education

The Global Anti-Street Harassment Movement: A Feminist Politics of Resistance

Personal profile

I am Research Associate on the Southern African Rurality in Higher Education (SARiHE) project (Graduate School of Education).

I am a PhD candidate in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) funded through a University of Bristol Postgraduate Research Scholarship. I am researching the emergence, development and impact of the global anti-street harassment movement.

I am an active member of the Gender Research Centre (GRC) and from 2015-2016 was a member of the GRC management team.

Previous positions and education

Research Assistant, Transforming Insecurity project, University of Bristol, 2013-2015

Research Collaborator, Impact, University of Bristol, 2012-2013

SCOOP Project Manager, University of the West of England, 2009-2013

MSc in International Relations (Distinction), University of Bristol, 2011

BA (First class honours) Politics and Spanish, University of Bristol, 2009


Southern African Rurality in Higher Education (SARiHE) project

I am Research Associate on the SARiHE project, which aims to address the knowledge gap that exists regarding the transition from rural school and home contexts to university learning in Southern Africa. The study will trace the trajectory and implications of this transition in order to develop inclusive teaching and learning practices, and support mechanisms and structures in universities. The project has adopted a participatory research approach, working with student co-researchers across three universities in South Africa, who will document their prior learning in rural areas and their experience as university students, as well as how they negotiate the transition and what social and technological resources they draw upon. Student co-researchers will document their experiences using drawings and personal documentaries created using iPads. The project will contribute to knowledge on the complexities and dimensions of rurality and how they can be conceptualised in relation to higher education and social justice.

PhD research

Street harassment – sexual and gender-based harassment in public spaces – is a gendered oppression because it involves the exercise of power over female bodies. Feminist analysis locates street harassment on a continuum of sexual violence (Gardner 1995: 4) and sees all forms of sexual violence as the exercise of power and control (Kelly 1998: 41). Across the world women activists have been developing an anti-street harassment social movement to resist and end this gendered oppression. While numerous anti-harassment initiatives have mobilised internationally in recent years, deploying a diverse and creative range of resistance strategies, to date there is no academic research on the movement’s formation, development or impact. My project examines the emergence and development of the movement, focusing on the enabling role of digital technologies and the personal motivations of women activists, and the movement’s transformational effects. My research adopts a feminist methodological approach and my primary method of data collection is semi-structured interviewing. I have conducted 33 interviews with women anti-harassment activists who are operative in the following countries: Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Germany, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, the UK and the US.

I am supervised by Professor Eric Herring and Professor Jutta Weldes.


Issues in World Politics

Introduction to International Relations

Approaches to the Study of Political Science

Fields of interest

Feminist resistance and activism, particularly in relation to street harassment and sexual violence, ‘everyday’ in/security, and feminism and world politics.

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