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Andrew Williams

Dr Andrew Williams

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, PhD Admissions Tutor

School of Geography and Planning

+44 29206 88680
Glamorgan Building, Room 1.57, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


My research examines the relationships between welfare, care, religion, and neoliberalism. I pursue these through a series of ethnographic engagements in particular spaces – faith-based drug and alcohol treatment, food banks and food cooperatives, homelessness services, protest, advocacy and care. My latest work uses archival methods to consider past and present relationships between British welfare and racial capitalism. 















Adrannau llyfrau




Current research projects:

Ethics and Politics of Food Banks in the UK 

Working with Prof. Jon May, Dr Liev Cherry (QMUL) and Prof. Paul Cloke (Exeter), this research examined the geographies of food banking in the UK as part of the British Academy funded 'Emergency Food Provision in the UK'. The project charted the changing nature of public and political debate surrounding food banking in Britain, and improved understanding of the nature and scale of food banking by examining the work of independent food banks as well as those established by Britain's largest food bank provider the Trussell Trust. Through a national survey and web mapping of food aid providers, the research sought to better understand the nature and scale of food aid provision in rural and urban settings. The research also entailed long term ethnographic engagement in Trussell Trust and Independent food banks, combined with over 100 interviews with foodbank managers, volunteers and food bank users in 35 organisations. Here we examined the ambivalent relations between care and stigma, as well as the geographically uneven institutionalisation and politicisation of emergency food provision. Working with food bank providers and users, and examining both more familiar and a range of alternative approaches to food banking, this project explores food banks as a response to food insecurity and as potential sites of challenge to neoliberal political and ethical values and practices.

The findings are available through a series of publications and a forthcoming book 'Feeding Austerity? Ethical Ambiguities and Political Possibilities in UK Food Banks' (forthcoming, RGS-IBG Book Series). Our work has also mapped the uneven geographies of austerity in rural England and Wales and its impact on rural poverty and food insecurity. Recently we have used archival analysis to document the longer histories of food charities and the corporate, state and charitable networks that helped shape the development of food banks in the UK. 

Religion, spirituality and addiction treatment 

This research examines the contemporary landscape of faith-based drug and alcohol treatment in the UK, and uses ethnographic approaches to foreground the varied ethics of care and experiences of people in recovery. Historically, religion and spirituality have had a significant influence on alcohol treatment and recovery provision, yet the size, scope and significance of contemporary activities remained unclear. Building on my doctoral research, I collaborated with Prof Mark Jayne and Dr Dan Webb on an Alcohol Change UK funded project that mapped the size, scope and activities of faith-based alcohol services in England and Wales. Particular attention was given to the ways in which religion and spirituality are positioned as an 'active ingredient' of treatment and the moral expectations and identities bound up with service-users access to, and experiences of treatment and recovery. A readable summary is available here and the full report is available here

More recently, I am interested in documenting how austerity - and its ongoing legacies - reconfigured the institutional and governance landscape of drug and alcohol treatment. Budget cuts, resource rationing, changing eligibility and treatment options, and the deskilling of the workforce have led to faith-based drug and alcohol treatment services increasingly ‘filling the gaps’ in service provision. When combined with the growing criminal justice focus in treatment, the distinction between mandatory and voluntary engagement in faith-based treatment programmes increasingly is becoming blurred. This raises important ethical questions for commissioners and providers of alcohol and drug treatment services. 

My research has also drawn on non-representational approaches to religion to better understand the complex emotional, spiritual and therapeutic sensibilities people attach to, and derive from, practices of worship and prayer in faith-based drug and alcohol treatment.  

Somali community needs in Cardiff

Working with Dr Richard Gale, Ali Abdi, Sara Kalinleh and Samia Zarak, this project aims to provide a robust knowledge-base of Somali community needs in Cardiff that can be used as the basis of community-led projects and funding proposals. Cardiff hosts one of the largest Somali communities in the UK, with a population of c.10,000. The origins of the community are closely entwined with Cardiff's emergence as a port between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries. Somali seaman, employed on British merchant ships, became pioneers of the settled Somali community in Cardiff throughout the 20th century. More recently, Somalis arrived in Cardiff as refugees fleeing the Somali Civil War. The community are concentrated in South Cardiff, experiencing the compound hardships of high unemployment, educational disadvantage and Islamophobia. Despite the history of the Somali presence in Cardiff, the community and its needs have not been extensively researched for several decades. To begin to fill this gap, this project works on a co-production model with several different Somali groups and organisations. The research focuses on a number of related topics, including migration, settlement and integration experiences; identity and place-attachment; health and wellbeing; housing needs; educational support; pathways to employment; and experiences of discrimination (e.g. racism or Islamophobia in the spaces of the city and/or the workplace).

Geographies of Postsecularity

Building on interests in ethics, religion and politics, this research examines the changing relations between religion and secular belief in the public realm. There remains considerable debate on how to understand the unexpected resilience and mutation of religion as a powerful political, cultural and global force, and the complex blurring of sacred-secular boundaries which is finding new expression in the public life of cities.

Through a series of papers and a co-written monograph (with Prof Paul Cloke, Prof Chris Baker and Dr Callum Sutherland), I am interested in the subjectivities and spaces of ‘postsecularity’ – a term which gets us to think of the 'postsecular' not as a new epoch or societal shift beyond the secular, but instead as an ethically-attuned politics characterised by practices of receptive generosity, rapprochement between religious and secular ethics, and a hopeful re-enchantment and re-shaping of desire towards common life. Postsecularity is understood as a thirdspace where the blurred boundaries between religious and secular belief, practice and identity undergo reflexive engagement and produce new ethical and political subjectivities. While religious and secular subjectivity has always been mutually co-constituted, we contend that the intensity of new forms of enchantment, the deterritorialisation of propositional modes of religious and secular belief and practice, alongside postures towards receptive generosity, represents something that demands academic attention.

I am interested in the tectonic shifts that underpin the emergence of postsecularity as an ethical and political praxis. This theoretical engagement connects with debates about the constitution of secular and religious subjectivity under late-capitalist and neoliberal regimes of desire. These ideas are empirically illustrated in a series of cases-studies, including UK food banks, drug and alcohol treatment, Occupy Protests, refugee humanitarian activism in Calais, homeless participatory art projects, and community responses to the Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, amongst others.

See 'Geographies of Postsecularity: Re-envisioning Politics, Subjectivity and Ethics' (2019, Routledge) Chapter 1 available here


I teach on the following modules:


  • Political Geography
  • Cities and Social Justice
  • Exploring Contemporary Issues in Geography and Planning (Liverpool FSV) 


  • Research Methods

Administration role

  • PhD Admissions Tutor
  • School Outreach Officer

I am a Fellow of Advance HE (formerly Higher Education Academy)


  • PhD Human Geography, University of Exeter (2008-2012)
  • MSc Society and Space, University of Bristol (2006-2007)
  • BSc Human Geography, University of Bristol. Class: 1 (2003-2006)


I would welcome students wishing to work on the following themes:

  • Geographies of care, ethics and justice
  • Participatory and ethnographic approaches to welfare and marginality
  • Food banks and food justice
  • Alcohol and drug dependency, treatment, and recovery
  • Homelessness
  • Neoliberalism, welfare reform and the third sector
  • Genealogical and policy mobility analysis  
  • Rural and urban geographies of austerity
  • Religion, civil society and urban politics
  • Geographies of Postsecularity

Current PhD supervision:

  • Rebecca Jackson, Homelessness prevention and the housing pathways of people experiencing domestic abuse (with Peter Mackie)
  • Barbora Adlerová, 'Nothing about us without is for us': the role of experts by experience in food poverty alliances, ESRC collaborative award with Food Power (with Agatha Herman and Ana Moragues-Faus)

Current supervision

Barbora Adlerova

Barbora Adlerova

Research student

Rebecca Jackson

Rebecca Jackson

Research student

Research themes


  • Social geography
  • Social policy
  • Social Justice
  • Welfare and poverty
  • Foodbanks