SPIN (Secrecy, Power, and Ignorance Research Network)


Awarded: July 2020

This community previously received Initiator funding for the project: South West Regional Centre for Secrecy, Security and Society Research

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Brett Edwards
University of Bristol:  Elspeth Van Veeren (PI)
Cardiff University: Claudia Hillebrand, Thomas Leahy
University of Exeter: Brian Rappert, Owen Thomas

Project overview

To promote new scholarship, dialogues, policy and improved governance by exploring and deepening understanding of the pervasiveness of secrecy and ignorance (the politics of knowledge (un)making) in contemporary social and political life. 

Twitter: @research_SPIN

Website: secrecyresearch.com

iTunes podcast series: SPIN 


Given the rise of post-truth discourses (e.g.  fake news, deep fake videos), conspiracy cultures, and revelations surrounding societal, corporate or state-level scandals (the #metoo movement and climate change denial, the cultural forgetting at the heart of Windrush and Grenfell, intelligence oversight failures and the Snowden-NSA surveillance scandal, the Panama Papers and ongoing development in US politics), there is an increasing need to discuss and understand the interconnections between secrecy/revelation, ignorance, and power.  

This network’s wider importance therefore relates to a number of global challenge research areas, clearly through the focus on secure societies in terms of contributing to the protection of freedom and security of nations, society, and citizens. A greater understanding of secrecy and ignorance also connects to living in a digital world given the way in which digital spheres (e.g., online platforms, social media channels) enable and amplify secrecy and ignorance. Finally, the connection to social justice and inequality is apparent when considering how secrecy relates to minoritized identities (e.g. LGBTQ+, BAME, disabled people, immigrants, refugees), and the need for societies to develop in ways that are inclusive and reflective.   

Project summary 

The community is already well established through an Initiator award. They will use the Generator funding to develop the SPIN A-Z of Secrecy and Ignorance set of research outputs (research publications, podcasts, website, further funding). SPIN will also set up a SPIN-GW4 Fellowship Scheme specifically targeted at nurturing talented researchers into funded Post-doctoral fellowships across the GW4 area. 

The community will work with We the Curious (WtC, Bristol), developing a ‘handling collection’ of 26 everyday objects showcased in a week-long programme of activities in Spring 2021 to generate conversations between researchers and visitors to the museum, and to prompt dialogue about how secrecy and ignorance are part of daily as well as exceptional life.  

Community site (GW4 Portal)