Empty occupy

The Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin, is seeking a geographer with solid urban background to undertake a project on the significance of activist occupations in understanding the role that urban vacant space plays in the capitalist city. The PhD will be supervised by Dr. Cian O’Callaghan.

NOTE: The deadline for receipt of 1st phase applicants is March 22 2019.

Project description:

“Empty? Occupy!”: Filling the void of vacancy in the service of housing justice

Activist occupations of vacant properties in Dublin and other cities have highlighted the contradiction of buildings lying empty at a time of spiralling homelessness and problems of housing affordability. Such practices are indicative of the growing visibility and politicisation of urban vacancy following the global financial crisis. Urban vacant space has emerged as an important site in these transformations, being at once a site of politicisation, civic possibility, policy intervention, and market reengineering.  In Ireland, policy solutions to more effectively measure and tackle vacancy have been rolled out at national and local levels. Yet, despite academic and policy attention, urban vacancy remains an under-researched and often misunderstood topic.

The central premise of this project is that bottom-up responses to vacancy, including activist occupations, have the potential to propose fundamentally new ways of understanding, and engaging, urban vacant spaces to solve wider urban challenges. The aim of the research project is to examine the practices, actors and dynamics involved in occupations of vacant spaces in a number of case study cities, critically examine the ways in which they make vacancy visible, and interrogate their transformative impacts and potential. It will

  1. produce cutting-edge empirical research on new urban social movements that respond to pressing housing crises,
  2. use the conceptual lens of occupations to analyse theoretical gaps regarding vacancy.

The project will develop case studies in two-to-three cities: Dublin, Ireland, another European city (Barcelona, Spain, Rome/Naples, Italy, or Lisbon, Portugal), and potentially Sydney, Australia, and employ mixed-methods incorporating policy and discourse analysis, stakeholder interviews, and ethnography. The final selection of case studies and methods used will depend on the expertise of the PhD candidate.

The provost Scholarship Project Awards:

This new TCD Ph.D scholarship is intended to provide up to 24 hours/month in research support to the TCD Professor.

The award includes:

  • Fees for a Ph.D in TCD: €7,013 (EU); €13,768 (non-EU)
  • Annual stipend: €16,000 for 4 years
  • Research Fund: €2,500 (from Dr O’Callaghan)



You are applying for a highly competitive 4 year fully funded scholarship.

You must have no barriers to international travel.

Phase 1:

Send preliminary applications to: Dr Cian O’Callaghan (ocallac8@tcd.ie. Please place ‘Provost PhD application’ in the subject line of the email.

Attach a single PDF Document that contains the following:

  • A cover letter: Your letter should clearly set out your suitability and motivation for this PhD with reference to your past relevant experience and achievements. PhD start date can be either 1 September 2019 or 1 March 2020. Please state your preferred start date in your cover letter.
  • A CV that includes your relevant experience, undergraduate results and postgraduate results (if applicable), and contact information for 2 academic referees.

Phase 2:

Successful Phase 1 candidates will proceed to Interview.

The successful candidate will then be invited to submit a full application to Trinity College Dublin.