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Durham University

Research & collaboration

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Dr Joanna Allan

Contact Dr Joanna Allan

I received my PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of Leeds in December 2016. Before this, I worked in policy and social research for National Energy Action (2012-2013), StopAIDS (2011-2012) and the London Councils European Service based at Greater London Enterprise (2009-2011).

My current research project, funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, is entitled ‘Powering Conflict, Fuelling Resistance.’ Fossil fuels are notorious for their implication in neocolonialism, violence and environmental degradation. Mainstream discourse envisages green energy as the unproblematic solution to “blood oil.” However, the green transition is replicating the violent, neocolonial models of the fossil fuels industry in some African contexts. My project seeks to establish how this replication is occurring, and how it can be resisted. I am critically interrogating the use of green energy by authoritarian regimes and their partners, and, through interviews, ethnographic fieldwork and ecocritical analysis of resistance literatures, seeking to understand the coping strategies and resistance of communities faced with energy injustices.

My forthcoming book tells the story of Saharawi and Equatoguinean women’s historical struggles against the authoritarian regime of Spanish Francisco Franco, and explores the strategies of women who continue fighting the ongoing dictatorships in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea. These two territories are known by human rights organisations as amongst the worst places in the world when it comes to repression and lack of civil liberties. Yet Western states and corporates have no problem with funding these regimes in return for access to natural resources. I use the concept of genderwashing to describe how the Moroccan and Equatoguinean regimes, in partnership with Western states and corporates, conjure a mirage of promoting gender equality whilst simultaneously undermining women’s rights in a bid to cash in on oil, minerals and other resources. In exploring how women resist the ruling regimes, I argue that historical local, indigenous and colonially-imposed gender norms, as well as today’s genderwashing and Western misconceptions about African and Arab gender roles, play an integral part in determining who publicly resists authoritarian regimes, what resistance strategies they use, and how activists are oppressed and punished by their governments. 

Indicators of Esteem

  • Chair/President: Western Sahara Resource Watch (2015-2017)
  • Peer Reviewer: Government and Opposition
  • Peer Reviewer: Journal of North African Studies
  • Steering Committee: International Academic Observatory on Western Sahara

Selected Publications

Authored book

  • Allan, Joanna (Forthcoming). Silenced Resistance: Women, Dictatorships, and Genderwashing in Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea. University of Wisconsin Press.

Chapter in book

  • Allan, Joanna (2018). Colonialism and Patriarchy in Afrohispanic Literature: the Resistance Writings of Lehdia Dafa and María Nsue Angüe. In Confluencias culturales afro-hispanas: África, Latinoamérica y Europa. Odartey-Wellington, Dorothy
  • Allan, Joanna (2018). Orientalisme, genre, répression et contestation au Sahara Occidental. In Sahara Occidental. Conflit oublié, population en mouvement. Correale, Francesco & Boulay, Sebastien Presses Universitaires François-Rabelais de Tours.
  • Singh-Muchelle, Arjun & Allan, Joanna (2010). A Brave New World of Migration. In Radical Future: Politics for the Next Generation. Little, Ben Lawrence and Wishart.

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)


  • (2015). Artistic Collaboration – How it Can Enrich Socially Engaged Arts Programmes. National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Cultural Commissioning Programme.
  • Allan, Joanna (2015). Arts on Prescription: Arts-based social prescribing for better mental wellbeing. National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Cultural Commissioning Programme.
  • Allan, Joanna (2015). Delivering Social Outcomes as well as High Quality Art for its Own Sake – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Cultural Commissioning Programme.
  • Allan, Joanna, Harrison, Deborah & Lynch, David (2013). Evaluation of North Bransholme's Community Energy Saving Programme. Riverside Housing/E.ON.
  • Allan, Joanna, Harrison, Deborah & Stockton, Helen (2013). Warm Homes for Older People - The Role of Social Networks. Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
  • Maguire, Rosemary & Allan, Joanna (2013). Why Corporate Social Responsibility Spending Does Not Equal Improved Social Outcomes. New Economics Foundation Consulting.
  • Maguire, Rosemary & Allan, Joanna (2011). How to Do Equality Public Legal Education. What Works Wells? Advice Now and the Law Centres Federation.

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Conflict and resolution:
  • Renewable energy:
  • Africa:
  • Europe: Language, literature & culture:
  • Middle East:

Selected Grants

  • 2018: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship
  • 2013: University of Leeds Arts Faculty Doctoral Scholarship
  • 2007: AHRC Award: Masters by Research Scholarship and travel grants