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Dr Joseph Downing - Aston University. Birmingham, , GB

Dr Joseph Downing

Senior Lecturer, Politics, History and International Relations | Aston University


Professor Downing teaches courses on researching politics, security and technology in politics.



Dr Joseph Downing Publication Dr Joseph Downing Publication



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Professor Downing is a senior lecturer in international relations and politics in the politics, history and international relations department at Aston University where he teaches courses on researching politics, security and technology in politics and is the author of "French Muslim in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-colonialism and Marginalisation Under the Republic" (Palgrave, 2019).

He has previously been LSE fellow Nationalism and Migration at the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Marie-Curie fellow at the Laboratory of Mediterranean Sociology, CNRS and the Université Aix-Marseille and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has published widely on politics and security in France, concentrating on minority communities. He has also been widely consulted by broadcast and print media.

Joseph Downing received his PhD from the European Institute, London School of Economics in 2014. His thesis ‘Between Policy, Recognition and Rioting: Analyzing the role of urban governance, historical commemoration and public culture in defining inclusion in Marseille, Paris and Lyon’ involved significant fieldwork in France. He was awarded the AHRC block grant “European Languages and Culture” full scholarship for the 2009-2012 period and taught as a fellow at LSE until 2016.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Qualitative Methods


Global Security


Policy Analysis

Accomplishments (2)

Marie Curie Individual Fellowship Role; Fellow at the CNRS France, European Commission


HRC Block Grant PhD Scholarship, Arts and Humanities Research Council

2009 - 2012

Education (4)

London School of Economics: PhD, European Studies 2014

SOAS: MSc, Middle East Politics 2005

SOAS: Certificate, Political Studies 2004

Kings College London: BSc, Environmental Sciences 2003

Affiliations (1)

  • Fellow Higher Education Academy : Member

Media Appearances (3)

Emmanuel Macron’s state visit with Joe Biden: key takeaways as relations warm up after a frosty few months

The Conversation  online


Emmanuel Macron has just completed the first major state visit to the US since the pandemic. As central pillars of Nato and the broader western, democratic alliance, France and the US are historic allies. However, there was a sense of tension ahead of this particular visit, mainly because of concerns that a trade war between the US and Europe could be triggered by president Joe Biden’s protectionist Inflation Reduction Act. This offers subsidies to green industries based in the US, which Macron fears could cause European companies to relocate. It seems Macron has eked out some concessions from Biden on this issue, who made a verbal commitment at a joint press conference to re-think his planned subsidies. The US president claimed it was never his intention to “exclude” Europe.

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Emmanuel Macron reelected: four key themes for his second term as president

The Conversation  online


Emmanuel Macron has fended off the challenge from Marine Le Pen to secure a second term as president of France after taking 58.2% of the vote in the second round of the national election. He is one of only a very small number of French presidents to win reelection. And since the French constitution limits leaders to two terms, this will be Macron’s swan song, whether he likes it or not.

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Ukraine: why Emmanuel Macron’s open line to Moscow has not delivered the international prestige he expected

The Conversation  online


The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has taken a big gamble in putting himself forward as Europe’s man in Moscow (at least virtually) during the crisis in Ukraine. He has kept an open dialogue with Vladimir Putin even as the Russian leader invaded and insists that he continues to press for a solution. But while his re-election campaign appears to be benefiting, his actions are sending mixed messages abroad – and not for the first time.

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Articles (3)

“I Think Therefore I Don’t Vote”: discourses on abstention, distrust and twitter politics in the 2017 French presidential election

French Politics

2022 Advanced democracies increasingly face three interrelated challenges: new media technologies, increased political distrust and decreasing voter participation. During the 2017 French presidential election, all three were enmeshment while France witnessed its highest voter abstention rate since 1969. The Twitter hashtag #SansMoile7Mai (#WithoutMeMay7) emerged in the social media debate about abstention between the two rounds of the election, offering new insights into self-expression of abstention. Posing the research question “What discourses about voter abstention coalesce around the hashtag #SansMoile7Mai on social media during the 2017 French presidential election?”, this paper seeks to use the aforementioned case study to understand public discourse about voter abstention in the new digital era. By applying a multi-methods approach (social network analysis, thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis) to texts from #SansMoile7May, the results demonstrate that discourses around abstention conveyed significant distrust in contemporary French democracy and raised allegations of voter manipulation, expressing opposition to incoming president Emmanuel Macron as a product of an oligarchical system while—surprisingly—showing little opposition to the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. These findings suggest that public discourse about the trust in French democracy in certain populations is problematic, where self-expression on social media about abstention was an “active” form of protest against a system seen as corrupt and manipulated. This raises important questions about the new intersections between social media protest, discourses about voting and the durability of contemporary democratic systems.

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Theorising the ‘security influencer’: Speaking security, terror and Muslims on social media during the Manchester bombings

Mew Media & Society

2022 Security studies literature neglects social media’s potential for lay actors to become influential within security debates. This article develops the concept of ‘security influencers’, bringing literature from marketing into the security debate to understand how social media enables individuals to ‘speak’ and contest security and how lay actors exert influence. Methodologically, this article applies a multi-methods approach to 27,367 tweets to identify and analyse the top four most influential actors in 48 hours following the 2017 bombings by keywords ‘Manchester’ and ‘Muslims’. This article builds a typology of security influencers nuancing definitions of the passive ‘security broadcaster’ and the active ‘security engager’, both of which emerge from obscurity or influence within non-security domains. Furthermore, a dichotomy emerges within influential messages and contestation; messages discussing Muslims in banal terms as diverse individuals register high levels of agreement, whereas those discussing Islam as a world religion receive more hostility and contestation.

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Tweeting terrorism: Vernacular conceptions of Muslims and terror in the wake of the Manchester Bombing on Twitter

Critical Studies on Terrorism

2022 Both vernacular security studies and critical terrorism studies (CTS) offer constructivist analyses of security couched in understandings of security speak. However, neither adequately take account of the ways in which social media presents important opportunities for greater insight into how terrorism is constructed. This study analyses tweets posted after the 2017 Manchester bombing, exploring how jihadist terror attacks are constructed on social media. To do this, we combine social network analysis, as a sampling method, with discourse analysis. The study finds that Twitter provides a platform for diverse terrorism discourses to be expressed and contested. This indicates a literate lay audience within post-attack narratives, self-aware of dominant social constructions of “Muslim terrorism”. Indeed, it suggests an audience that, on Twitter, is hardly only audience but seeks to speak security itself. Insights are gleaned with respect to depicting, defending, and critiquing Muslims, constructing what it means to be a terrorist, portrayals of victimhood, and how terror events feed into broader critiques of “political correctness” and “liberal” politics. Therefore, the analysis also provides further insights into the portrayal and (self-)positioning of Muslims in the wake of a jihadist attack and nuances accounts of Muslims’ securitisation qua terror.

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