Biography

Lara read Philosophy and Theology at the University of Oxford (BA Hons, 2000).  She holds master’s degrees in International Relations (2003) and Research Methods (2005), from the University of Bristol, where she also completed her PhD (2011) and taught in the Politics Department.  She left a position at Durham University to join the Department of International Relations at Sussex in 2012.  Between 2014 and 2016 Lara held an Independent Social Research Foundation fellowship and she co-convenes the Resistance Studies Network with colleagues at Sussex, Gothenburg and UMass Amherst.

Lara entered academia after more than a decade of working in the field of human rights, with a focus on Latin America.  She has also managed a project for rough sleepers, worked in a night shelter for homeless people and busked around Europe, amongst other things.

Community and Business

Lara is a member of the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, a group of international lawyers that monitors the human rights abuses faced by legal professionals in Colombia.

With Nadya Ali (University of Sussex) and Robin Dunford (University of Brighton), Lara coordinates the Social Fascism, Democracy and Law Project an action-research initiative between scholars at the Universities of Brighton and Sussex.  The Project, which was founded in 2016, aims to bring together work in applied philosophy and political theory with struggles against the increasingly fascistic, anti-democratic and dubiously-legal forms of economy and government we encounter today. 

The Project aims to address tendencies for political theory and philosophy to be overly abstract and disconnected from the human lives and struggles to which it purports to speak.  Participants are particularly interested in thought and activism connecting grassroots and ‘local’ struggles to wider international or global concerns, including:

  • How the everyday workings of capitalism eradicate the possibility of life for many, because of conditions produced systematically through law
  • The corporate takeover of public services and land, and increasing precarity of labour.  A particular focus of our work is the clash between discourses of human rights and the neoliberal regime stripping people of these rights. 
  • The legal regimes that permit corporate plunder and depredations against people and planet, as well as the possibilities of using law to contest this. 
  • The violence associated with counter-terrorism policies, repression of democratic participation and the colonial dimensions of the governance of migrant, refugee and diaspora populations in contemporary Europe – including in higher education.
  • How ethical narratives and sanitised policy ‘newspeak’ are used to cover over diverse forms of violence.
  • How education and pedagogy can expose and interrogate the human and ecological implications of taken-for-granted ways of theorising and doing politics.

Current research/public engagement initiatives

  • The impunity with which transnational corporations can abuse human rights (Coleman, Dunford).  The Sussex Social Science Impact Fund project, Righting Corporate Wrongs, in collaboration with colleagues at Sussex and in Colombia, with War on Want and activists and public interest lawyers in Colombia, South Africa and the UK.  The project explores the politics and possibilities of addressing abuses linked to extractive imperialism through legal means. This project emerged from collaboration with the Oil Justice Campaign, an initiative of War on Want, Colombian NGO Cos-pacc and UK law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn.  A particular focus has been the high court case of Colombian trade unionist Gilberto Torres against BP for his kidnap and torture.
  • The demolition of the welfare state, with a particular focus on the campaign for the National Health Service to remain a public, free at the point of use, providing the full range of health care to everyone who needs it (Ali, Coleman, Dunford).  For over 25 years the NHS has been inched towards a US model of profit-based healthcare by New Labour, Tory and Libdem governments.  The final "transformation" of the NHS in England into "Accountable Care Organizations" from Californian company Kaiser Permanente, is now taking place through, with zero democratic accountability or consultation.  We support the 999 NHS legal challenge to fixed pre-set NHS and Social Care budgets.
  • The implications of the UK government’s PREVENT counter-terrorism strategy for democracy, citizenship and education (Ali, Coleman).
  • The increasingly fascistic turn in British politics and the possibilities of democratic, grassroots forms of contesting authoritarian neoliberalism (Ali, Coleman, Dunford).
  • Critical pedagogy and ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum in UK universities (Ali, Coleman, Dunford).  Members of the project aim to bring the intellectual-political concerns of the project into undergraduate and postgraduate teaching by engaging theoretical debates through real-life stories and struggles that are often invisible through the lens of political theory or policy. The creation of an inclusive classroom in which students feel able to participate, grow intellectually and challenge their own understandings of power and politics is a priority.   The Project provides a forum to share resources and support other university teachers. 
  • Co-producing Political Philosophy and Social Theory with Grassroots Constituencies (Coleman, with Alex Prichard, University of Exeter).  An Independent Social Research Foundation research group which aims to radically re-think the praxis of knowledge ‘co-production’ between scholars and ‘grassroots’ collectives of citizens and activists and to challenge mainstream approaches to research ‘impact’ and instrumental approaches to academic knowledge.

Political views expressed by members of the Social Fascism, Democracy and Law Project are our own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Universities of Sussex or Brighton, or any of the Project's funders or collaborators.