Dr Laura Loyola-Hernández

Dr Laura Loyola-Hernández


My interests are decolonial thought, feminist political geography, critical race studies, policing, migrant rights and socila media activism with a focus on Latin America and the UK. My research and teaching is based on a feminist decolonial practice. I am also interested on the impact of critical pedagogies and scholar activism within university settings.

My British Academy Postdoctoral fellowship examined the role emotions have in non-traditional political acts for women to be elected in indigenous communities in Yucatán, Mexico. That is, this project explored the role emotions have in indigenous customary politics. Emotions in politics is an emerging field in political geography. By concentrating in indigenous communitities, important questions can be answered, such as: how do politicians deal and perform emotions differently? What role do emotions play in the constitution of the gendered, racial and ethnic body? What kind of emotional performances are considered as appropriate in indigenous communities regarding politics? These types of questions give an insight into how politics is performed and lived in the everyday lives of constituents. It also sheds light into the complex and nuance dynamics that are involved in indigenous politics.

I was granted a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to organise a two day event (September 2019) around #resistance:Exploring digital protest by marginalised groups. This two-day event, held at the University of Leeds brought together early career researchers, activists and senior academics from diverse disciplines working on daily resistance and onlice activism. This event had both face to face and virtual presentations, following a module of a Nearly Carbon-Neutral Conference (NCN). Given the nature of the proposed theme, the event sought to use social media and the internet as acts of resistance against neoliberal policies, global warming and an increasing hostile environment towards immigrants. Participants from around the world participated without having to travel. This type of model challenges hierarchical geopolitical power regarding the production and dissemination of knowledge. Podcast from the presentations are now available to listen free of charge via https://www.mixcloud.com/ExploringDigitalProtest2019



  • BA Programme Lead

Research interests

My recent research focuses on the ways in which borders (re)produce colonial and white supremacist ideologies which continue to disproportionately affect racially minoritised communities  in a multiscalar way. I examine the role digital platforms and surveillance technologies play a role in implementing and sustaining border and racial violence in Mexico and the UK. Finally, I explore the ways in which marginalised communities subvert meanings of political activism in everyday actions in the digital and physical terrain. 

I have co-authored three reports on the use of mobile biometric fingerprint apps by police for immigration enforcement in the UK. In the reports we show migrants, particularly those with precarious immigration status, are fearful of seeking help from the police because of data sharing with the Home Office. We have also showed the disproportionate use of this technology on racially minoritised communities. I have also written on the impact of Covid-19 on migrant communities in West Yorkshire and in higher education settings in the UK. 

My doctorial thesis focused on how bodily and spatial understandings of gender, race and ethnicity affect the process by which twenty Maya women were selected as candidates and elected into government in indigenous municipalities in Yucatán (2012-2015). While mainstream studies in Mexico focus on female politicians after their election, my work covers both the selection of these women as mayoral candidates and the first year of administration. Through an analysis of sixty in-depth interviews and participant observation, my thesis offers a unique view on the particularities of the women’s trajectories into office. My work engages critically with Judith Butler’s (1993, 1997, 2006) notion of ‘performativity’ by adapting it to the study of ethnic and spatial relations. Performativity is re-conceptualized as a tool of analysis that allows us to comprehend the different ways in which the state and society shape gender, racial and ethnic identities. Furthermore, and following the work of Elizabeth Grosz (1994, 1995, 2001), an analysis is made about how female politicians see their respective municipalities as extensions of their bodies and as performative spaces (Gregson and Rose, 1999; Davis and Walker, 2010) in ways that allow them to negotiate meanings of femininity, indigeneity and politics. 

I am also interested in the ways in which critical pedagogies and scholar activism impact Higher Education settings. I recently finished a 12-month fellowship at the Leeds Institute for Teaching excellence with the project Community-led pedagogies to diversify the curriculum. During this 12 months, the project:

1. Created and expanded a sense of community and belonging among staff and students (especially those from marginalised backgrounds).

2. Co-created practical solutions to diversify pedagogical practices in and outside the classroom.

3. Expanded our understanding of what qualifies as knowledge outside traditional educational spaces.

4. Understood the impact physical spaces within the university have in sense of belonging and retention outcomes for students.

Students from the Faculty of Environment participated in two workshops, one focus group and two community activities during the 2022-2023 academic year. Some of the outcomes and recommendations of this project are being piloted in the 2023-2024 academic year in the form of a tutorial on sense of belonging and decolonisation using the Whose Uni? Poster (see below) and community activities in the School of Geography. This project sought to understand the challenges of implementing inclusive and diverse pedagogical initiatives in the Faculty of Environment. Community-led pedagogies were co-created between students, staff and community collectives outside the university. They foster non-hierarchical relations between staff and students; creating spaces where metrics are subverted. Community spaces such as workshops, talks, walks, sharing of food, dancing, among other activities disrupt the neoliberal university and help nurture a sense of belonging and community. Community-led pedagogies create a learning environment that goes beyond educational formal settings where both students and staff leave the shared space with reflection and action points to enact change.

Whose Uni? Poster is a collaborative visual research project produced by Laura Loyola-Hernández with art by nicole marie burton and Petroglyph Studios. The poster was created after a series of activities (alphabet attack, Lego Serious Play, poster creation, body mapping, community conversations) with undergraduate students at the University of Leeds who felt underrepresented in their course as part of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (Lite) Fellowship. The poster is accessible via the community-led pedagogies to diversifying the curruculum website.

The poster is meant to be used as a pedagogical tool for educators and activists. Whose Uni? depicts conversations where students and staff can unwrap the threads of complicity and hope which are embedded within the neoliberal university. The experience generates non- hierarchical conversations between those present in ways in which traditional lectures, seminars and tutorials cannot. This project contributes to the continued struggles to improve sense of belonging and community for staff and students (especially those from marginalised and underrepresented backgrounds) in Higher Education Institutions. More information about the poster and free hi-res PDFs for download can be found here (link in Lite website?). If you would like a hard (printed) version of the poster, please contact Dr. Laura Loyola-Hernández (l.t.loyolahernadez@leeds.ac.uk). If you use the poster, we would appreciate you taking 5 minutes to answer a feedback survey. Survey can be accessed here.

I have also examined the ways in which decolonising initatives have been undertaken at the Faculty of Environment. Over 100 staff responded to a survey which seeked to understand some of the challenges and resistance towards decolonialising initiatives in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Leeds.  Among our findings, there are various challenges faced by staff in the face of decolonising their research, teaching and/or job. The majority thought it did apply to their teaching, research, or role and that it was their responsibility to engage in wider conversations and practices on decolonisation. Challenges appear to be in not knowing where to start, and not having resources, including time and finances. There was moderate agreement that there was a ‘fear of getting it wrong.’ Anxieties around challenging power structures and bringing up the subject of decolonisation had lower agreement rates, suggesting once bottlenecks of resources (including time) are addressed, staff would be willing to challenge existing power structures and engage in decolonisation conversations to a greater extent. Responses to our survey reflected resistance from staff which ranged from decolonisation not being applicable to the person’s field, feeling offended we were questioning scientific methods to lacking time for these initiatives. Though a majority agreed that decolonisation was relevant to their teaching, research, or job role. At a structural level, participants expressed how the burden to decolonise seems to fall on those most involved in teaching, particularly those on fixed-term contracts and lower paid staff members. Respondents also showed hesitation towards these initiatives as they thought they could be perceived as tick box and tokenistic exercises on behalf of the university. You can learn and read the report here.


Academic articles:

Loyola-Hernández, L., Kahigi, C., Wangari-Jones, P. and Mena Farrera, A. (2022) Resilience, advocacy and scholar-activism: responding to COVID-19 in Kenyan, Mexican and British universities, Educational Review, 74(3): 558-575, https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2022.2071235  

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2019) Spatial crossings: gender, race and politics in Yucatecan Maya municipalities, Gender, Place & Culture, https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1518312

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2018) The porous state: Female mayors performing the state in Yucatecan Maya municipalities, Political Geography,6: 48-57, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.10.002

Loyola Hernández, Laura Teresa (2011) Las doñas quieren jugar: presidentas municipales en Yucatán, Madrid: Editorial Académica Española (The ladies want to play: female mayors in Yucatán)

Loyola Hernández, Laura Teresa (2011) “Mi casa, mi pueblo: presidentas municipales en Yucatán” In Cejas, M. and Lau Jaiven, A. (eds.) Mujeres y Ciudadanía en México: estudios de caso, Mexico City: Itaca/Conacyt/UAM-X (“My house, my pueblo: women mayors in Yucatán” in Women and citizenship in Mexico: case studies)

Loyola Hernández, Laura Teresa (2011) 'El poder detrás de las palabras: El discurso hacia la mujer antes y después de la Revolución Islámica en Irán'; In Barrera Bassols, D. and Arriaga Ortiz, R. (eds.) Género, Cultura, Discurso y Poder,
Mexico City: ENAH (The discourse towards women before and after the Islamic Revolution in Iran” in Gender, Culture, Discourse and Power)

Other publications:

Loyola-Hernández, L., burton, n. and Petroglyph Studios (2023) Whose Uni? [Poster]  29.7cm x 42cm, https://teachingexcellence.leeds.ac.uk/research/fellowships/community-led-pedagogies-to-diversify-the-curriculum/ 

Loyola-Hernández, L., Coleman, C., Wangari-Jones, P. and Carey, J. (2022) #HandsOffOurBiodata: Mobilising against police use of biometric fingerprint and facial recognition technology, the Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists, UK, https://racialjusticenetwork277579038.files.wordpress.com/2022/10/sts-20-22-foi-report.pdf 

Loyola-Hernández, L. and Gosal, A. (2022) Impact of decolonising the curriculum initiatives and practices in the Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds, DOI: https://doi.org/10.48785/100/103 

Loyola-Hernández, Wangari-Jones, P., Yemane, T., Humphris, R. and Anyiam, S.  (2021) Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Structural Vulnerabilities, Resilience and Migrant Communities-led responses to COVID-19 in West Yorkshire, Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists, https://racialjusticenetwork277579038.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/migrant-communities-led-responses-to-covid-19-report.pdf 

Wangari-Jones, P., Loyola-Hernández, L., and Humphris, R. (2021) STOP THE SCAN: Police use of mobile fingerprinting technology for immigration enforcement, UK. Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists, https://racialjusticenetwork277579038.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/stop-the-scan-report.pdf 

Loyola-Hernández, L.  (2021) Review Me not you: the trouble with mainstream feminism, Gender, Place & Culture, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2021.1892118

Coleman, C., Lee, T., Loyola-Hernández, L., Metcalfe, P. and Wangari-Jones, P. (2021) Public’s Perception on Biometric Services Gateway (mobile fingerprint app), UK. https://racialjusticenetwork277579038.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/report-public-perception-biometric-gateway.pdf 

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2019) As scholars from the Global South, we must resist being complicit, https://www.convivialthinking.org/index.php/2019/11/02/as-scholars-from-the-global-south/ 

Talks and podcasts:

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2021) Podcast RJN on BCB Radio discussing STOP THE SCAN report and immigration raids https://open.spotify.com/episode/72bitEm0ytnNN5M2Osx1LH 

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2021) Pannelist Police Power and the UK Public hosted by the Racial Justice Network  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11w3FMBaaVk&t=5720s&ab_channel=TheRacialJusticeNetwork 

Loyola-Hernandez, L. (2021) Panellist in the International Women's Day Event: Women in focus on March 8th organised by the Leeds Human Right Journal, https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=ljH8YOUBwpg&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=EditorialTeam 

Loyola-Hernandez, L. (2021) The (in)Mobility of Borders and Notions of Citizenship for Yucatecan Migrant Families, CRASSH, University of Cambridge, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDHhMzSh7LA&t=3855s 

Loyola-Hernández, L. (2020) Rethinking (de)coloniality How useful are the terms global north vs south really useful in (de)colonisation and development?, The Sheffield Institute for International Development. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sr1pqyEraKkVqIzNy7A1C52NmgvsSpr2/view?usp=sharing 

Loyola-Hernandez, L. (2019) ‘Al Glitter de Guerra: Instagram posts as forms of feminist protest in everyday Mexico’ in #resistance: exploring digital protest by marginalised groups, University of Leeds, 18-19th September, https://www.mixcloud.com/ExploringDigitalProtest2019

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 2020 PGCAP 2019 Fellow of Higher Education Academy
  • 2018 British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Geography, University of Leeds
  • 2016 PhD in Geography, University of Cambridge, UK
  • 2010 Masters in Women's Studies, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco (Mexico)
  • 2007 BA International Relations, Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico)

Student education

I teach in Level 2 and Level 1 undergraduate modules in the School of Geography. and supervise Level 3 dissertations. I welcome any enquiries about PhD supervision around feminism, political geography, decolonial and critical race studies and practices, pedagogy, policing, migrant rights, activism and social media.

Research groups and institutes

  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>