Professor Anya Ahmed was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. She is Professor of Wellbeing and Communities at Manchester Metropolitan University and was recently appointed Academic Director of the new Doctoral College. Her research focuses on the experiences of marginalised communities (with a specific focus on minoritised ethnic populations) and she has led a range of projects on housing, homelessness, migration, ageing and health and social care.
Anya’s academic career spans almost 30 years, with much of her published work involving the interrogation of the theoretical, conceptual, and applied nature of ‘community’ in national and international contexts. She has developed approaches to narrative biographical methodology which go beyond focusing on what is told in an account and instead focuses on the ‘telling’ – or how people narrate.
She is an internationally recognised research methodologist with expertise in narrative/biographical approaches and has a track record in the fields of social policy and sociology. Her career to date has been underpinned by a commitment to creating a fairer society, and social justice motivates her personal and professional endeavours.
Anya has also worked as a housing practitioner, trainer and consultant, and, over the years, she has been a board member for several housing providers and voluntary sector organisations and more recently has held Non-Executive Director positions in the NHS. She also chairs a Manchester based charity, the Somali Adult Social Care Agency (SASCA).
Why do the social sciences matter?
Social science plays a major part in addressing the global challenges we face. For me, understanding how people anchor themselves in the world and to what they construct belonging illuminates more common material experiences such as navigating complex health and social care systems. This is important as it can help us better understand more marginalised people’s personal and individual experiences in a wide range of contexts. It can also equip service providers and practitioners with the knowledge to better understand how social inequalities play out and how they are linked to inequities in health outcomes. The real-world impact plays out then when we can rethink and redesign services and systems to better serve communities.
What inspires you about your work?
The ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives through generating evidence which can impact on, and change, policy and practice is both motivating and inspiring. Working with the new generation of researchers, particularly energised doctoral students is especially inspiring and rewarding.
What is the most important issue for social science to tackle?
There are many, but a particularly pressing one is to reduce health inequalities. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated health inequalities and the current financial backdrop and impact on cost of living has engrained them.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
I am sincerely delighted to be awarded Fellowship of the Academy and to become part of this community of prominent scholars. I am excited about being able to champion the importance of social science research.