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Personal profile

Research Interests

Poverty; Food poverty; Holiday hunger; Volunteering; Christianity; Faith-based social action; Affect theory


Stephanie Denning is a social and cultural geographer, whose research focusses on Christian responses to poverty - faith-based social action, Christianity, volunteering, and holiday hunger.  To keep up to date with Stephanie's research, follow her on Twitter @SJ_Denning.

Stephanie is currently working on the multi-disciplinary ESRC-funded project 'Life on the Breadline - Christianity, Poverty and Politics in the 21st century'.  The project is examining Christian responses to UK poverty in the context of austerity.  It combines ethnography with interviews of national church leaders and an online survey with regional church leaders.  For more information, visit http://breadlineresearch.coventry.ac.uk

Stephanie completed her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Bristol in 2018.  Her PhD research examined Christian responses to holiday hunger through establishing a running a project with the national charity 'MakeLunch' to question how people are motivated by their faith to volunteer, and how they persist in volunteering.  Prior to this, Stephanie completed the MSc Human Geography: Society and Space at the University of Bristol in 2014, and obtained a BSc Geography at the University of Birmingham in 2012.

PhD Project

My PhD research at the University of Bristol was within social and cultural geography, exploring faith-based social action. Using participatory methodologies I established and ran a project through the national charity MakeLunch to tackle children’s holiday hunger. Capturing volunteers’ experiences in diaries and interviews I explored how volunteers are motivated to act in a faith context, and to continue volunteering. I under-took this analysis through the philosophies of affective geographies to see how people’s capacities to act are impacted upon by past action. The research concluded that Christian faith can motivate action, but motivations must be continually re-ignited to avoid in-action. The research contributed to the geographies of religion in understanding the role of religion in people’s daily lives and in society, and to an affect theory approach for faith-based research. Finally the research contributed to the voluntary sector for understanding how people persist in volunteering.

Education/Academic qualification

Human Geography, Doctorate, University of Bristol


Human Geography, MSc


Geography, Degree, University of Birmingham



  • G Geography (General)
  • BR Christianity
  • H Social Sciences (General)

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faith Social Sciences
food Social Sciences
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persistence Social Sciences
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Research Output 2014 2019

Persistence in Volunteering: An Affect Theory Approach to Faith-Based Volunteering

Denning, S., 19 Jun 2019, In : Social and Cultural Geography. (In-Press), p. (In-Press) 22 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Faith, Volunteering and Holiday Hunger: Questioning Action and Persistence through Affect Theory

Denning, S., 2018, University of Bristol. 266 p.

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis

Open Access

Holiday Hunger in Bristol: Scoping Need and Provision

Denning, S., 2018, Feeding Bristol.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Ingredients for Action: Understanding and Responding to Food Poverty

Denning, S. & Buckingham, H., 2017, London: Church Urban Fund. 16 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

commissioned research

Activities 2016 2019

  • 12 Participation in conference
  • 9 Participation in workshop, seminar, course
  • 1 Membership of committee
  • 1 Invited talk

Royal Geographical Society IBG Annual Conference 2019

Stephanie Denning (Co-convenor)
29 Aug 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Church of England's Faith in Research Conference

Stephanie Denning (Speaker)
19 Jun 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Continuity and change in an era of stability: developing a shared agenda for voluntary action research and practice

Stephanie Denning (Participant)
14 Feb 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Life on the Breadline: Transforming Structural Injustice

Stephanie Denning (Organising Committee)
13 Sep 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Top-down meets bottom up

Stephanie Denning (Participant)
22 May 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference



Royal Geographical Society Fellowship

Stephanie Denning Denning (Recipient), Jul 2019

Prize: Election to learned society

Science Undergraduate prize

Stephanie Denning Denning (Recipient), 2012

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Earth science
environmental science

WA Cadbury Prize

Stephanie Denning Denning (Recipient), 2012

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)


Press / Media

A benefit that harms, not helps

Stephanie Denning Denning


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

How is the Church responding to austerity?

Stephanie Denning Denning


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment