Dr Sana Murrani

    Accepting PhD Students

    PhD projects

    I welcome research projects to supervise at PhD and Post-Doc levels that focus on the spatial practices of home, displacement, and migration from a feminist and postcolonial perspective. I would specifically be interested in projects that utilise participatory action research, creative counter-mapping, trauma-informed (including memory studies) and placemaking methodologies.


    Profile summary

    Sana Murrani is an Associate Professor in Spatial Practice with a background in Architecture and Urban Design. She is the Arts/Health Research Lead at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at the University of Plymouth, UK. Sana’s main research falls within the field of architecture in particular, the imaginative negotiations of spatial practices and social justice. She focuses on highlighting the impact of transient conditions of war, conflict, and displacement on people's creative spatial responses to sudden changes in their built environment and the making (or re-making) of the concept of home and collective imaginary housing for the future.
    Sana's research methods are embedded in participatory action research approaches and creative mapping techniques that rely on spatial thinking, memory mapping, and speculative and imaginative drawing and layering.
    She studied architecture at Baghdad University School of Architecture at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Sana completed her PhD in the UK on the theoretical encounters and the critique of architectural representation and material culture under the influence of technology. She is an alumna of the International School in Forced Migration (cohort 2021) at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford.
    A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Sana is also the founder of the Displacement Studies Research Network  and co-founder of the  Justice and Imagination in Global Displacement (JIGD)  research collective, working at the intersection between displacement, design, imagination and justice to research, share, and enhance the impact and power of the creative agencies of displaced peoples, their identity, memory and the spaces and places they create and inhabit. She is the principal investigator for Creative Recovery: Mapping Refugees’ Memories of Home, as Heritage funded by the European Cultural Foundation. The project is in partnership with British Red Cross, and is based on co-produced creative research with refugees and asylum seekers in the Southwest of England. In 2021, she completed a collaborative research project with Dr Rachael Kiddey from the University of Oxford, mapping the material culture of displacement with a group of Refugees in the UK, Sweden and Greece. In 2022, Sana became a co-investigator for Forced to Flee project funded (2022-2025) by the NIHR.
    In December 2021, Sana signed a contract for monograph with Bloomsbury (completed writing in 16 months) which will appear this summer (2024) titled: Ruptured Architecture: spatial practices of refuge in response to war and violence in Iraq. Alongside the book, she has secured funding as PI for the fieldwork part with the British Institute for the Study of Iraq on a project titled: Ruptured Domesticity: A visual narrative of domestic responses to war in Iraq Exhibition of the maps and visuals produced as part of this project have been exhibited at the LSE Middle East Centre between 3rd of April and 12th of May and appear online as an archive. Ruptured Domesticity was further generously funded by an AHRC Impact Accelerator Award project. In December 2023, Sana secured an AHRC Impact Accelerator Award Fellowship for an empirical fieldwork in the north of Iraq. Project titled: Ruptured Atlas: Creative Mapping of Yazidi Odyssey of Home, Displacement, Migration and Return. This project will culminate in a series of story-maps in an archive with 15 Yazidi survivors of genocide. 
    Sana is a member of the Academic Board for the Migrant Futures Institute at Goldsmiths, University of London and the Livingmaps Network. She is an Advising Editor for Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, a guest reviewer for Routledge Architecture section and a member of the ESRC Global Challenge Research Fund Peer Review College. Sana is on the Advisory Board for an Office for Student (OfS) funded project called Generation Delta (2022-2026) nurturing the future of female BAME professors. She is an advisor for the Global Doctoral Program in Spatial Arts, part of the O. P. Jindal Global University, Delhi - India.

    Professional memberships

    Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society 

    Roles on external bodies

    • Advisory board member for the Migrant Futures Institute at Goldsmiths, University of London.
    • Advisory board member for the Livingmaps Network.
    • External Examiner for MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD), The Bartlett, Development and Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL). 
    • Member of the Board of Trustees for the Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support (DCRS).
    • Commissioning Panel for the Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) – a collaboration between ESRC, AHRC and Innovate UK (UKRI).
    • Reader for the 2nd Democracy Needs Imagination Call, The European Cultural Foundation (ECF).
    • Reviewer for The Austrian Science Fund (ASF) - Elise Richter-PEEK-Position.
    • Reviewer for Third World Quarterly (Routledge Journals).
    • Reviewer for the Journal of Migration and Society (Berghahn Publishing).
    • Reviewer for the Journal of Refugee Studies (Oxford University Press).
    • Advising Editor to Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (MIT).
    • Member of the Global Challenges Research Fund ESRC Peer Review College.
    • Reviewer for Footnote: Delft Architecture Theory Journal.
    • Reviewer for Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology.
    • Reviewer for Routledge Architecture Section.

    Supervised research degrees

    PGR supervision:

    • The informal settlement named Gangare: a space of refuge, extraction or infringement? By Olasumbo Olaniyi, Fully-funded Faculty Studentship in Architecture [expected completion October 2026 – DoS].
    • Making a new world: Evaluating colonial thinking in reference to displacement of refugees, how curatorial methodologies can support spatial justice by Merrydith Russell, DTA candidate in Architecture [expected completion October 2026 - DoS].
    • Revival Strategies in Architecture to Achieve Sustainability in Mosul Post ISIS by Raad Sultan [expected completion October 2024 - 2nd].
    • Post Social Realism Art Practice by Cameron Williamson [expected completion October 2024 - 2nd].
    • The Quotidian Future: Contemporary Art from Artistic and De-colonial Curatorial Perspectives by Flounder Lee [expected completion October 2023 - 2nd].
    • Re-Imagine Your Town: Co created archives of community urban visions by Becalelis Brodskis, 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training [expected completion October 2023 - 2nd].

    PGR completions:

    • Integrating transnationalism into a transmedia practice by Cândida Luiza Borges da Silva [Completion February 2023].
    • Radical Rivers: Blue Spaces for the 21st Century by Sally Sutton [Completed December 2021].
    • Play Dynamics: participatory/ dynamic architecture as an instrument for social activism by Alejandro Quinteros, Planetary Collegium [Completed November 2021].
    • Arhitectura 1950 – 1989. Interstitial Spaces of Communist Romanian Architecture by Ioana Popovici [completed March 2019].
    • In and out of memory: exploring the tension between remembering and forgetting when recalling 9/11, a traumatic event by Anna Walker [completed PhD December 2017].
    • Post-structural and Post Colonial Critique of Utopian Ideas by Richard Bower [completed PhD January 2015].
    • Participatory Design in Spatial Practice by Alex Lorimer [completed ResM March 2016].

    MRes completions:

    • A Play between Interactive Architecture, Social Space and Participation by Chrysa Petrou [completed MRes August 2013].
    • The Use of Technology and the Representation of Contemporary Architecture by Jessica Westmacott [completed MRes August 2011].

    PhD chairing and internal examinations:

    • Technological Mediation and Empathy in Clinical Skills Training by Nick Peres [PhD in Transtechnology Research, June 2024]. Chairing examination.
    • Inspiring interoperability and multi-disciplinary solutions for the development of deterrence strategies against organised crime: Merging academia and practice by Magda Maszczynska [PhD in Criminology, November 2023]. Chairing examination.
    • Using Space Syntax approach to describe movement densities in historical urban fabric: a case study of AlKarkh historic core, Baghdad, Iraq by Saif Allah Hassan [MSc in Architecture, Baghdad University, Iraq, June 2023]. External examiner.
    • Performance Writing, Objects and Millennial Precarity: A Co-authored PaR exploration between friends by Katheryn Owens and Chris Green [PhD in Performing Arts, February 2023]. Charing examination.
    • A revolution within: Islamic tradition and feminist innovation in contemporary Kuwait painting by Shaikha Almehana [PhD in Art and Media, July 2022]. Internal examination.
    • Visual Anthropological Methods in Earthquake Risk Communication: A Transdisciplinary Approach by Johanna Ickert [PhD Earth and Environmental Sciences, June 2021]. Chairing examination.
    • Saltram House: The Evolution of an Eighteenth-Century Country Estate by Katherine Norley [ ResM Art History, September 2020]. Charing examination.
    • Ideas Exchange: Design and the post bio-tech-body by Agatha Haines [PhD Transtechnology Research, July 2020]. Charing examination.
    • Creative Caprice: Intrinsic Interest; States of Consciousness; Emotion & Practice-led Phenomenological Inquiry by Steven Evans [PhD Art and Media, July 2020]. Chairing examination.
    • Syncretic Narrative: Method for Navigation of Power and Resistance in War and Conflict by Diane Derr [PhD Art and Media, June 2020]. Internal examination.
    • Anaylsis of the Ludic Dream State through Artistic Practice: A Technoetic Approach by Pamela Payne [PhD Art and Media, June 2020]. Charing examination.
    • Vibrating Existence: Early Cinema and Cognitive Creativity by Guy Edmonds [PhD Transtechnology Research, May 2020]. Charing examination.
    • Doppelkopf Neuroarchitecture. A Wicked Threshold Space by Fiona Zisch [PhD Architectural Design, UCL, April 2020]. External examination.
    • The Liminal Event and Its Symbols: On the Interaction of Human and Technology by Blanka Domaglski [PhD Art and Media, January 2020]. Internal examination.
    • Space-Time Aesthetics in the Meta-Environment: A Cybersemiotic Analysis by Claudia Ferreira Jacques de Moraes Cardoso [PhD Art and Media, July 2018]. Internal examination.
    • University must be safe: Genealogy as a knowledge approach by Patrizia Moschella [PhD Art and Media, June 2018]. Chairing examination.
    • Post African Futures: Decoloniality and Actional Methodologies in Art and Cultural Practices in African Cultures of Technology by Tegan Bristow [PhD Art and Media, December 2017]. Chairing examination.
    • The (Not so) Intelligent House: User Perception in an Interactive Architectural Environment by Alexander Ćetković [PhD Art & Media, September 2017]. Internal examination.
    • In Search Of The Domonovus: Speculative Designs For The Computationally-Enhanced Domestic Environment by Stavros Didakis [PhD Art & Media, August 2016]. Chairing examination.
    • Theroia: The Veneration of Icons via the Technoetic Process by Katerina Karoussos [PhD Art & Media, June 2016]. Internal examination.
    • Museum and Technology: aspects of multimediality and multimodality in the cultural assets field by Simona Caraceni, Plymouth University [PhD Art & Media, September 2014]. Internal examination.

    Teaching interests

    I lead the Master of Architecture Dissertation, lead the History, Theory and Critical Context for Year 2 BA Architecture, and co-teach Design Studio for BA Architecture programme for Years 2 and 3. My teaching is research informed. I utilise experimentation in Architecture and Urban Design through the exploration of different tools of representation and mapping technologies. I focus on the design process and the creation of narratives through people's lived experiences through the process of co-design, communication as well as representation (storytelling and mapping narratives, memories and experiences). I emphasise on the integration of theory and practice in my teaching across the Masters and into the PhD.
    I lead the Doctoral Research Training programme across the across all Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy (SHAPE) disciplines within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business. 

    Additional information

    Conferences & Invited Talks


    • Co-organiser of Migrant Futurism: Of Other Worlds multi-stakeholder event as part of Refugee Week, 20th of June, University of Plymouth.
    • Chair and organiser of Between Place-Making and Place-Wounding: Art Practice in Conflict. A film screening of The Soil and the Sea and a conversation between Sana Murrani and Daniele Rugo, Arts/Health Research event, 30th of April, Jill Craigie Cinema, University of Plymouth.


    • Invited panellist at the Black Atlantic event as part of Against Apartheid project, 22nd-23rd November 2023, curated by Radical Ecology Studio in collaboration with The Box, KARST and Devonport Market Hall, Plymouth.
    • Invited panellist at the Royal Geographical Society annual conference, 31st of August, London at the main RGS building, Home and migration: a conversation across geographies of place-making. Talk: Mapmaking as Homing
    • Invited speaker at the Make Maps, Not War: Cartography on the frontline series organised by the Livingmaps Network, 21st of June, Pushkin House, London. Talk: Seeking Refuge in the Folds of Maps.
    • Invited speaker and convener at the Generation Delta workshops (OfS funding), University of Plymouth, 27th and 29th of June. Talk: From Gen X to Gen Delta, with Love
    • Ruptured Domesticity Exhibition launch, hosted and funded by the LSE Middle East Centre and accompanied by a Public Talk on the opening night of the exhibition, 3rd of April to 12th of May 2023. https://soundcloud.com/lsemiddleeastcentre/ruptured-domesticity-exhibition-opening-reception-in-conversation-with-sana-murrani


    • Invited Panelist for the Eastside Projects Birmingham Conversation on Vulnerable Futures with Rajni Perera.
    • Invited Keynote speaker part of the Eila Campbell lecture series at the Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London.


    • Invited Speaker at Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, Border Criminologies, Conference title: Immigration Detention in Italy and Greece: Safeguarding Human Rights at Europe’s Southern Frontier. Talk: Mapping home in displacement after detention.


    • Speaker at Housing and the City at Nottingham University, Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) in collaboration with Routledge. Title of talk: “I map, therefore, I am”: Deep mapping and making home in displacement.
    • Invited speaker at Contemporary and Historic Archaeology in Theory Festival CHAT20. Made in Migration collaborative. 
    • Invited keynote speaker at Human Rights Festival, Oxford Brookes University (theme of resilience).


    • Invited speaker (and selected funded project) at the European Foundations Centre for Arts and Culture in their annual event, theme for this year is: “Cultural Welfare: what role arts play in the health and wellbeing of citizens?” which will take place in Turin, Italy on 21-22 November 2019. 
    • Invited speaker at the Global Health Café, University of Plymouth.
    • Invited keynote speaker at Oxford Brookes in the School of Architecture’s Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP).
    • Speaker at Bitesize Talks, the Arts Institute, Mariner: A Painted Ship Upon A Painted Ocean, The Levinsky Gallery. 


    • Invited speaker at the Sustainable Earth Institute Annual Conference, talk title: Displacement, Disaster and Destruction, University of Plymouth – UK, 28th – 29th June 2018.
    • Co-organiser and chair of Q&A for The Shroud Maker, a performance for Refugee Week 2018, play by Ahmed Masoud. Plymouth Barbican Theatre.
    • Speaker at the UK Alliance for Disaster Research Annual Conference, talk title: Displacement and emplacement of spatial heritage, hosted by the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol – UK, 27-28 March 2018.
    • Director of the Displacement Studies Research Network, launch event symposium: Human and Urban Displacement: From Crises to Creativity, title of talk: Rudimentary design, architecture, and urban integration: Getting out of context and moving from ‘for’ to ‘with’ the displaced, at the University of Plymouth’s Research Festival 2018, hosted by the Arts Institute, the Responsible Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Research Group within the Institute for Social, Political and Enterprise Research (iSPER), the Sustainable Earth Institute, and Research and Innovation. University of Plymouth – UK, 25-26 January 2018.


    • Co-Director and Chair of the DRHA 2017: Data Ache, The 21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts, hosted by the Arts Institute, University of Plymouth – UK 10-13 September 2017.
    • Speaker at the Off the Lip 2017: Cognitive Innovation Conference, led by CogNovo, University of Plymouth – UK 16-18 August 2017.


    • 12th AHRA Research Student Symposium, Syncretic Architectures: new approaches between theory & practice, School of Architecture, Design and Environment, University of Plymouth, Plymouth - UK 11-13 June 2015. Symposium chair, member of the internal reviewing panel, main organiser and mentor for PhD students.


    • COGTALK: An evening of talks organised for the Cognition Institute on the social and cultural construct of Architecture. An evening with artist Tim Knowles, academic and architect Dr. Sana Murrani and Dr. Mathew Emmett.


    • Panel discussion at ISEA2011 Istanbul: The Volatility and Stability of WorldMaking as Téchne, Inter Society of Electronic Arts (ISEA2011) conference in Istanbul, September 14th-21st 2011.  Workshop panellist.


    Media Appearances

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 1 - No Poverty
    • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
    • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
    • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
    • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

    Academic qualifications

    Alumna of the International School in Forced Migration, at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. I have also completed the Mapping Spatial Data and GIS training programme at University of Oxford that same year. , University of Oxford

    Award Date: 31 Jul 2021

    Other postgraduate qualification (e.g. PGCE, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma), Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, University of Plymouth, UK. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy [FHEA]., University of Plymouth

    Award Date: 11 Aug 2011

    13 Architecture, building and planning, Doctorate, Architectural Theory, School of Art & Media, The Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth. Thesis title: Unstable Territories of Representation: architectural experience and the behaviour of forms, spaces and the collective dynamic environment. Thesis abstract selected by the peer review panel of Leonardo ABstracts Service and published in Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA), Leonardo’s e-journal in 2011., University of Plymouth

    Award Date: 1 Feb 2011

    13 Architecture, building and planning, Other higher degree (e.g. Masters degree), MSc Architecture (Distinction), College of Engineering, University of Baghdad, Iraq. Thesis title: Architecture, Gene and Genetic Systems. Theorising Baghdad’s urban morphology and growth in an old part of the city., University of Baghdad

    Award Date: 1 Jul 2003

    13 Architecture, building and planning, First Degree, BSc (Hons) Architecture, College of Engineering, University of Baghdad, Iraq. Finalist project selected by a panel of Arab architects and academics to represent Baghdad School of Architecture for the Second Arab Architectural Fair for Graduation Projects held in the Institute of Fine Arts at Lebanon University, Beirut, Lebanon 2000. Project title: Let’s Bridge the Gap: an urban utopia [work + live + play] in a highly congested site across the river Tigris in Baghdad., University of Baghdad

    Award Date: 3 Jul 2000

    Research Interests

    • Critical Spatial Practice
    • Space and Race
    • Placemaking
    • Migration and Refugee Studies
    • Spatial Justice
    • Critical Geography
    • Creative Deep Mapping
    • Interdisciplinary Methodologies
    • Research Practice
    • Applied Research
    • Creative Participatory Research


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