Hanna Akalu

Hanna Akalu

Hanna is a full-time PhD candidate at GCU London. Prior to starting her PhD she studied at the University of West London, receiving a 1st class BSc (Hons) degree in psychology.

During the course of her degree Hanna volunteered as a researcher for the Samaritans, collaborating on a small research project, which focused on factors contributing to  women's suicides rates. In 2018/19 Hanna became Research Student Lead for GCU London, working to represent the views of PhD students and enhance the research student experience.

In 2019, Hanna was awarded the prestigious Magnusson Fund Award to lead an innovative community-based project and tackle issues of gendered hate crime and social inequalities. Between 2019 and 2020, Hanna worked closely with community leaders and marginalized women in local community settings to develop a collaborative visual arts-based intervention and promote social change. Hanna has presented her doctoral research at both national and international conferences and has won several awards for her research work and community activism.

Alongside her PhD studies, Hanna teaches to the MSc Introduction to Research Methods module at GCU and is an Associate Lecturer on the BSc (Hons) Psychology of Fashion course at the University of the Arts London (London College of Fashion).


  • "Exploring and understanding the meaning and significance of hijab: Identity, fashion and 'well-being' in the age of Islamophobia" (Working title)
  • Supervisors: Dr Bipasha Ahmed, Dr Ruth Marciniak and Dr Ima Jackson

Specialisms & Interests

  • Concepts of social inclusion and exclusion
  • Gender and racial inequalities (with focus on marginalised minority groups)
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • The Dark Triad and Empathy Impairments
  • 'Reclaiming Our Narrative' project facilitate

Current Research

My current research uses a range of qualitative and visual methods to explore gendered hate crime, competing representations, and coping mechanisms and amongst Muslim women, with a focus on how these impact identity construction and wellbeing.


  • Akalu, H. ‘Empowering British Muslim Women through Participatory Action Research’. Action Research Network International Conference, Montreal, Canada, June, 2019.
  • Akalu, H. 'Adopting Participatory Action Research to Challenge Structural Inequalities'. Action Research Network International Conference, Montreal , Canada, June 2019.
  • Akalu, H., Ahmed, B., Marciniak, R., Khalifa, D. 'How do 'Hijabista's and 'Hijabophobia' co-exist?'. BPS Psychology of Women and Equalities Annual Conference, UK, July 2018.
  • Akalu, H., Ahmed, B., Marciniak, R., Khalifa, D. 'Exploring the Meanings of Hijab: Identity, Fashion & Wellbeing, in an age of Islamophobia'. BPS Annual Conference, UK, May 2018.