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Professor Birchall is the author of Radical Secrecy: The Ends of Transparency in Datafied America, Shareveillance: The Dangers of Openly Sharing and Covertly Collecting Data, and Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip. She is the co-author of Conspiracy Theories in the Time of Covid-19 .

Her research is concerned with contested knowledges, the politics of visibilities, surveillance and digital culture. Professor Birchall recently worked on an AHRC-funded research grant on Covid-19 conspiracy theories (2020-1), is the Co-I on a 3-year AHRC-funded project on what difference the internet has made to conspiracy theories (2021-4), and is leading a 3-year CHANSE funded European wide project called Researching Europe, Digitalisation, and Conspiracy Theories (2022-5).

She was part of a 5-year EU-COST funded research network on Conspiracy Theories as well as an ESRC-funded series of research seminars on privacy issues entitled ‘Debating and Assessing Transparency Arrangements - Privacy, Security, Surveillance, Trust’. 

Research Interests and PhD Supervision

  • Secrecy and transparency
  • Conspiracy theories, disinformation and contested knowledge
  • Popular culture
  • Political discourse
  • Cultural studies and cultural theory
  • Visual culture
  • Digital culture and datafication

Professor Birchall is currently supervising PhDs on a wide variety of topics including material secrecies in Early Modern Literature, Obama era representations of torture in film and television, and raced subjectivities in contemporary American television. She welcomes applications to study with her on any of the research interests outlined above.

For more details, please see her full research profile.

Selected publications


Professor Birchall teaches modules on popular culture and cultural theory at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Expertise and Public Engagement

As her research engages with topics that are timely and of general interest, Professor Birchall is invited to speak at public venues and galleries. Past venues include the Photographers’ Gallery (to coincide with its exhibition on conspiracy images), Chatham House (for a debate on fake news), and the Design Museum. She is regularly interviewed by the media (such as The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC, Wired, Deutsche Welle) and has written articles for newspapers and magazines: for example, on gossip for Tank Magazine; on contested photographic evidence for Photoworks; and on secrecy in a post-Snowden environment for The European. She also worked on a podcast series about conspiracy theories for The Conversation, and was interviewed for a Radio 4 series on the history of secrecy.

Professor Birchall serves on the editorial boards of a number of journals including Cultural Studies, Media Theory, New Formations and Secrecy and Society, as well as a Routledge book series on conspiracy theories and the Open Humanities Press.