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Dr Eva Nieto McAvoy

Profile summary

  • Research Associate
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • Sociology
  • eva.nieto-mcavoy

Professional biography

Eva Nieto McAvoy is an associated researcher for the ‘The Cultural Value Project: Cultural Relations in Societies in Transition’. She holds a PhD in Iberian and Latin American Studies (Birkbeck, University of London, 2017). She has been a visiting research fellow at the Department of Hispanic Studies at Brown University (USA) and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin (USA).

Research interests

My main field of research is Spanish cultural studies with a focus on the politics of culture and cultural relations. My interdisciplinary research is broadly framed by an interest in the historical configurations of exile culture and politics in contact with intellectual, political and social networks in the host state, mainly within institutional settings. I am interested in the challenges and opportunities afforded by cultural institutions at the intersection of the national and the transnational such as the BBC World Service, International PEN and the British Council. My work looks at how actors negotiate their position within these institutions and intellectual networks; at the dynamics between knowledge and power in these contexts; at discourses of difference and sameness; at cultural brokerage, translation and cosmopolitanism; and at how concepts such as rupture and continuity operate in contexts of war, migration and exile. While my primary focus has been the Spanish Civil War exiles during the Second World War and Cold War, my research expands comparatively and historically to encompass contemporary structures of cultural brokerage, for example in the cultural relations work of the British Council in Egypt and Ukraine.

My PhD thesis (Birkbeck, University of London) looked at the intersection of Spanish Civil War Exile and the diasporic contact zone in London in the 1940s-50s. It did so through the life and work of Arturo Barea, a Spanish Republican in exile in Great Britain since the end of the Spanish Civil War and the advent of Franco’s dictatorial regime in 1939.

I am currently working on transforming my dissertation into a monograph that will follow Barea’s exile as the narrative thread helping me to explore the transnational intellectual configuration of exiles in the immediate post-WW2 period. Barea’s ideological transformation in contact with British affairs and leftist intellectuals and through his collaboration with the BBC’ global outreach effort during the war and beyond points to the importance after 1945 of the Cold War as the international framework against which (Spanish) intellectuals such as Barea had to define their politics. This becomes particularly tangible in the connections that these intellectuals established with transnational cultural enterprises – such as PEN or the Congress for Cultural Freedom – founded (and funded) with the central aim of disseminating values of freedom and democracy. This allows for an interpretation of Spanish Republican Exile culture which challenges its traditional readings within Spanish historiography.

My work on the intersection of cultural relations and power has taken me to collaborative research on audiences of soft power and the digital turn like “The Culture Value of Shakespeare Lives 2016” project at the Open University, contributing to articles published in Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies (2015) and The Routledge Handbook of Soft Power (2016).


My publications include (full list in publications tab):

Gillespie, Marie and Eva Nieto McAvoy “The BBC’s Corporate Cosmopolitanism: The Diasporic Voice between Empire and Cold War”, in Cosmopolitanism in Conflict: Imperial Encounters from the Seven Years' War to the Cold War, ed. by Dina Gusejnova (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 179-209.

Gillespie, Marie and Eva Nieto McAvoy, “Digital Networks and Transformations in the International News Ecology: A Critique of Agent-centred Approaches to Soft Power”, in Routledge Handbook on Soft Power, ed. by Naren Chitty, Li Ji, Gary Rawnsley and Craig Hayden (Routledge, 2016), pp. 203-218.

“‘A Spaniard Discovers England’: Arturo Barea and the BBC Latin American Service”, Wasafiri, 26, n. 4 (December 2011), pp. 9-12.


Impact and engagement

The Cultural Value Project

The Open University has partnered with the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin to work on The Cultural Value Project. It is a joint research project commissioned by the British Council and the Goethe-Institut that aims to explore the different features of the UK and Germany’s approaches to cultural relations.  

The Cultural Value Project will build a better understanding of the nature and value of such activities in terms of their ability to make a difference - in particular to supporting stability and prosperity in societies going through substantial change. 

Findings from the literature review have been published by the British Council. The full report can be found here. It draws on a detailed investigation of the existing academic literature in German and English on cultural relations, soft power, and related concepts.

A Spaniard in Oxfordshire: the archive of Arturo and Ilsa Barea

As part of my research, I have catalogued Arturo and his Austrian wife Ilsa’s archive for its deposit at the Bodleian Libraries (2018). This work will contribute to making an important repository of Spanish Civil War exile in Britain available to researches. I have curated several exhibitions with the material, including 'A Spaniard in Oxfordshire: Arturo and Ilsa Barea's papers come to the Bodleian'. 


Soft power and its audiences: Tweeting the Olympics from London 2012 to Sochi 2014 (2015-05)
Burchell, Kenzie; O’ Loughlin, Ben; Gillespie, Marie and Nieto McAvoy, Eva
Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 12(1) (pp. 413-437)

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