Dr Naomi Wells

Contact details

Dr Naomi Wells
BA Spanish and Italian (Leeds 2007), MA by Research (Leeds 2009), PhD (Leeds 2013), PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (University of London 2020)
Senior Lecturer in Italian and Spanish with Digital Humanities/Acting Director of the Digital Humanities Research Hub/Associate Director of the Doctoral Centre
Institute of Languages Cultures and Societies
School of Advanced Study University of London Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 7862 8766
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Culture, Digital resources, Language and Literature (Italian), Language and Literature (Spanish)
Research keywords:
Digital Humanities, Multilingualism, Transnationalism, Ethnography, Cultures of Migration and Mobility, Language Ideologies and Policies
Europe, South America
Summary of research interests and expertise:

My current research focuses on the internet and social media, particularly in relation to online multilingualism, and contemporary and archived web content produced by and for migrant communities. My research draws on a range of methods and approaches such as digital discourse analysis and digital ethnography, and sits at the intersection of fields including digital humanities, applied and sociolinguistics, and translation and cultural studies. While my primary focus and expertise is in relation to Spanish- and Italian-speaking communities and contexts, I have a broader interest in cross-languages digital research and am joint editor of the Digital Modern Languages section of Modern Languages Open. Previous research focused on migration, multilingualism, language policy and linguistic minorities in Spanish- and Italian-speaking contexts, and I have conducted fieldwork in Spain, Italy, Chile, and the UK. I am interested in supervising research in the areas of: social media and internet research, (online) multilingualism, cultures of migration and diaspora studies, Hispanic and Italian Studies, minority and regional languages, (digital) discourse analysis and (digital) ethnography.

I am Co-Director of the Doctoral Centre at the School of Advanced Study, which involves oversight of our research student provision and our national humanities research training programme. I also co-ordinate the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies' training programme, and personally deliver a range of training in digital and qualitative research methods, covering subjects such as interviews, fieldwork, ethnography, and online and digital culture research.

Spoken Written
French Intermediate Intermediate
Spanish Fluent Fluent
Italian Fluent Fluent
Other: Beginner's Arabic; Beginner's Catalan
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
03-Nov-2022 Social Media, Research, and the Digital Humanities


In James O'Sullivan, ed. The Bloomsbury Handbook to the Digital Humanities. Bloomsbury Handbooks. Bloomsbury, pp. 189-197.

25-Oct-2022 Representing the transnational neighbourhood online


In: Stephan Ehrig, Britta Jung and Gad Schaffer, eds. Exploring the transnational neighbourhood: Integration, community, co-habitation. Leuven University Press, pp. 115-136. 

16-Aug-2022 Translation as Culture in the Age of the Machine


Wasafiri, 37(3), 77-80

13-May-2022 Communities


In Jennifer Burns and Derek Duncan, eds. Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook, Liverpool University Press, pp. 49-58.

17-Dec-2021 Introduction: Digital Modern Languages Launch Issue

Journal articles

Spence, P and Wells, N 2021 Introduction: Digital Modern Languages Launch Issue. Modern Languages Open, 2021(1): 17 pp. 1–4.

01-Jul-2021 Exploring Online Diasporas: London’s French and Latin American Communities in the UK Web Archive


With S. Huc-Hepher. ‘Exploring online diasporas: London’s French and Latin American communities in the UK Web Archive’. In: Daniel Gomes, Elena Demidova, Jane Winters and Thomas Risse, eds. The past web: Exploring web archives. Springer, pp. 189-201.

01-Dec-2020 Porteña identity and Italianità: Language, materiality and transcultural memory in Valparaíso’s Italian community


In Charles Burdett, Loredana Polezzi and Barbara Spadaro, eds. Transcultural Italies: Mobility, memory and translation. Liverpool University Press.

20-Sep-2020 Language and transgenerational identity in Valparaíso’s Italian community: Methodological and theoretical reflections


In Clare Mar-Molinero, ed. Researching language in superdiverse urban contexts: Exploring methodological and theoretical concepts, Multilingual Matters, pp.131-158.

17-Jul-2020 Transnational flows and translanguaging repertoires: Exploring multilingualism and migration in contemporary Italy


In Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi, eds. Transnational Italian Studies, Liverpool University Press, pp. 87-106.

11-Nov-2018 Translanguaging and Collaborative Creative Practices: Communication and Performance in an Intercultural Theatre Group


In Gerardo Mazzaferro, ed. Translanguaging as Everyday Practice, Springer. 

01-Apr-2016 The Territorial Principle: Language Rights and Linguistic Minorities in Spain and Italy


In Gill Valentine and Ulrike Vieten, eds. Cartographies of Difference: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Living with Difference. New Visions of the Cosmopolitan Series. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 157-82.

01-Jan-2012 Multilinguismo nello stato-nazione: lingua e identità sarda all’interno dello stato italiano (1992-2010)


 In Silvia Contarini, Margherita Marras and Giuliana Pias, eds. L’identità sarda del XXI secolo: tra globale, locale e postcoloniale. Nuoro: Il Maestrale, pp. 155-70.

24-Oct-2011 The Linguistic Capital of Contested Languages: The Centre-Left and Regional Languages in Asturias and the Veneto, 1998-2008

Journal articles

Language Problems and Language Planning, 32(2) (2011), 117-38

Publications available on SAS-space:

Date Details
Jul-2018 State recognition for ‘contested languages’: a comparative study of Sardinian and Asturian, 1992–2010


While the idea of a named language as a separate and discrete identity is a political and social construct, in the cases of Sardinian and Asturian doubts over their respective ‘languageness’ have real material consequences, particularly in relation to language policy decisions at the state level. The Asturian example highlights how its lack of official status means that it is either ignored or subjected to repeated challenges to its status as a language variety deserving of recognition and support, reflecting how ‘official language’ in the Spanish context is often understood in practice as synonymous with the theoretically broader category of ‘language’. In contrast, the recent state recognition of Sardinian speakers as a linguistic minority in Italy (Law 482/1999) illustrates how legal recognition served to overcome existing obstacles to the implementation of regional language policy measures. At the same time, the limited subsequent effects of this Law, particularly in the sphere of education, are a reminder of the shortcomings of top-down policies which fail to engage with the local language practices and attitudes of the communities of speakers recognized. The contrastive focus of this article thus acknowledges the continued material consequences of top-down language classification, while highlighting its inadequacies as a language policy mechanism which reinforces artificial distinctions between speech varieties and speakers deserving of recognition.

Jan-2019 Ethnography and Modern Languages


While rarely explicitly recognized in our disciplinary frameworks, the openness and curiosity on which Modern Languages in the UK is founded are, in many ways, ethnographic impulses. Ethnographic theories and practices can be transformative in relation to the undergraduate curriculum, providing an unparalleled model for experiential and holistic approaches to language and cultural learning. As a form of emplaced and embodied knowledge production, ethnography promotes greater reflexivity on our geographical and historical locations as researchers, and on the languages and cultures through which we engage. An ethnographic sensitivity encourages an openness to less hierarchical and hegemonic forms of knowledge, particularly when consciously seeking to invert the traditional colonial ethnographic project and envision instead more participatory and collaborative models of engagement. Modern Languages scholars are at the same time ideally placed to challenge a monolingual mindset and an insensitivity to language-related questions in existing ethnographic research located in cognate disciplines. For Modern Languages to embrace ethnography with credibility, we propose a series of recommendations to mobilize these new research and professional agendas.

Jan-2020 Emplaced and embodied encounters: methodological reflections on transcultural research in contexts of Italian migration


This article explores the practical, ethical, and epistemological issues which arise when carrying out and sharing research in contexts of Italian migration, highlighting how greater reflexivity on our own geographic and historical location as researchers can productively inform and shape our understanding of sites of contact, exchange and confrontation in relation to contemporary Italy. Specifically, we write as researchers informed by ethnographic theories and practices, and who through our research have engaged in emplaced and embodied cultural encounters in sites which are identifiable as both transcultural and Italian. Drawing on vignettes from research in Italy and the UK, the article highlights some of the particular contradictions, opportunities and responsibilities generated by our respective positions. We address how our positionings as white, English and female scholars located within nationally-defined Italian Studies structures have raised pertinent questions of power, privilege and voice, as we place our own biographies and bodies, themselves shaped by specific colonial, national and local histories, into critical dialogue with those on and with whom we research. Through a discussion of these ‘irresolvable tensions’ of our research, we seek to practically engage with the broader imperative of finding new ways of studying and writing culture.

Nov-2022 Social Media, Research, and the Digital Humanities


Social media research is often associated with the fields of (new) media and communication studies, which have to a large extent laid the theoretical and methodological foundations for such research. Although recent years have seen an increasing interest in the role of social media in relation to Digital Humanities (DH) research, there remains an urgent need for the humanities as a whole to respond to the undeniable importance of social media in relation to contemporary cultural forms and practices. Building on earlier efforts to explore the intersections between media studies and DH, this essay aims to articulate what (digital) humanists bring to the study of social media and how social media research connects with more established approaches within DH. In doing so, it emphasises how expansive definitions of DH research in relation to both our methods and objects of study can further the field’s potential to make a vital contribution to wider understandings of the digital in contemporary society.

Additional Publications

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:


Digital Diasporic Belonging: Middle Eastern and Latin American Communities in London as a Case Study Institute of Languages Cultures and Societies
Project period: 01-Mar-2020 - 31-Dec-2021

Research interests: Communities, Classes, Races

Linguistic landscapes of Amman and London Institute of Languages Cultures and Societies
Project period: 01-Mar-2020 - 31-Dec-2021

Research interests: Communities, Classes, Races, Literatures in a modern language

Linguistic landscapes of Amman and London

British Academy Knowledge Frontiers seed funding award, £3950

Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community

 Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2017-2020

Digital Diasporic Belonging

British Academy Knowledge Frontiers seed funding award, £3800

Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, 2014-2016

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 28-Sep-2020
Archiving Social Media: a Comparative Study of the Practices, Obstacles, and Opportunities Related to the Development of Social Media Archives

Beatrice Cannelli, Digital Humanities Research Hub (funded by the AHRC London Arts and Humanities Partnership)

Available for doctoral supervision: Yes

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
Member of the University of London's Academic Board
Member of the AHRC Peer Review College
Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI)
Society for Latin America Studies (SLAS)
European Association of Digital Humanities (EADH)
International Association for the Study of Spanish in Society (SIS-EES)
Society for Italian Studies (SIS)


Name Type Activity Start date End date
Digital Modern Languages Events and publications
Relevant Events

Other editing/publishing activities:

Date Details
2019 Digital Modern Languages Section on Modern Languages Open

Inaugural Section Editor (with Paul Spence) for the Digital Modern Languages Section on the Modern Languages Open peer-reviewed Open Access platform (Liverpool University Press).


Associate Editor 

Transnational Modern Languages

Series Editor for Transnational Modern Languages book series with Liverpool University Press

Consultancy & Media
Available for consultancy:
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