Professor Iain Wilkinson’s research involves him working across a range of fields that include sociological theory, the sociological of health and illness, the sociology of humanitarianism, the sociology of the body and emotions, the sociology of risk and anxiety, the sociology of mass media and the history of sociology.
Professor Wilkinson’s work concerns a range of issues relating to problems of social suffering. He explores how individuals are socially disposed to interpret and respond to problems of human suffering. He attends to occasions where encounters with the problem of suffering are involved in changing people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. This involves him investigating the cultural history of modern humanitarianism and humanitarian social movements. Here he is concerned to understand the social and cultural conditions that give rise to humanitarian moral feelings as well as the role played by the politics of compassion in public life. He is also attentive to the impact of humanitarian culture, politics and practice upon terms of sociological thought and methods of social investigation.
Professor Wilkinson’s research attempts to document and explain how people’s experience of ‘the problem of suffering’ changes through history and between societies. He is interested in the potential for the incidence human suffering to operate as force of social and cultural change. This draws a focus to occasions where encounters with the problem of suffering are involved in changing people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. It also concerns an attempt to understand how cultural perceptions of human suffering are implicated within the actions taken in response to the needs of others. He is concerned to understand the social and cultural conditions that give rise to humanitarian moral feelings as well as role played by the cultural politics of compassion in public life. Professor Wilkinson is also tracing the impact of humanitarianism upon the culture of sociology. These interests are explored in various publications addressed to problems of ‘social suffering’ and in studies that explore the potential for documents of human suffering to be fashioned as a distinct form of social inquiry.
At undergraduate level, Professor Wilkinson teaches modules on social theory.
He is programme convenor for the taught Sociology MA and convenes a module on social suffering.
Professor Wilkinson is particularly keen to supervise research students with interests relating to any of his research interests.
In recent years, Professor Wilkinson has supervised projects on Norbert Elias’ theory of the civilizing process, the social practice of compassion in everyday life, the sociology of utopia in relation to intergenerational developments in leftist politics, the social experience of isolation in remote island communities, the impact of experiences of volunteering on young people’s notions of citizenship, new forms of on-line humanitarian activism, and the impact of chronic pain conditions on the experience of academic identity.