Portrait of Professor Chris Shilling

Professor Chris Shilling

Professor of Sociology
Director of Graduate Studies (Research)


Professor Chris Shilling’s main teaching interests are in the areas of the body in culture and society, in sociological theory, and in the sociology of religion. His written work ranges across these and related areas, though is held together by a foundational concern with the significance of embodiment for the study of society and humanity. Issues relating to embodiment have become increasingly important across the social sciences and humanities and have stimulated a major reconstruction of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary work, as the limitations of linguistic turns have become apparent and as scholars interrogate, once again, issues pertaining to materiality. The generative, receptive, permeable and performative characteristics and capacities of embodied subjects and inter-corporeal relations are key to these concerns. His best known book is probably ‘The Body and Social Theory’, which has been translated widely (including into Arabic). 

Professor Shilling’s latest monograph focuses on how key sociological approaches and problems enable us to explore contemporary events. It includes chapters on social order, social change, Bodies and Health, Sex, Gender and Sexuality, Work, Finance, New Social Media and the Internet, Technology and AI, Religion and Governance. Entitled ‘Uncovering Social Life. Critical Perspectives from Sociology’ (with P.A. Mellor), it is designed to be both a novel contribution to the discipline and a resource for use with year 2 and 3 undergraduates. 

Prior to joining the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research in 2007, Professor Shilling worked at the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth and Oxford Polytechnic. He studied for a BA (Hons) in Politics and an MA in Social and Political Thought from the University of Sussex, and trained as a secondary school teacher in the social sciences before earning my PhD at the Open University. 

Research interests

Since the late 1980s, Professor Shilling’s work has revolved around a concern to embody sociology and social/cultural theory, and to understand the social and cultural implications of what it is to be an embodied being. There have been three main strands to this. 

Firstly, it involved a critique of Cartesian influenced, 'disembodied' conceptions of sociology, which marginalise the corporeal conditions of social action and the bodily consequences of social structures, and an excavation of those traditions that can help us re-embody our conceptions of humanity and society. 

Secondly, he contributed towards the establishment of an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary field of ‘body studies’, which informs debates on corporality that have become increasingly prominent across the social sciences and humanities. 

Thirdly, his aim has been to develop original theoretical approaches, which enable us to understand more adequately the significance of embodiment to the world in which we live through the interrogation of a wide range of social, cultural, technological and religious issues. 

Professor Shilling recently completed a book entitled ‘The Body’ and is now working on a book with Philip A. Mellor, University of Leeds, on the significance of sociology for understanding our contemporary era, characterised as it is by dynamic change and chronic uncertainty. The book deals with such issues as arbitrage, counter-terrorism, new digital meaning, and artificial intelligence. 

Professor Shilling is involved with colleagues from Sweden and the USA on a  project, funded by the Swedish research council (VR), that draws on his writings and interest in body pedagogics. The project ‘Teaching and Learning Practical Embodied Knowledge’, investigates the learning of embodied knowledge in the practical school subjects of sloyd [craft] and physical education and health, with a specific focus on the learning content: what is learned when learning practical bodily knowledge and what kind of 'factors' influence the learning. 


At undergraduate level, Professor Shilling teaches modules on the cultures of embodiment and sociology of religion. 

At postgraduate level he teaches the foundations of sociology.


Professor Shilling has supervised to completion PhD students in a variety of areas, including Body Modification; Embodied Experience and Drugs; Sport, Motor Racing and the Civilizing Process; Gender and Organisation; News Media and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, The Body Pedagogics of Women’s Body Building; and ‘Deviant’ Bodies and Private Spaces; Tattooing and Collective Identities. Present students are working on theories and case-studies within the field of body studies. 

He welcomes PhD applications in the following areas: 

  • The Body (all areas - including sacrifice, pain, eroticism) Religion and Social Theory Classical Sociology 
  • Sport 
  • Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes (the work of Norbert Elias). 



Professor Shilling is Editor of the journal 'Sociology of Education Abstracts' and is on the editorial boards/international advisory boards of 'Body & Society', 'Sociology of Sport Journal' and 'Sport, Ethics and Society'

Videos (on YouTube)


Showing 50 of 84 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Shilling, C. (2018). Embodying Culture: Body Pedagogics, Situated Encounters and Empirical Research. Sociological Review [Online] 66:75-90. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038026117716630.
    Contemporary research into the field of body pedagogics has produced a growing number of studies concerned with the embodied character of cultural transmission, experience, reproduction and change. This paper advances this sociological development by reinterpreting recent writings on situated epistemic relations (SER) and practical epistemological analysis (PEA) as complementary, methodological, techniques that can enhance these investigations. After outlining existing explorations into the body pedagogics of occupational, sporting, religious, educational and other cultures, I demonstrate how the interlinked approaches to learning made possible by systematising SER and PEA can be developed into a new approach that increases the effectiveness with which the theoretical and empirical concerns of studies into embodied acculturation are harnessed.
  • Shilling, C. (2017). Body Pedagogics: Embodiment, Cognition and Cultural Transmission. Sociology [Online] 51:1205-1221. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038516641868.
    This paper contributes to the growing sociological concern with body pedagogics; an embodied approach to the transmission and acquisition of occupational, sporting, religious and other culturally structured practices. Focused upon the relationship between those social, technological and material means through which institutionalized cultures are transmitted, the experiences of those involved in this learning, and the embodied outcomes of this process, existing research highlights the significance of body work, practical techniques, and the senses to these pedagogic processes. What has yet to be explicated adequately, however, is the embodied importance of cognition to this incorporation of culture. In what follows, I address this lacuna by building on John Dewey’s writings in proposing an approach to body pedagogics sympathetic to the prioritization of physical experience but that recognizes the distinctive properties and capacities of thought and reflexivity in these processes.
  • Mellor, P. and Shilling, C. (2016). Arbitrage, Uncertainty and the New Ethos of Capitalism. The Sociological Review [Online] 65:21-36. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12416.
    This paper examines the arbitrageur as a figure who both embodies the new ethos of uncertainty central to ‘financialised’ capitalism, and exemplifies the issues of ethics and innovation raised by those who now personify what Weber called the ‘devotion to the calling of making money’. We begin by providing a brief background to financial ‘abstraction’ in the economy, and the issues of dissimulation with which this has been associated, before suggesting that engaging creatively with Weber’s writings can help us identify uncertainty as key to the character of contemporary financial decision-making. It is against this background that we analyse the arbitrageur as an ideal-type personality who embodies a newly abstract approach to capitalism. This approach is frequently portrayed as unethical, but we suggest it can be associated with an ethics of managing the unknown through an innovative commitment to overcoming limits that has consequences for human life in general.
  • Shilling, C. (2016). Embodiment, emozioni e fondamenti dell’ordine sociale: il perdurante contributo di Durkheim. Politica [Online]. Available at: http://www.rivistapolitica.eu/embodiment-emozioni-e-fondamenti-dellordine-sociale-il-perdurante-contributo-di-durkheim/.
  • Shilling, C. (2016). The rise of body studies and the embodiment of society: A review of the field. Horizons in Humanities and Social Sciences: An International Refereed Journal [Online] 2:1-14. Available at: http://journals.sfu.ca/hhss/index.php/hhss/article/view/39.
    During the last few decades there has been a pronounced
    ‘turn to the body’ within sociology and social thought. Exploring
    the background to and the parameters of this development, this
    paper explores how this focus on embodiment has been used to develop
    new perspectives within social and cultural analysis, and can be
    assessed as an essential means of avoiding the Cartesian bias within
    much Western thought. Revisiting sociology’s heritage, it then identifies
    important resources for this project within classical writings, before
    analyzing why the body has become such a contested phenomenon
    within social analysis and society. As developments in science,
    medicine and technology have made the body increasingly malleable,
    so too have they made it subject to debates and disagreements about
    what is normal, desirable and even sacred about the physical identities
    and capacities of embodied subjects.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2014). Reconceptualising sport as a sacred phenomenon. Sociology of Sport Journal [Online] 31:349-376. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ssj.2013-0034.
    Sociological studies of sport have established their subject matter as significant to a wide range of sociocultural concerns. Despite a broad consensus about its global importance, however, the reasons for the particular, even ‘extraordinary’, societal importance of sport today remain deeply contested. Most studies account for it by highlighting its entanglement within a range of secular phenomena including state building, rationalization, biopolitical regulation, and the ‘controlled-decontrolling’ of bodies and affects. Occupying a more marginal position within the discipline, others focus on the religious or quasi-religious characteristics of sport. Our paper suggests that neither of these positions, on their own, is best placed to capture the nature and implications of sport’s particular centrality to social life. Proposing a new theoretical approach to the subject that places competing conceptions of what we refer to as the ‘sporting sacred’ at the center of discussion, we outline, via a reconceptualization of the writings of two major classical theorists, Durkheim and Weber, a number of contrasting modalities through which sport is prized within contemporary society. These modalities, which embrace both secular and religious phenomena, can, we suggest, provide new insight into the divergent paths along which sports are being ‘pulled’ and steered in the modern era.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2014). Re-conceptualising the religious habitus: Reflexivity and embodied subjectivity in global modernity. Culture and Religion [Online] 15:275-297. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14755610.2014.942328.
    The notion of the religious habitus has become increasingly prominent in studies of religion. While this prominence reflects a debt to Bourdieu’s particular account of it, his association of the habitus with regularised dispositions providing supernatural legitimations for status inequalities has nonetheless been much criticised. What has not been addressed with regard to religion, however, is the degree to which the pervasiveness of reflexivity in global modernity fatally undermines habitual schemas as conceived by Bourdieu. Here, moving beyond Bourdieu and utilizing the recent writings of Latour, we seek to elucidate the on-going value of the notion of habitus for articulating the complex relations between culture and religion today by reconceptualising it as something reflexively re-made, or instaured, through the active cultivation of a particular mode of embodied subjectivity; a reconceptualization we develop with reference to Christian Pentecostalism and the Islamic piety movement.
  • Shilling, C. and Bunsell, T. (2014). From iron maiden to superwoman: The stochastic art of self-transformation and the deviant female sporting body. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health [Online] 6:478-798. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2159676X.2014.928897.
    This paper develops a theoretically grounded account of one extraordinary individual’s journey from female bodybuilder to Strongwoman. It is set against the challenges socially marginalised sportswomen confront in seeking to forge a coherent identity amidst the competing demands of the social, practical and embodied environments that invariably impinge upon such quests. Highlighting the complexities and ambiguities of the regimes to which Sarah and other ‘gender outlaws’ dedicate themselves, we begin by suggesting that these sporting vocations constitute stochastic arts; the practical indeterminacies of which are exacerbated by both the ultimate frailty of the physical body and the social inequalities women confront in pursuing such activities. Focusing upon Sarah’s life-narrative, we then explore within this framework the pleasures and problems she encountered when participating in and switching from bodybuilding to Strongwoman competitions, and identify what is at stake in this sporting route to self-transformation.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2014). For a Sociology of Deceit: Doubled Identities, Interested Actions and Situational Logics of Opportunity. Sociology [Online] 49:607-623. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038514546661.
    Deceit occupies a significant role in historical conceptualizations of social order, but dominant approaches to the subject are limited by the normative assumptions and conceptions of agency and structure on which they rest. This article suggests that renewed sociological engagement with deceit is overdue and can illuminate the ‘situational logics of opportunity’ within modernity (Archer, 2010). Focusing on the contemporary era, and building upon Simmel’s argument that individuals lead a ‘doubled existence’, within and outside social forms, we view deceit as neither a personal trait nor an effect of social structures. Instead, it emerges through, and assumes contrasting meanings as a consequence of, people’s interested and strategic engagements with the social world. Developing this theoretical analysis substantively, we then focus on several examples of how deceit is used to subvert or reaffirm boundaries between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ groups, including those emergent from sociology’s own ‘doubled existence’ relative to modern life.
  • Shilling, C. (2013). Afterword: Embodiment, Social Order, and the Classification of Humans as Waste. Societies [Online] 3:261-265. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/soc3030261.
    The rise of body studies has, since its development in the early 1980s, been characterized by a resilience and creativity that shows no signs of abating. There are various reasons for this success, but two are especially worthy of note. Socially informed studies of the materialities, capacities and connectedness of body subjects have maintained their capacity to advance disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary work on the subject into new agendas [1,2]. Additionally, emerging studies in the field continue to facilitate a sustained interrogation of those residual categories that have helped to define, but also restrict, the reach and ambition of sociology and related disciplines, and advance our understanding of social actions, social relationships and societies. Thus, in contrast to the traditional sociological concern with abstract ‘social facts’ that threatened, at times, to render redundant a focus on the physical constitution of those subject to them [3], sociologists of embodiment have explored the corporeal consequences of social structures, while also highlighting how the bodily components of agency and interaction were affected by, and became meaningful to people through, such factors as health, illness and dis/ability.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2013). ’Making things sacred’: Re-theorizing the nature and function of sacrifice in modernity. Journal of Classical Sociology [Online] 13:319-337. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468795X13480643.
    The sociological importance attributed to 'the sacred' has varied historically as theorists have sought to explain the relationship between religion and early capitalism, the rise of twentieth-century secularization processes, the profusion of nationalism in post-Soviet societies, and the recent global upsurge in religious movements. Paradoxically, however, sociology's concern with the social significance of the sacred has not been accompanied by commensurate interest in those contrasting and varied sacrificial processes implicated in creating the sacred. This paper suggests that this imbalance limits our understanding of the relationship between the sacred, religion and society, and makes it difficult to assess the contemporary relevance of classical writings on the subject. Specifically, it hinders our knowledge of why certain phenomena become sacred, and in so doing limits our appreciation of how societies develop cultural priorities, of how they stimulate individuals to become certain types of social subjects, and of the risks and opportunities that arise in milieux characterized by shrinking or expanding prospects for creating sacred phenomena. This is because sacrifice (sacer facere), 'the making of sacred things', constitutes a crucial mediator of these phenomena; illuminating the nature and consequences of specific modalities of sacred rituals, actions and objects, and revealing much about their location within or dislocation from particular social milieux, identities and religions. Our argument progresses by viewing sacrifice as an example of what Mauss refers to as a 'total social fact', and by engaging with the writings of Bataille, Girard and Simmel; three figures to have made important, sociologically underexplored, contributions to the subject. In so doing, we aim to lay the foundations for a sociology of the contemporary nature and function of sacrifice, suggesting it should be a core issue for twenty-first-century sociology. © The Author(s) 2013.
  • Shilling, C. (2011). Afterword: Body work and the sociological tradition. Sociology of Health & Illness [Online] 33:336-340. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01309.x.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2011). Retheorising Emile Durkheim on society and religion: embodiment, intoxication and collective life. Sociological Review [Online] 59:17-41. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2010.01990.x.
    In this paper we argue that Emile Durkheim's sociology contains within it a theory of society and religion as a form of embodied intoxication that is implicit in his writings on effervescent assemblies but has not yet been explicated or developed fully by subsequent commentators. This holds that for social or religious collectivities to exist, the bodies of individuals must be both marked by insignia, customs and techniques that facilitate the possibility of culturally normative patterns of recognition, interaction and action, while also being excited, enthused or intoxicated sufficiently to be inhabited as collective rather than egoistic beings. Our paper begins by investigating the central features of Durkheim's theory – including his interest in the ritual steering of these processes – as developed most fully in his last major study, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. We then develop our own analysis of Durkheim's concern that modernity has stimulated a rise in ‘abnormal’ forms of embodied intoxication that fail to attach individuals to the wider societies in which they live, and demonstrate the utility of our analytical framework by employing it to assess the recent resurgence of charismatic Christian revivalism.

    Shortlisted for The Sociological Review, 2011, Article of the Year Prize.
  • Mellor, P. and Shilling, C. (2011). Body pedagogics and the religious habitus: A new direction for thesociological study of religion. Religion [Online] 40:27-38. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.religion.2009.07.001.
    Sociological theory has been central to the modern study of religion. In the face of the global resurgence of religious phenomena, however, and the challenge this has presented for the assumptions that characterised much twentieth century sociology, there is a need for new theoretical models to make sense of religion today. This paper contributes to this task by building upon Durkheim's suggestion that religious social facts become fully efficacious only when internalised, and Luhmann's interest in sociological manifestations of ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’, in order to analyse religion as a thoroughly embodied phenomenon that can be understood through the study of religious body pedagogics. Having outlined the key steps involved in the analysis of body pedagogics, we illustrate the utility of this realist framework through an ideal-typical representation of Christianity and Islam and reflect, via a consideration of several objections that could be directed towards it, upon how this approach can deal with the complexities and contingencies of contemporary religion. In conclusion, it is suggested that this systematic body pedagogic focus on embodied commonalities and differences across diverse religious contexts offers a valuable basis upon which to engage critically with religion today.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2010). Saved from pain or saved through pain? Modernity, instrumentalization and the religious use of pain as a body technique. European Journal of Social Theory [Online] 13:521-537. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1368431010382763.
    Contemporary sociology mirrors Western society in its general aversion and sensitivity to pain, and in its view of pain as an unproductive threat to cultures and identities. This highlights the deconstructive capacities of pain, and marginalizes collectively authorized practices that embrace it as constitutive of cultural meanings and social relationships. After exploring the particularity of this Western orientation to pain - by situating it against processes of instrumentalization and medicalization, and within a broader context of other social developments conducive to a heightening of affect control - this article builds on Mauss's analysis of 'body techniques' in suggesting that the cultural, physiological and psychological dimensions of pain can be combined in various ways. In examining this point further, we then compare contrasting religious engagements with pain as a way of detailing how it can be positively productive of cultural meanings and identities, and conclude by using these comparisons to illuminate the relationship between the current Western approach to pain and the Christian traditions that shaped the West historically. © The Author(s) 2010.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2010). ‘Body pedagogics and the religious habitus: A new direction for the sociological study of religion’,. Religion [Online] 40:27-38. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.religion.2009.07.001.
    Sociological theory has been central to the modern study of religion. In the face of the global resurgence of religious phenomena, however, and the challenge this has presented for the assumptions that characterised much twentieth century sociology, there is a need for new theoretical models to make sense of religion today. This paper contributes to this task by building upon Durkheim's suggestion that religious social facts become fully efficacious only when internalised, and Luhmann's interest in sociological manifestations of 'transcendence' and 'immanence', in order to analyse religion as a thoroughly embodied phenomenon that can be understood through the study of religious body pedagogics. Having outlined the key steps involved in the analysis of body pedagogics, we illustrate the utility of this realist framework through an ideal-typical representation of Christianity and Islam and reflect, via a consideration of several objections that could be directed towards it, upon how this approach can deal with the complexities and contingencies of contemporary religion. In conclusion, it is suggested that this systematic body pedagogic focus on embodied commonalities and differences across diverse religious contexts offers a valuable basis upon which to engage critically with religion today.
  • Shilling, C. (2010). ’Exploring the society-body-school nexus: theoretical and methodology issues in the study of body pedagogics’. Sport, Education and Society [Online] 15:151-168. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13573321003683786.
    In this article I identify how developments in consumer culture, waged-work and health policy have informed our current interest in the body, before suggesting that Durkheim's and Mauss's methodological approach towards the external and internal dimensions of 'social facts' provides us with a valuable basis on which we can analyse the impact of these factors on those subject to them. Building on their interest in the corporeal internalization of societal trends, and the centrality of body techniques to the habitus, I then outline a new corporeal realist framework that can assist us in analysing the education of bodies. This focuses on the relationship that exists between the general forms of body pedagogics dominant within a society as a whole and the specific types of body pedagogies evident in curricula and schools. Recognizing these different terms as referring to distinctive phenomena helps us avoid the assumption that schools simply mirror society, highlights the importance of exploring the interactions between society and school, and sensitizes us to the need to investigate how social norms and policy initiatives are variously filtered, mediated and re-contextualised within the educational field.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2010). Sociology and the problem of eroticism. Sociology: the journal of the British Sociological Association [Online] 44:435-452. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038510362475.
    Sociology has traditionally been concerned with problems of social order and meaning, and with how modern societies confronted these challenges when religion was in apparent decline, yet classical sociologists struggled to reconcile within their analyses the (dis)ordering and meaningful potentialities of eroticism. This article examines how eroticism has been viewed as a source of life-affirming meanings and as personally and socially destructive. Utilizing the contrasting theories of Weber and Bataille, we explore sociology's ambivalence towards eroticism, and criticize contemporary sociological approaches to the subject, before turning to the writings of Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva for alternative models of the religiously informed eroticization of daily life. The perspectives these French theorists bring to the subject, and the issues that remain unresolved in their work, identify new lines of inquiry and re-emphasize the importance of building a sociology of eroticism that can address adequately its relationship to questions of order and meaning.
  • Shilling, C. and Bunsell, T. (2009). The female bodybuilder as a gender outlaw. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise [Online] 1:141-159. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19398440902909009.
    This paper is a sociological exploration of the female bodybuilder as a 'gender outlaw', a figure who is stigmatised not because she has broken a formal law, but because she has disregarded so flagrantly dominant understandings of what is aesthetically, kinaesthetically and phenomenologically acceptable within the gendered order of social interaction. Illustrating our argument with reference to a two-year ethnographic study of British female bodybuilders, we begin by explicating the contours of this deviance - associating it with multiple transgressions manifest in terms of choice, aesthetics, action/experience and consumption - and explore the costs accruing to these stigmatised women. In the second half of the paper, we attend to the motivations and experiences of female bodybuilders themselves in explaining why they remain engaged in an activity rendered perverse by dominant gendered norms. Exploring their commitment to an interaction order based upon muscle rather than gender, our conclusion suggests these women offend the most fundamental 'collective sentiments', possessing no authorised place in the cultural consciousness of society.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2007). ’Cultures of embodied experience: Technology, religion and body pedagogics’. Sociological Review [Online] 55:531-549. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2007.00721.x.
    Two trends have dominated recent sociological analyses of embodiment. There has, on the one hand, been a proliferation of analyses identifying bodies as the experiential vehicles through which we exist and interact in the world. On the other hand, this has been accompanied by a large growth in studies suggesting that technological advances have both increased our exposure to instrumental rationality and radically weakened the boundaries between humans and machines. Considered together, these trends raise an important question which has, however, been marginalised in the literature: if bodies are increasingly shaped and even constituted by the performative demands and invasive capacities of technology, what implications does this have for our lived experience of ourselves and our social and natural environment? In addressing this issue, our paper revisits Heidegger's discussion of the technological ‘enframing’ of humans and asks two questions. First, what have we lost experientially by being positioned as a ‘standing reserve’ for technologically driven demands for efficiency in contemporary society? Second, can the analysis of religious attempts to reframe human experience provide us with a perspective from outside this technological culture that enables us to appreciate the embodied experiences, dispositions and potentialities of humans in fresh ways? Our approach to these issues proceeds via a comparative study of the ‘body pedagogics’ of modern technological culture and two, very different, religious cultures.
  • Shilling, C. (2005). The rise of the body and the development of sociology. Sociology [Online] 39:761-767. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038505056034.
    Studies of embodiment have occupied an increasingly important role in sociology
    and across the social sciences and humanities since the 1980s. This ‘rise of the body’
    has led not only to the establishment of a vibrant interdisciplinary area of ‘body
    studies’, but has also prompted an ongoing reconstruction of disciplinary and subdisciplinary
    areas seeking to account more adequately for the embodied nature and
    consequences of their subject matter. It has also been responsible for a shift in mainstream
    social theory. A growing number of works concerned with performativity,
    structuration theory, nature, realism, feminism, and human creativity, for example,
    are illustrative of an increasingly widespread recognition that the embodied subject
    needs to be central to any comprehensive understanding of social life.


  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2017). Uncovering Social Life: Critical Perspectives from Sociology. [Online]. London, UK: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/9781138934153.
  • Shilling, C. (2016). The Body: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The human body is thought of conventionally as a biological entity, with its longevity, morbidity, size and even appearance determined by genetic factors immune to the influence of society or culture. Since the mid-1980s, however, there has been a rising awareness of how our bodies, and our perception of them, are influenced by the social, cultural and material contexts in which humans live.

    Drawing on studies of sex and gender, education, governance, the economy, and religion, Chris Shilling demonstrates how our physical being allows us to affect the material and virtual world around us, yet also enables governments to shape and direct our thoughts and actions. Revealing how social relationships, cultural images, and technological and medical advances shape our perceptions and awareness, he exposes the limitations of traditional Western traditions of thought that elevate the mind over the body as that which defines us as human. Dealing with issues ranging from cosmetic and transplant surgery, the performance of gendered identities, the commodification of bodies and body parts, and the violent consequences of competing conceptions of the body as sacred, Shilling provides a compelling account of why body matters present contemporary societies with a series of urgent and inescapable challenges.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2014). Sociology of the Sacred: Religion, Embodiment and Social Change. [Online]. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Available at: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/sociology-of-the-sacred/book240835.
    Drawing on classical and contemporary social theory, Sociology of the Sacred presents a bold and original account of how interactions between religious and secular forms of the sacred underpin major conflicts in the world today, and illuminate broader patterns of social and cultural change inherent to global modernity. It demonstrates: * How the bodily capacities help religions adapt to social change but also facilitate their internal transformation * That the 'sacred' includes a diverse range of phenomena, with variable implications for questions of social order and change * How proponents of a 'post-secular' age have failed to grasp the ways in which sacralization can advance secularization * Why the sociology of the sacred needs to be a key part of attempts to make sense of the nature and directionality of social change in global modernity today. This book is key reading for the sociology of religion, the body and modern culture.
  • Shilling, C. (2013). The Body and Social Theory (3rd Revised Edition). [Online]. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Available at: http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book235613?siteId=sage-us&prodTypes=Books&q=9780857025333&pageTitle=productsSearch.
    Unrivalled in its clarity and coverage, this sparkling new edition of Chris Shilling's classic text is a masterful account of the emergence and development of body matters in sociology and related disciplines. A timely, well reasoned response to current concerns and controversies across the globe, it provides chapter-by-chapter coverage of the major theories, approaches and studies conducted in the field. Each chapter has been revised and updated, with new discussions of 'actor-network theory', bodywork, pragmatism, the global resurgence of religious identities, 'new genetics', biological citizenship, neuroscience, and figurations of the living and dead. Packed full of critical analysis and relevant empirical studies the book engages with the major classical and contemporary theories within body studies including the: naturalistic, interactionist, constructionist, feminist, structuralist, phenomenological, and realist. Original, logical and indispensible this is a must-have title for students and researchers engaged with the study of the body.
  • Shilling, C. (2008). Changing Bodies: Habit, Crisis and Creativity. [Online]. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.: Sage Publications. Available at: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/id/Changing_Bodies/9781412908320.
    Where are we at with studies of Body & Society? What are the key accomplishments in the field? This book provides the clearest and most comprehensive account of work in this area to date. Based on a novel theory of action it surveys the terrain by arguing that human identity, social relationships and moral figurations develop as a result of people living in and seeking to reach beyond the limits of their bodily being. From this starting point the author undertakes a series of studies on sport, transgenderism, migration, illness, survival and belief which illuminate the relationship between bodily change and action. The book provides an unrivalled survey of theory and empirical research and explores the hitherto neglected tradition of American 'body studies'. Wide in scope, systematic and incisive the book represents a landmark addition to the field of studies in body and society.
  • Shilling, C. (2005). The Body in Culture, Technology and Society. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.: Sage Press.

Book section

  • Shilling, C. (2018). The Body. In: Core Concepts in Sociology. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Shilling, C. (2016). ‘Strukturierungstheorie’. In: Gugutzer, R., Klein, G. and Meuser, M. eds. Handbuch Körpersoziologie : Band 1. Springer VS, pp. 345-362.
  • Shilling, C. (2016). The Body and physical capital. In: Sociology of the Body: A Reader. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Mellor, P. and Shilling, C. (2016). Social Theory. In: Stausberg, M. and Engler, S. eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Study of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 235-256.
  • Shilling, C. (2015). Embodiment. In: Ritzer, G. ed. Encyclopedia of Sociology. Wiley Blackwell.
  • Shilling, C. (2013). ’Three Funerals, Two Weddings, Four Births and a Baptism’: On the Importance of Embodying Sociology. In: Smith, A. J. and Waddington, I. eds. Doing Real World Research in Sports Studies. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 69-73. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415505253/.
  • Shilling, C. (2012). Educating the Body: Physical Capital and the Production of Social Inequalities. In: Kirk, D. ed. Physical Education. Routledge. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415578059/.
  • Shilling, C. and Bunsell, T. (2011). The female body builder as a gender outlaw. In: Hobbs, D. ed. Ethnography in Context (Four-Volume Set). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Bunsell, T. and Shilling, C. (2011). Outside and Inside the Gym: Exploring the Identity of the Female Body Builder (Chapter 5). In: Locks, A. and Richardson, N. eds. Critical Readings in Bodybuilding. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415878524/.
  • Shilling, C. (2011). Afterword: Body work and the sociological tradition (Chapter 12). In: Wolkowitz, C., Cohen, R. L. and Nettleton, S. eds. Body Work in Health and Social Care: Critical Themes, New Agendas. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 162-166. Available at: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1444349872.html.
  • Mellor, P. and Shilling, C. (2010). The Religious Habitus: Embodiment, Religion, and Sociological Theory(Chapter 9). In: Turner, B. S. ed. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 201-220. Available at: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1405188529.html.
  • Shilling, C. and Mellor, P. (2010). Durkheim, morality and modernity: collective effervescence, homo duplex and the sources of moral action. In: Cotterrell, R. ed. Émile Durkheim: Justice, Morality and Politics. Ashgate Publishing Group. Available at: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&calcTitle=1&title_id=6783&edition_id=6970.
  • Shilling, C. (2010). The Undersocialised Conception of the Embodied Agent in Modern Sociology. In: O’Donnell, M. ed. Structure and Agency (Four-Volume Set). London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Available at: http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book233340?siteId=sage-us&prodTypes=any&q=9781848600317&pageTitle=productsSearch#tabview=toc.
  • Shilling, C. (2008). The challenge of embodying archaeology. In: Boric, D. and Robb, J. eds. Past Bodies: Body-Centered Research in Archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 145-151. Available at: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/past-bodies-39779.html.
  • Shilling, C. (2008). ‘Kultura, “Rola Chorego” I Konsumpicja Zdrowia’. In: Sztompka, P. and Boguni-Borowska, M. eds. Socjologia Codzienno?Ci. Warsaw: ZNAK.
  • Shilling, C. (2008). Foreword:Body pedagogics, society and schooling. In: Evans, J. S. O., Rich, E., Davies, B. and Allwood, R. eds. Education, Disordered Eating and Obesity Discourse: Fat Fabrications. London: Routledge, p. ix-xv. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415418959/.
  • Shilling, C. (2008). The body in sociology. In: Malacrida, C. and Low, J. eds. Sociology of the Body: A Reader. Toronto: Oxford University Press, Canada, pp. 7-13.
  • Shilling, C. (2007). Sociology and the body: Classical traditions and new agendas. In: Shilling, C. ed. Embodying Sociology: Retrospect, Progress and Prospects. Oxford: Blackwells, pp. 1-18.
  • Shilling, C. (2007). Body Modification. In: Microsoft Encarta 2007 (Standard Edition). Microsoft.
  • Shilling, C. (2006). Body. In: Scholte, J. A. and Robertson, R. eds. Encyclopedia of Globalization. New York: Routledge.
  • Shilling, C. (2005). Embodiment, emotions and the foundations of social order: Durkheim’s enduring contribution. In: Alexander, J. C. and Smith, P. eds. The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 211-238. Available at: http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/sociology/social-theory/cambridge-companion-durkheim?format=HB.

Edited book

  • Shilling, C. ed. (2007). Embodying Sociology: Retrospect, Progress and Prospects. Oxford: Blackwells.


  • Rees, M. (2015). Identity and Authenticity: A Figurational Exploration of Tattooing Practices in Twenty-First Century Britain.
    The body has become an increasingly important resource upon which individuals construct their self-identities. Whether it is through the clothes that we choose to wear, the hairstyles we adopt, or the size and shape of our bodies, consumer culture increasingly promotes the body as an entity of individual choice whose outward appearance reflects who we are on the inside. This thesis explores the relationship between the body and self-identity through an exploration of contemporary tattooing practices, and in so doing adds to the burgeoning body of work that has explored the relationship between the body and identity (i.e. Turner 1991; Giddens 1991; Shilling 2012), and the expanding corpus of literature that has explored tattooing (i.e. Sweetman 1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Atkinson 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2004; DeMello 2000; Pitts 2003; Sanders 2008).

    Data for this thesis was generated by conducting mixed-method ethnographic research in order to explore how individuals utilise tattooing as part of their individual body projects of self-identity. Adopting Norbert Elias’s figurational – or process – sociology I explore how and why tattooing has become an increasingly sought after and acceptable form of corporeal alteration that has moved from the social margins to occupy a place of heightened respectability, and why individuals choose tattooing over others form of body project available to them. I propose that a key reason for tattooing’s popularity in 21st century Britain is that is allows individuals to fulfil quests for authenticity that have become an increasingly central concern for contemporary citizens.

    Concurrently, this thesis also explores the relationship between researchers and their research settings by examining the insider/outsider status of social researchers, and exploring themes of involvement, detachment, and reflexivity. It argues that the ideal of totally objective social research proposed by Weber is not obtainable, nor should it be. Instead, researchers should take into account their own biography and how this impacts upon the research process and the dissemination of findings, in order to produce object-adequate knowledge.
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