I am Professor of Sociology at, and Director of Graduate Studies (Research) for, the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR).
My main teaching interests are in the areas of the body in culture and society, in sociological theory, and in the sociology of religion. PhD students are currently studying with me in areas concerned with the theory and analysis of embodiment and what I refer to as body pedagogics.
My 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. My best known book is probably The Body and Social Theory (Sage Press, Theory, Culture & Society series, 1993) which has been translated widely (including into Arabic) with the third edition being published in September 2012.
Other books include: Schooling for Work in Capitalist Britain (Falmer / 1989); The TVEI Story: Policy, Practice and Preparation for the Workforce (Joint author and editor with R. Dale et al. Open University Press, 1990); Re-forming the Body: Religion, Community, Modernity (Sage / TCS, 1997) (with Philip A. Mellor); The Sociological Ambition (Sage / TCS, 2001) (with Philip A. Mellor); The Body in Culture, Technology and Society (Sage / TCS, 2005); Changing Bodies. Habit, Crisis and Creativity (Sage / TCS, 2008); Embodying Sociology (Editor, Blackwells / The Sociological Review Monograph Series, 2007); and Sociology of the Sacred: Religion, Embodiment and Social Change (Sage / TCS, 2014, with P.A. Mellor). I am also author of the Oxford University Press VSI entitled The Body (January 2016).
My 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. It is entitled Uncovering Social Life. Critical Perspectives from Sociology (with P.A. Mellor), is published by Routledge, and is designed to be both a novel contribution to the discipline and a resource for use with year 2 and 3 undergraduates.
I joined SSPSSR in 2007 after spending a couple of decades on the south coast of England at the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth and, before that, a rather briefer period of time at what was then called Oxford Polytechnic.
I 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.
Room E235, Cornwallis East
University of Kent
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Since the late 1980s my 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 project.
Firstly, it has 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, I have 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, my 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.
- I have recently completed a book for the Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction Series entitled The Body.
- Sociology for the New era. I am working on a book on the significance of sociology for understanding our contemporary era characterised as it is by dynamic change and chronic uncertainty. The book is coauthored with Philip A. Mellor, University of Leeds, and deals with such issues as arbitrage, counter-terrorism, new digital meaning, and artificial intelligence.
- Body Pedagogics - I am currently involved with colleagues from Sweden and the USA in a joint project that draws in part on my writings and interest in body pedagogics. The project "Teaching and Learning Practical Embodied Knowledge" (2014-2017) is funded by the Swedish research council (VR). Sweden has a long tradition of research into practical knowledge and 'tacit knowledge'. A rapidly growing field within international educational research is 'body pedagogics' that gathers leading researchers in sociology, psychology and pedagogy interested in the embodiment of knowledge. The purpose of this project is to investigate 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.
The core project team is: Ass. Professor of Ethics David O. Kronlid, Uppsala University (Project leader) Professor of Curriculum Studies Leif Östman, Uppsala University Dr. Joacim Andersson, Uppsala University PhD stud Hanna Hofverberg, Uppsala University PhD stud, vacant, Uppsala University Professor of Sociology, SSPSSR, Chris Shilling, University of Kent Professor of Philosophy of education, Jim Garisson, Virginia Tech.
I have 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.
I welcome PhD applications in the following areas:
- The Body (all areas - including sacrifice, pain, eroticism) Religion and Social Theory Classical Sociology
- Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes (the work of Norbert Elias).
If you have a proposal and wish to study at the University of Kent, please email me to discuss further.
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I am the Director of Post Graduate Studies (Research), and I convene and teach the core Sociology MA course SO867 Foundations of Sociology.
I also convene and teach the year long undergraduate module SO676 Cultures of Embodiment, and the Semester long module SO736 Sociology of Religion I also supervise students studying SO679 3rd Year Dissertation Module, and contribute to other courses.back to top
- I am editor of the journal Sociology of Education Abstracts.
- I am on the editorial boards/international advisory boards of Body & Society; Sociology of Sport Journal, and Sport, Ethics and Society.
A Think Kent video 2016
Professor Shilling (2010)