I am a Professor in Sociology and Director of Learning and Teaching at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.
My research interests are wide ranging - spanning the sociology of work and its historiography, work identity and meaning; deindustrialisation; visual approaches and methods; corporate photography; working class studies; the sociology of nostalgia and mass-observation and in particular the work of Humphrey Jennings. The focus of my research includes the UK, EU, North America and China. I am currently the President of The Working Class Studies Association.
I am a founding member and co-convenor of the BSA Work, Employment and Economic Life Study Group (WEEL).
My work has featured on radio (UK, USA and Australia) in print media and on television including BBC’s The One Show.
I joined the University of Kent in 2007 as a Reader in Sociology, and promoted to Professor in 2011. During my career I have held a Lectureship in Sociology at the University of Nottingham and been a Research Associate at the Universities of Manchester and Durham. Prior to arriving at Kent I was Senior Research Fellow and Institute Research Manager at the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.
I started my working life as a signalman on the London Underground. In 1988, I left London Transport to go to Ruskin College in Oxford where I completed a Diploma in Social Studies. I studied for my BA (Hons) History and Sociology and PhD at Durham University. I also hold a PGCAP from the University of Nottingham. In 2010 I was elected as an Academician in the Academy of Social Science.
Room E136, Cornwallis East
University of Kent
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF
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My research interests are wide ranging - spanning the sociology of work and its historiography, work identity and meaning; deindustrialisation; visual approaches and methods; corporate photography; working class studies; the sociology of nostalgia and mass-observation and in particular the work of Humphrey Jennings. The focus of my research includes the UK, EU, North America and China.
The uniting themes underlying my work concern ideas of identity, representation and culture. I am fascinated by the idea of the cultural study of work, in particular how and in what ways work has meaning for those who do it and those who observe it.
Currently I am involved in a range of projects. My major focus at the moment is my research on the former Guinness brewery at Park Royal West London which closed in 2005 after seventy years of production. This study combines interviews with workers and a wide variety of photographic material generated as part of the project, as well as from the company archives. A range of the contemporary images of the site before closure can be seen here.
In 2009 I won a British Academy grant to extend this study and I am writing a range of papers and a book on the brewery entitled Imagining Work in the Twentieth Century: Guinness and the Transformation of Employment, which will be published by Oxford University Press. I am also working on a book with James Rhodes on Deindustrialisation.
The Watermark Project
Over the last year or so I have been working with Dover Arts Development (DAD) and film maker Marianne Kapfer on Watermark. This is a film about and which memorialises the history of Buckland paper mill which closed on 30 June 2000, when the then owners, Arjo Wiggins, announced the transfer of production from Dover to Scotland. I carried out some of the interviews for the film and trained some of the other members of the team in oral history techniques.
Living and Working on Sheppey: Past, present and future
This project explores the recent history and changes in working lives in Sheppey in the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st through oral reminiscence with older people and documenting how young people imagine their futures.
It is supported by HEFCE knowledge transfer fund, South East Coastal Communities (£85,806). I am working in collaboration with Dawn Lyon (PI) Peter Hatton and Clive Arundel, University of Kent; Graham Crow, University of Southampton; community group, ‘Remember Bluetown’; and artists group, TEA; with the late Ray Pahl as project consultant.
During the course of my career I have carried out studies in a variety of industries and work settings, including railways, brewing, NHS, banking, teaching, construction and engineering.
I have been developing visual aspects of my work for more than a decade now. I have collaborated with a number of artists and photographers or various projects and have used and written about a variety of visual approaches and techniques. My work combines contemporary and archive material and explores what the visual adds to our sociological imagination.
In 2008, I completed a large project funded by the ESRC under the ‘Identities and Social Action' Programme - ‘Does Work Still Shape Social Identities and Action?'. This three-year study aimed to understand the nature of attachment to work in the contemporary workplace as well as historically. It involved interviews with workers from the teaching, banking and railway sectors across four different generations.
I have worked in collaboration with a number of photographers including Chris Clunn, David McCairley and Stuart Whipps. I hope to broaden this type of collaboration in the future.
Other projects, many of which I continue to develop
- British Academy ‘Work organisation and the representation of labour in corporate photography’ Principal applicant £3,678, 2009.
- HEFC SECC ‘Sheppey Restudy’ £84,000, 2009-2010 Co-applicant (Dr Dawn Lyon PI).
- ESRC ‘Does Work Still Shape Social Identities and Action?', ESRC ‘Identities and Social Action' Programme, Principal applicant £179,000, 2005 -2008. RES-148-25-0038.
- ‘Guinness was good for us', Diageo/Guinness, Principal applicant, £15,000, 2005.
- ESF HE ‘Age Discrimination against older men', Principal applicant £187,000, 2003.
- ESRC Seminar Series funding competition, ‘Spaces of Working Class Life', £14,000 Co-applicant 2003.
- Youngstown State University, Centre for Working Class Studies Research Fellowship $2,000 (USD) 2003.
- ESRC/MRC Innovative Health Technologies Programme, ‘NHS Direct: Patient Empowerment or Dependency?', £165,000 Co-applicant, 2001. L218252022.
- ‘Social Change in British Coalfields', Department of Sociology, University of Manchester / International Centre for Labour Studies 1997-1999. ESRC project, Research Associate, with Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson.
- ‘The relationship between Skilled and Unskilled Workers: Social Processes in Two Industries', Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Durham 1995-1996. ESRC project, Research Associate with Ian Roberts and Richard Brown.
I actively welcome potential PhD students to work with me in the areas of work and employment; nostalgia; visual methods and approaches; oral history; industrial change; deindustrialisation; the history of British sociology; working class studies. If you have a proposal in one of these areas and want to study at the University of Kent, please email me to discuss further.back to top
I teach on and/or convene the following modules:
- SO668 The Sociology of Work
- SO602 Social Research Methods
- SO336/7 1st Year Undergraduate modules in Sociology
- SO866 Worlds of Work
- SO817 Qualitative Methods (sessions on ‘Oral History’ and ‘Visual Methods’)
I am currently supervising four PHD students: Sara Baigent (Work identity in the UK Fire Service), Emma Pleasant (Working Class Identity), Sophie Rowland (Industrial Illness in the Kent Coalfield) & Luke Shoveller (Regeneration of the Kent Coalfield).back to top
I have held awards from the ESRC, MRC, British Academy and ESF.
I have been very actively involved in the British Sociological Association (BSA). I was elected to the Executive Committee of the BSA in 2001 and re-elected in 2003. I was the chair of the Publications Committee, which manages the Association's journals Work Employment & Society and Sociology, until 2004. I was on the editorial committee of the BSA's Network newsletter for four years from 1998 and Work, Employment and Society from 2002-2004. I was one of the judges for the 2004 BSA Philip Abrams Book Prize. I was a member of the editorial board of The Sociological Review from 2011-2014.
I am currently the editor of Sociology Compass Work and Organisation section. In 2009 I guest edited a special issue of Sociology ‘Re-thinking sociologies of work: Past present and future’ with Susan Halford, University of Southampton. And in 2013 I guest edited a special issue of International Labour and Working Class History.
I am a founding member and co-convenor of the BSA Work, Employment and Economic Life Study Group (WEEL) and of the Working Class Studies Association. I have also taken a lead in setting up Re-Working Kent, a cross faculty network of scholars at the University of Kent interested in work issues. I am also a member of:
- British Sociological Association
- Academy of Social Sciences
- The Working-Class Studies Association
- ESRC Virtual College
I held a fellowship at the Center for Working Class Studies, Youngstown State University in Ohio USA in 2003.
I have acted as a referee for a number of sociological and interdisciplinary journals in the USA, UK and EU.
I have acted as an external examiner at undergraduate level the University of Kent (2005-2006), University of Newcastle (2007- 2009) and Sheffield University (2008-2011).
I have acted as external examiner for postgraduate work at the Universities of York, Warwick, Salford, Anglia Ruskin, Newcastle, Sheffield Hallam, Essex and LSE.
I have worked as an external assessor Academy of Finland, Research Council for Culture and Society, and The Irish Research Council.
Conference and papers
I have given plenary presentations at conferences in Germany, USA, UK, Hungary, France and Ireland. Over the past few years I have given papers based on my work at York, Glasgow, City University London, Warwick, University of East London, Exeter, Manchester, Essex, Southampton, Newcastle, Georgetown in Washington DC, Cornell and Dublin.
about time and motion studies in the workplace
BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed Programme on Smokestack Nostalgia
BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed Programme on Railway Work Identity
I also regularly blog at Working-Class Perspectives