In my work as a sociologist I am interested in how gender, sexuality, subjectivity and intimate life are changing, and in the role that social movements and collective action play in bringing about social, cultural and political change. I am also concerned with the question of how and why gender, sexuality, subjectivity and intimate life don’t change – with individual and collective resistance to change, and how we so often unconsciously resist change and sabotage what might be good and fruitful in our lives.
My early work was about the women’s and anti-nuclear movements of the 1980s, with a particular focus on the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. In recent years I have undertaken a number of projects that have explored the politics and practices of intimacy and personal life in the UK and across Europe (Bulgaria, Norway, Portugal). I have paid particular attention to the experiences of those living outside conventional couples and families – single people, people in living-apart-together relationships, lesbians and gay men, and those living in shared housing – and I have been interested in the role of friendship and lateral networks of care and support in their lives. Running through this research has also been a concern with the experiences of members of marginalized and racialized groups, first and second generation migrants and diasporic communities.
Through this work I have contributed to debates about care, citizenship and the changing meanings of “family”, and to understandings of the difference that social movements make in the world. Engaging with sociological theories of individualisation, with feminism, queer theory and psychoanalysis, I have been developing a psychosocioanalytic approach to the complex relational dynamics and psychic and intersubjective experience of contemporary intimate life. I am particularly interested in the role that law, policy and culture play in the normative construction of personal life, in producing intimate citizenship, and in the challenges that social movements and everyday practices of living, loving and desire pose to normative forms of intimacy and sexuality. I have been employing intensive biographical narrative and psychoanalytically informed methods, as well as carrying out large scale survey research, and comparative and cross-national studies that address issues of societal change. Hence my work ranges from microscopic single-person case studies to macro-level analyses of intimate citizenship regimes and their transformation over time.
- CAVA – The ESRC Research Group for the Study of Care, Values and the Future of Welfare – funded by the ESRC (1999-2005)
- FEMCIT – Gendered Citizenship in Multicultural Europe: the impact of contemporary women’s movements – funded by EU Framework 6 (2007-2012)
- Living Apart Together: a multi-method analysis – funded by the ESRC (2011- 2013)
- Prospection – supported by the Royal College of Art, Arts Council England & NW Cambridge Public Art Programme (2015-2040)
- Sociability, Sexuality, Self: a multi-sited, longitudinal psychosocial study – funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2016-2017)
- The Politics, Practice and Provision of the Talking Therapies since the 1960s: a scoping study – funded by The Wellcome Trust (2017-18)