Personal profile

Research interests

I joined the University of Bath in 2015, having previously held lectureships at Royal Holloway, University of London and Queen’s University, Belfast. 

I am the author of four books and over 25 book chapters and articles in, amongst other journals, Sociology, British Journal of Criminology, Policy and PoliticsHealth, Risk, & Society, and Crime, Media Culture. My first monograph, Ribbon Culture: Charity, Compassion, and Public Awareness (2008/2010, Palgrave Macmillan) was awarded the 2009 British Sociological Association Philip Abram’s Memorial Prize for ‘Best first book in Sociology’. My most recent book -- a co-authored monograph, titled Detecting the Social: Order and Disorder in Post-1970s Detective Fiction -- was awarded the 2019 International Crime Fiction Association Prize for scholarly contribution to the field. 

My research interests range across the sociology of crime and justice and the sociology of health. What knits the various strands of my research together is an interest in how blame, responsibility, and accountability work. My research is concerned with two questions. How and why are certain social groups made to feel responsible for their personal safety and wellbeing? And how do late modern social institutions make themselves accessible and accountable to the public? In thinking about these matters my work is strongly influenced by Mary Douglas’ writing on blame and danger, as well as political philosophical writing on public participation in democratic processes.

 My current research falls into three categories:

  1. The place and role of the public in the courtroom, and in twenty-first century public policy more broadly. Much of my current and future work focuses on institutional transparency, courtroom broadcasting, virtual courts, appeal processes, and the management of public crisis in the soft legal realm. 
  2. The effects of the retrenchment of legal aid. As part of a long-term collaboration with Alex Newbury (University of Brighton) I am interested in tracing and assessing the impact of legal aid reform on litigants in person. Our recent book, Legal Aid in Crisis (2017, Policy Press), made the case for a new, holistic approach to legal aid. Alex and I are currently undertaking a British Academy-funded project, tracing the experiences of litigants in person.
  3. Gender and risk. I have a long-standing interest in how threats to women’s health and safety are culturally constructed, and have written about, amongst other things, sex education, cautionary tales in the media, the feminisation of breast cancer, and media depictions of sexual violence.

My research is frequently discussed in the media, and I have done interviews for Radio Four's 'Thinking Allowed' and 'Archive on 4' programmes, and (beyond the UK) for ABC, CBC, NPR, and Talk Radio Europe. My research has also been covered in articles in The Telegraph, The Atlantic, The LA Times, and the Australian Literary Review, amongst other publications. I have been interviewed for podcasts, written blogs, and spoken about my work at a crime writing festival.

I have undertaken a variety of academic leadership roles and at Bath have served as an Undergraduate Director of Studies (2016-2019), the department's Director of Teaching (2018-2020), and Head of Department (2021-2023). I have a keen interest in sector-wide developments in Higher Education, and am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I am a committed teacher, and have been awarded three University-wide teaching prizes, most recently (in 2023) the University of Bath's 'Leadership in Learning and Teaching' award. I have seen four PhD students through to completion, and am always keen to hear from prospective PhD candidates whose research interests intersect with mine. 

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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