Research

Over the last 30 years, I have undertaken research in Australia and the UK on various topics in the sociology of health and medicine, science and technology studies (especially in the field of the biosciences, biomedicine and biotechnologies), and gender studies. My book, The New Public Health: Health and Self in the Age of Risk (Sage, 1996) (co-written with Deborah Lupton) is considered seminal in the field of the sociology of public health and health promotion. I am also internationally known for my work on Foucault, health and medicine—the subject of a widely cited text published in 1997. My most recent books are Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) (Sole authored), and Stem Cell Tourism and the Political Economy of Hope (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) (with Megan Munsie, Claire Tanner, Casimir MacGregor and Jane Brophy). I am currently writing another book (sole authored), Digital Health and Technological Optimism: A Sociological Inquiry (Routledge), and co-editing a special issue ‘Patients’ use of digital media to connect with healthcare’ in Health in 2018.Hope in health book cover

I have undertaken research and can supervise students in the following areas:

  • Sociology of health and illness
  • Sociology of the body
  • Sociology of risk
  • Sociology of the biosciences, biotechnologies and bioethics
  • Sociology of the media
  • Contemporary social and political theory
  • The construction of sex/gender
  • Sociology of emotion
  • Sociology of mental health and wellbeing
  • Sociology of food
  • Sustainability and society

I have developed programs of research around the following areas:


Sociology of new and emerging technologies:
 Biobanks

Since the mid-1990s, I have undertaken a series of sociological research projects on genetics and medicine (including media portrayals of innovations), genomics and public health (including biobanks and genetic testing), nanotechnologies, stem cell treatments, and digital technologies. I am currently undertaking research in the field of digital health. This work has been supported by the ARC, ESRC, EPSRC, and Brocher Foundation. In 2017 I commenced work on two new ARC funded projects, both with overseas partner investigators: one focusing on patients’ use of digital media to access treatments (building on previous work on stem cell tourism); the other on testing in healthcare, focusing on Australia’s national cancer screening programs (breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer) and the routine use of tests in clinical practice.

Funded research:

2017-2019

Sole Chief Investigator: ‘A sociological study of patients’ use of digital media‘ (ARC Discovery Project). With Anderson, A. (Plymouth) (PI) and Caulfield, T. (Alberta) (PI) ($366,000)

Sole Chief Investigator: ‘How do expectations shape testing in healthcare: a sociological study’ (ARC Discovery Project). With Bowman, D. (Arizona) (PI) ($386,500)

2014-2017

Lead Chief Investigator: ‘A sociological analysis of the anti-ageing treatment market: the dynamics of expectations’ (ARC Discovery Project) (With Christine Parker, Law, Melbourne) (2014-2017) ($300,000)

2012-2015

Sole Chief Investigator: ‘High hopes, high risk?: a sociological study of stem cell tourism (ARC Discovery Project, plus private benefactor grant for a PhD ‘Science in Society’ Studentship). With Wainwright, S. (Brunel) (PI). ($239,000)

Co-investigator: A framework for assessing the social, economic and environmental impacts of new and emerging technologies (Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education). With Lowe, I (Lead CI) and Dodds, S. ($86,000)

Sociology of public health and health promotion: Health, Risk and Vulnerability

This is a field of long-standing interest, and includes a substantial body of work on health and risk. This work currently involves two major research projects: one focusing on childhood obesity discourse in Australia, and second on representations of food and family in popular magazines in Australia and the UK. Funded projects include:

Funded research:

2011-2012

Co-investigator: Improving Australia’s response to childhood obesity: Prevention education and its impact on mothers and families (ARC Discovery Project). With Fraser, S. (Lead CI), Maher, S. and Wright, J. ($90,000)

Co-investigator: Discursive Families Network  (Leverhulme Trust) With Marshall, D. (Lead PI), Hogg, M., Schneider, T., Davis, T. and Petersen, A.

Sociology of bioethics:

This work has resulted in a recently published sole-authored monograph: The Politics of Bioethics (Routledge, 2011), and sole-authored article, ‘From bioethics to a sociology of bio-knowleldge’, Social Science and Medicine (published online first Feb. 2013). This work provided the basis for a Plenary Address to the British Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Annual Conference in 2011.

Sociology of the body:The Body in Question cover image. pdf

This work has included the publication of a sole-authored monograph—The Body in Question: A Sociocultural Approach (Routledge, 2007)—and a series of articles published on representations of the body in scientific texts (e.g. medical anatomy) and other media; e.g. Body and Society. While in the UK, this work became the focus for the Live and Virtual Anatomy (LAVA) project, which explored portrayals of the body in contemporary anatomy.

Sociology of the emotions:Engendering Emotions book cover

This work has involved a series of studies on emotionality—including the sole-authored books, Engendering Emotions (Palgrave, 2004) (shortlisted for the BSA Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize) and Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism (Palgrave, 2015). The latter is one of the first to explore the impact of contemporary discourses of hope on health and healthcare.

Sociology of disability and injury rehabilitation: 

This work is novel in seeking to assess the social, community and individual impacts of compensable injury. It involves strong collaborations with scholars in the Faculty of Medicine, the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research, and organisations in the traffic accident and workplace injury compensation field.

Funded research:

2011-2014

Co-investigator: ‘Determining the individual, community and societal impacts of compensable injury’ (ARC Linkage Grant, involving partners—Transport Accident Commission, WorkSafe, Comcare). With Collie, A. (Lead CI), Vogel, A, Keleher, H, McClure, R., Ellis, N. ($298,000, plus partner contribution $250,000)