Sociology of culture research
Explore our research in sociology of culture
Within our research, we adopt a broad conception of culture, which encompasses both culture in its restrictive sense as the 'popular' or 'cultured' arts, and in its broader sense as a way of life, in which the values and beliefs of particular groups of people are expressed in symbols, rituals, beliefs, practices, representations, objects and artefacts.
By researching culture, we're exploring the symbolic boundaries, identities, conflicts, and modes of being and belonging among dominant and dominated groups – from cosmopolitan global elites, to those experiencing deteriorating living conditions, and those who are on the move as part of the disjunctive global order.
Culture is inextricably linked to power and power relations and culture is a form of capital. We find that those in possession of this cultural capital are more likely to have a say in defining which culture or cultures are prestigious or otherwise – but through our work, we raise the possibility that things do not necessarily have to be as they are and our sociological thinking challenges the seeming fixity of existing social relations.
We're also probing the link between culture and power and confronting issues such as the inequalities between the dominant and the dominated, and considering the ideological function of culture in naturalising them.
We draw on cultural sociological traditions that consider culture to be an independent variable. This focuses on the role played by culture in providing a sense of meaning. This kind of sociology looks at the stories, songs, narratives and myths prevalent in various forms of 'high' and popular culture. Through these, we confront the difficult truths and challenges that we face as human beings. We have a strong tradition of innovative, theoretically-driven and empirical research in the sociology of culture, and our work does not shy away from questions of value, whether ethical, moral or aesthetic.
We also analyse the political economy of culture and cultural industries. We're attentive to the globalisation of culture, asymmetric power relations, the persistence of institutional, gendered and racialised inequalities and forms of violence. We're also attentive to the rise of consumer culture and its environmental consequences, and the ways in which culture is translated and reconfigured, adopted and reimagined, within and across borders.
Our sociology research covers the following topics
- Celebrity culture
- Class and culture
- Classical music
- Consumer culture and its environmental consequences
- Cultural globalisation
- Craft, DIY and career
- Embodiment and identity
- Evaluative judgements
- Food and society
- Higher Education
- Happiness and wellbeing
- Independent publishin
- Race, culture and representation
- Sociology of the middle classes
- Taste and aesthetics
- The cultural economy of sport
- Weddings: culture, economy and tastes
A variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods are deployed in research on the sociology of culture – from ethnography and semi-structured interviews to critical discourse analysis and the secondary analysis of quantitative and qualitative data.
Funders of our research include the British Academy, The Higher Education Funding Council, UKRI, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Economic and Social Research Council.
Our work is regularly published in leading academic journals within the field, including Cultural Sociology; Theory, Culture and Society; Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change; Gender, Place and Culture; Journal of Sociology; Journal of Consumer Culture; and The Sociological Review. Dr Simon Stewart is also Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change.
We've also presented our work at conferences held by the International Sociological Association, the European Sociological Association, and the British Sociological Association, and published research monographs with publishers such as Sage, Routledge, Blackwell, Cambridge University Press, the Open University Press, Palgrave Macmillan, and Ashgate.
We're examining the biographical and life history narratives of migrants in relation to their experiences of homelessness during the coronavirus crisis.