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Culture, Transformation and Subjectivity Research

Culture, Transformation and Subjectivity
The Culture, Transformation and Subjectivity research theme is a thriving centre for interdisciplinary research which brings together several groupings from the fields of anthropology, psychology, sociology, education, social philosophy, cultural studies, science and technology studies, feminism and political theory.

Key areas of research

  • Employment and labour
  • Medicine and science studies
  • New social movements and local communities
  • Sexuality and childhood
  • Education
  • Arts and cultural industries
  • Migration and mobility

Researchers within this theme investigate the creation of identities and subjectivities within their cultural and material settings and address their political and social implications. There is a strong interest in research which uses ethnography, psycho-social techniques, phenomenology and socio-cultural qualitative methods in dialogue with post-structuralism, feminist and queer theory, theories of affect, and dialogic and discursive methods.

A particular strength of the theme is the focus on class, gender and sexuality, and their intersections with ethnicity, migration and childhood. In addition other core interests include research on medicine and knowledge politics, future and risk, the transformation of work and globalisation, marginal communities and regeneration, new political formations and social movements.

Research Groups and Networks

Making sense of sustainability by promoting environmental futures dialogue: an arts and social sciences collaboration 

Subjectivity and Psychosocial Research Group

Social Class, Culture and Subjectivity Research Cluster

Family, Identities and Gender (FIG) research network

The Subjectivity and Psychosocial Research Group

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Culture, Imagination & Practice (CIP). Engaging with social science, social philosophy, cultural studies, science and technology studies, psychosocial research and feminist theory, CIP addresses the political and cultural resonance of new social formations and social movements. The group investigates cultural, social and material practices as ‘world-making’ processes in the shaping of relations, and their consequences for ecology, geopolitics and social justice. CiP also provides and umbrella for the Medicine, Science and Culture Research Interest Group (MeSC) and the SOCSI Social Theory Forum.

Ethnography, Culture and Interpretive Analysis Logo

Ethnography, Culture and Interpretive Analysis. A number of theme members are involved with the development and practice of ethnographic and/or qualitative methods, and interpretive analysis. The activities of the group focus on issues around ethnography — as practice and product — and cultural analysis concerned with the interpretive understanding of meaning, symbols and language. The research group members come from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds including sociology, anthropology, psychology, education, social work, social policy and cultural studies. There is a strong tradition of ethnographic and interpretive work within the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, and this group provides a forum for sustaining and developing this work. This groups is also involved with the Art, Craft and Performance Research Network that is a collaboration between group members and the Exeter University based Sociology of the Arts Group

Young Sexualities Research Network

The SOCSI based Young Sexualities Research Network is a thriving interdisciplinary research network for academic researchers working in the area of childhood, youth, sexualities and gender. It brings together existing expertise, makes new connections possible, and acts as a hub of knowledge and information. Live twitter feeds have been produced for recent ESRC seminar series on the sexualisation of culture  and policy related events. The YSRN is now the official secretariat for the Welsh Government cross-party group: Childhood, Sexuality-Sexualisation and Equalities.

Members of the theme are also involved with the Sexualities and Gender Research Group and Childhood Research Group.

Prestigious Research Fellowships

Leverhulme Trust Logo

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, Professor Valerie Walkerdine. This prestigious fellowship runs for 3 years from October 2012. It is called Roots and Routes: a psychosocial approach to intergenerational transmission and development. The fellowship explores concerns about these topics and uses 4 innovative methods to undertake a secondary analysis of longitudinal data on a group of working and middle class girls/women born in 1974/5. The methods of analysis use work from psychoanalysts Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere, Christopher Bollas and Felix Guattari, as well as considering the work of Pierre Bourdieu.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Dr Rachel Hurdley. Rethinking Openness, Space and Organisation is an ethnographic study of a university campus and aims to question underlying assumptions driving the architectural transformation of workplaces.  The principal purpose is to inform policy, practice and theory at a critical turning point in organisational cultures, working practices and architecture. Design of 21st century buildings is frequently driven by a vision of 'space evolution', where architectural 'openness' transforms interpersonal behaviour and organisational culture. Yet no rigorous, comparative evidence supports this costly, often problematic vision. Also, the presumption that ‘openness’ is a universal good, while privacy and separation are detrimental and old-fashioned, requires empirical scrutiny.  A year-long study in four differently-designed university campus buildings, based on observation, interviews and documentary research will provide a firm foundation for future design. It builds on her recent project, The Power of Corridors.

Research Projects

Current research projects include:

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Homing in: Sensing, sense-making and sustainable place-making: an arts & social sciences collaborative network 
The purpose of this collaborative, cross disciplinary network combining the arts and humanities with the social sciences, is to develop creative and imaginative research strategies and methods for studying experiences of, and sense-making about, environmental risks, emotions about future uncertainty, and the transformative changes that are needed to respond to environmental risk and future uncertainty in the C21. A substantive focus of the inquiries is on homing: i.e. spatially and temporally dynamic ways of “being at home” in view of its possible role in promoting the kinds of narratives of care, attachment and security that provide people and communities with a sense of ecological knowing, along with the kinds of action-enabling connections people can make linking place and identity together at different spatial and temporal scales. Network events and activities are collaborative and participatory featuring a series of presentations and performances by artists and contributions from environmental thinkers about their work in inclusive World Café style discussions. Dissemination of outcomes will involve developing a policy briefing, building upon our engagement with provocative ideas and questions such as whether artists are committed to relinquishing notions of aesthetic autonomy, and can social scientists engage with the imaginative and affective potentiality of artworks to promote the quest for different ecological and environmental futures? Through our collaborative activities is it possible to provide insightful strategies opening out ways of thinking about sustainability practice and sustainable place-making?

Ageing and Biology Logo

ESRC, New Dynamics of Ageing Programme. Professor Joanna Latimer with M. Bagley (PI, Chemistry), D. Kipling & T. Davies (Medicine). June 2009 – 2012.  (£300K ). An interdisciplinary collaboration between biogerontologists, chemists and social scientists at Cardiff University. The social science element of this work is scoping the science of ageing across the UK and the US, including expert interviews and site visits. Funding for this has been extended by the ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics and the Cardiff University International Travel Fund – including networking with The European Network of Ageing Studies (ENAS), the Institute of Ageing, University of California, San Francisco and the Social Justice Group at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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The Cardiff University Ageing, Science and Older People Network (CASciOPE). Chair, Professor Joanna Latimer with David Kipling, Medicine. This network supports the University’s strategic priority for interdisciplinary collaboration and public engagement, and builds on Cardiff’s established international reputation for work across the humanities, neuropsychology, social geography, public health, medicine, genetics, health studies, the biosciences and social sciences. The network involves 15 schools and includes research groups and centres , such as CITER, & ARC.  CASCIOPE’s official launch funded by the University Research Committee Events Fund took place on 30th September 2010 at a multi-disciplinary event organized in Celebration of the UN’s Older People’s Day, including a poster exhibition to showcase research on ageing at Cardiff in which 15 Schools participated and the reading of a commissioned poem by the National Poet for Wales, Gillian Clarke.

Energy Biographies Logo

Energy Biographies. “Energy biographies: Understanding the dynamics of energy use for demand reduction” is a Cardiff University based project led by Professor Karen Henwood. It brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers and is co-hosted by the Understanding Risk Group. The project is part of the UK wide “energy and communities” joint venture funded by two research councils (ESRC & EPSRC, 2010-2015).  The energy biographies study will create the empirical and conceptual space for making visible people’s everyday energy use, how their energy practices are maintained, and their ways of interacting with demand reduction interventions at the local community level. The project recognises that achieving significant reductions in energy consumption will not be easy for individuals or communities as we are locked into energy intensive lifestyles and unsustainable systems of energy practice by habitual, routinely expected ways of modern living. Hence the project will be seeking innovative ways  to enable people to engage with transformations towards more sustainable futures.


KLiC Project – Young People and Place. Principal Investigator: Prof Emma Renold. This project is concerned with exploring young people’s understanding and use of local public and private spaces in a community experiencing regeneration and the implications for lifestyle choice and policy concerns.  It is important to understand how young people are positioned in relation to the changes that are taking place within their locality, and how they feel about other places in the area as well.

KLiC Project – Local Knowledge, Spatial Practice and Urban Patrol. Principal Investigator: Dr Tom Hall. Researcher: Dr Robin Smith. The project is a study of the street-level management of problem populations in public space, taking the city-centre and abutting residential streets as a field site.  The perverse – persistent and contrary – connection between public space and social exclusion, between (spatial) centre and (social) margin, provides the backdrop to this research.

Archive projects

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Timescapes. Professor Karen Henwood has played an important role in the Timescapes research programme. Becoming a father for the first time can be a life-changing experience. The Men as Fathers project seeks to find out just how life-changing it is, by drawing on and extending a previous Economic and Social Research Council-funded project (ESRC) carried out from 1999 to 2001 (referred to as our heritage sample). The extended project explores ways in which men come to terms with becoming a first-time father and any implications this has for their identities, relationships and lives over time. Timescapes 2010 Conference, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.

Theme convenor

Professor Karen Henwood 
+44 (0)29 2087 4678