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I am a social scientist with teaching and research interests in the roles of language and communication in social life, especially in relation to health and healthcare.  I studied English Language and Literature at the University of Manchester before completing an MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. My PhD research, entitled "Language and pain: private experience, cultural significance and linguistic relativity", funded by the ESRC, was also undertaken at the University of Cambridge in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. 


I have held posts as a Research Fellow at the Universities of Sussex and Keele.  At Keele I worked in the School of Social Relations and in the Primary Care Research Centre as well as teaching for the Medical School.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2005 where I have taught on health and society, research methods, and have conducted postgraduate workshops as well as supervising Masters and Doctoral research students.

I have been the Postgraduate Research Director for the School of Health in Social Science, and am an experienced PhD supervisor.  I have also taught on research ethics for the university and the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

I have worked on the editorial board of Sociological Review as well as conducting peer review for other journals.

Earlier in my career I worked for a number of years in academic publishing.

In recent years my main activity has been the development of the new undergraduate programme MA Health, Science and Society, and I was the founding Programme Director for its initial years from 2014-2016.  As part of this programme, I introduced an innovative course involving combining regular study with practical and situated learning outside the academy through related voluntary work.  I have recently undertaken (with Veronica Adamson) a small research project on students’ experiences of studying in practical contexts beyond the university.

Currently, I continue to teach on the MA programme and am also the Programme Director for the PhD programme in Health in Social Science.

Research interests

I am interested in how people express their pain experiences, the part expression plays in the cultural construction of pain, and how these expressions are understood by others, particularly healthcare professionals.

This interest has a further focus on medically-unexplained pain, in conditions that strain the boundary between the medical and the social, and how these may be researched. I am completing a project on the so-called ‘minor disorders’ in desired pregnancy as instances of (sometimes extremely) painful experience that elicits limited interest on the part of the healthcare system.  This work is the focus of my current writing projects.

A second strand of research interest is in how children as receivers of cultural information express their understandings of justice and the morality of punishment; and how their language discloses significant features of current social sensibilities towards punishment. Recently, I have become interested in how emotion plays a key role in talk about wrong-doing and is negotiated in discussions of attitudes and behaviours.

Both these areas share the expression of complex issues in language, and relate to my doctoral interest in linguistic relativity.


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