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I began my career in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford , and – frustrated with the narrow vision of humanity promoted by experimentalists - moved to Reading University in order to research sexuality from a social psychological perspective. I then worked for a couple of years each in Education (University of Leicester), Psychology (University of East London) and Nursing (University of Surrey), eventually settling for ten years in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University where I was heavily influenced by colleagues such as Jonathan Potter and Derek Edwards, who sparked my enthusiasm for discursive methods of analysis and for understanding cognition as a product of social interaction.
After a year-long visiting appointment at the University of California at Los Angles I returned to the UK to York where I have worked for more than 10 years. I have also held visiting appointments at the universities of British Columbia (Canada) and Auckland (New Zealand). I also regularly lecture, teach graduate and researcher training workshops and short courses and summer schools in the UK and internationally.
I am the Co-Director of the Centre for Chronic Disorders of Consciousness, a multi-disciplinary group of researchers exploring the cultural, ethical, legal, social and historical dimensions of the vegetative and the minimally conscious states. For more information see our webpage here: http://cdoc.org.uk
I currently have three main areas of research.
My most recent research explores family decision-making about patients with traumatic brain injuries. This is part of a larger project (a book co-authored with Jenny Kitzinger, Cardiff University ) on Coma, Consciousness and Culture: Medical Decision-Making in the 21st Century. We will explore media representations of coma, brain injury and brain imaging; the development of diagnostic categories of disordered consciousness (‘vegetative’, ‘minimally conscious’) and their relation to medical technology and evolving case law; the management of risk, hope and uncertainty for brain injured patients; notions of personhood and identity; and communication with people with disordered consciousness.
From my doctoral research on I have had a long-standing interest in sexuality and gender and I campaigned for, and was Inaugural Chair of, the British Psychological Society Sexuality section (as it is now called). With the support of Liberty (the national civil liberties association), my wife/civil partner, Sue Wilkinson, and I brought a High Court test case in 2005 seeking a statutory declaration of the validity of our Canadian marriage in the UK (see http://www.equalmarriagerights.org/). Some of my publications address issues arising from the continued UK ban on same-sex marriage and other large-scale, structural and political macro-level concerns. Others relate sexuality and gender to talk-in-interaction, showing how heteronormativity and gendered reality is produced through daily micro-interactions. My current work focuses on gendered categories in talk.
Since 2000 (post-UCLA) I have published widely in conversation analysis, roughly equally divided between studies that use CA to understand issues relating to sexuality and gender, and studies designed to contribute to understanding the basic structures of interaction (e.g. how people ‘do surprise’, how self-referring is done, how people deal with trouble in speaking, hearing and understanding). I am currently collaborating with Professor Gene Lerner (UCSB) on a number of different projects, including a large-scale international study of referring to time and place.
I am the founding Director of the York Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Group