Prof Celia Kitzinger
Professor in Sociology



Professor Celia Kitzinger is a scholar-activist, for whom academic research and social change are inextricably linked.    

She has expertise in three research areas:  (1) Coma and Disorders of Consciousness; (2) Conversation Analysis and Qualitative Research Methods; and (3) Gender and Sexuality.  (See ‘Research’ page for more details of each of these.)  

She was educated at the Universities of Oxford and Reading, and has spent most of her research career at the Universities of Loughborough and York, with sabbatical appointments in the USA, Canada and New Zealand. 

Her PhD research on lesbian politics and identities was borne of her personal experience as a lesbian in the 1970s and represented a challenge to the dominant representations of lesbians in psychology and psychiatry at the time. She continued this work for more than three decades.  In 2006 she and her wife, Professor Sue Wilkinson, analysed the psychology and politics of the marriage equality movement, and fought a High Court case to have their own marriage legally recognised in the UK. 

She has a long-standing interest in qualitative methodologies and has explored the ways in which the researcher’s own ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ status influences theory, data and analysis; different perspectives on data analysis and ‘objectivity’; and the role of the ‘personal’ in understanding the social world.  Her interests in social constructionism led her to a sabbatical year at University of California Los Angeles (1999-2000) where she studied with one of the founders of Conversation Analysis, Emanuel Schegloff.  This led her to develop a stream of research, ‘feminist conversation analysis’, exploring the ways in which sexism and heteronormativity are reproduced in everyday interaction. She continues both to study the basic structures of talk-in-interaction and to apply conversation analysis in the arena of healthcare. 

Believing (still) that the personal is political, her research direction changed dramatically after her sister, Polly Kitzinger, was catastrophically brain-injured in a car accident in 2009 and was given life-prolonging medical treatments that she would have refused if she could.  Shortly thereafter, she co-founded (with her sister, Professor Jenny Kitzinger, Cardiff University), the multi-disciplinary Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre (CDoC: click here).   

The Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre provides a focus for a wide range of research and public engagement projects, focusing particularly on socio-legal issues surrounding the treatment of people in vegetative and minimally conscious states and the experience of their families.  This research has been widely-cited and has won a number of awards (see “Honours and Awards’ page).  This area is the main focus of her current research.  The Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre also produces resources for the public and professionals, and offers training.  


B.A. (Hons.) (1978) Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford 

Ph.D. (1985)  Department of Psychology, University of Reading. Thesis title: The Constructing of Lesbian Identities

C.Psychol. (1989)  Admitted to the Register of Chartered Psychologists of the British Psychological Society

GDL (2012)  Graduate Diploma in Law – with Distinction, University of Law 


Previous appointments

1992-2000  Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University

1991-1992  Department of Psychology and Frances Harrison College of

                   Nursing (joint appointment), Surrey University

1998-1990  Department of Psychology, University of East London

1985-1988  Department of Education, Leicester University


Three key areas of Celia's research are:

Coma and Disorders of Consciousness

Celia Kitzinger is Co-Director (with Professor Jenny Kitzinger, Cardiff University) of the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre (click here).  We are a multi-disciplinary group of researchers exploring the cultural, ethical, legal and social dimensions of coma, the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state.  Our research covers family experience of having a relative in a prolonged vegetative or minimally conscious state; media representations of coma, brain injury and brain imaging; the social construction of diagnostic categories and their relation to medical technology and evolving case law; the management of risk, hope and uncertainty for profoundly brain injured patients; notions of personhood and identity; and communication with people with disordered consciousness.  We have translated our research into an on-line multi-media resource for families and health care practitioners. Our work has informed new guidelines from the Royal College of Physicians and been cited in a House of Lords report and in a briefing for MPs on vegetative and minimally conscious states.  Celia Kitzinger chairs the “Practice Direction 9E Working Party”, composed of a group of senior lawyers and clinicians considering changes in court rules and procedures concerning withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration.  She has also contributed to BBC panel discussions such as the Radio 4 programme Inside the Ethics Committee (available here:

Conversation Analysis and Qualitative Methods

For the past three years Celia Kitzinger has been Chair of the Advanced Qualitative Methods Network for the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre (see video here at 15:30 where she talks about the value of qualitative approaches). Most of her research is based on qualitative methods and she has expertise in thematic and discourse analysis of a wide range of data including media texts, interviews, focus groups, story-completion protocols, narrative questionnaires and naturally-occurring data. Her area of  special expertise is in conversation analysis (CA).  Her publications are 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).  She is particularly interested in the practicalities and ethics of qualitative research, including problems of anonymising data in the internet age.  She has been Chair of the Departmental Ethics Committee for the last six years and also chaired the school-level ELMPS (Economics, Law, Management, Politics and Sociology) Ethics Committee for two years.

Sexuality and Gender

From her doctoral research on The Social Construction of Lesbianism (1987) onwards, Celia Kitzinger has had a long-standing interest in sexuality and gender. She campaigned for, and was Inaugural Chair of, the British Psychological Society Sexuality section (as it is now called) and has published widely in psychology on lesbian and gay issues (see Publications).  With the support of Liberty (the national civil liberties association), Celia Kitzinger and her wife/civil partner, Sue Wilkinson, brought a High Court test case in 2005 seeking a statutory declaration of the validity of their Canadian marriage in the UK (click here).  Her publications in this area sometimes address issues arising from the 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.  She was recently interviewed by Psychology’s Feminist Voices about her longstanding research on gender and sexuality within and beyond Psychology (click here – includes links to video interview clips).


Three key areas of Celia's publications are:

Coma and Disorders of Consciousness (all open access)

(For a full set of publications from the CDoC Research Centre click here)

  • Kitzinger, C & Kitzinger, J. 2016.  Court applications for withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from patients in a permanent vegetative state: Family experiences.  Journal of Medical Ethics 42: 11-17. Click here.
  • Kitzinger, C & Kitzinger, J. 2016. 'Family perspectives on “proper medical treatment” for people in prolonged vegetative and minimally conscious states', pp. 86-104 in S. Fovargue and A. Mullock (eds) The Legitimacy of Medical Treatment: What Role for the Medical Exception? London: Routledge. Click here.
  • Kitzinger, C & Kitzinger J. 2015.  Withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from minimally conscious and vegetative patients: Family perspectives.  Journal of Medical Ethics 41: 157-160. Click here.
  • Kitzinger, C. & Kitzinger, J. 2014.  Grief, anger, and despair in relatives of severely brain injured patients: Responding without pathologising. Clinical Rehabilitation 28(7): 627-631. Click here.
  • Kitzinger, J. & Kitzinger, C.2013. The ‘window of opportunity’ for death after severe brain injury: Family experiences.  Sociology of Health and Illness 35(7): 1095-1112.  Click here.

Conversation Analysis + Qualitative Methodologies

  • Berger, I, Kitzinger, C & Ellis, S. 2016. Using a category to accomplish resistance in the context of an emergency call: Michael Jackson’s doctor.  Pragmatics 26.4: 563-582
  • Saunders, B,  Kitzinger, J & Kitzinger, C.  2015.  Anonymising interview data: challenges and compromise in practice’, Qualitative Research 15(5): 616-632.
  • Kitzinger, Celia.  2015.  Feminist conversation analysis in Karen Tracy (Ed)  International Encyclopaedia of Language and Social Interaction, Wiley/Blackwell and the International Communication Association.
  • Shaw, Rebecca. and Kitzinger, Celia. 2012. Compliments on a home birth helpline, Research on Language and Social Interaction. 45(3): 213-244.
  • Kitzinger, C & Kitzinger, S. 2007.  Birth trauma: Talking with women and the value of conversation analysis, British Journal of Midwifery 15(5): 256-264.
  • Shaw, R & Kitzinger, C.  2005. Calls to a homebirth helpline: Empowerment in childbirth. Social Science and Medicine 61: 2374-2383.
  • Wilkinson, S & Kitzinger, C. 2013.  Representing our own experience: Issues in ‘insider’ research, Psychology of Women Quarterly 37: 251-255.

Gender and Sexuality         

  • Kitzinger, C. 2005.  Heteronormativity in action: Reproducing the heterosexual nuclear family in 'after hours' medical calls, Social Problems.  52(4):477-498.
  • Kitzinger, C. 2005. Speaking as a heterosexual: (How) does sexuality matter for talk-in-interaction, Research on Language and Social Interaction 38(3): 221-265.
  • Land, V.  and Kitzinger, C. 2005. Speaking as a Lesbian: Correcting the Heterosexist Presumption, Research on Language and Social Interaction. 38(4):371-416. 
  • Kitzinger, C. and Wilkinson, S. 2004. Social advocacy for equal marriage: The politics of 'rights' and the psychology of 'mental health'. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 4(1): 173-194.
  • Kitzinger, C. (2000) Doing feminist conversation analysis, Feminism & Psychology, 10: 163-193.



My two key modules are:  Gender Sexuality Inequality (Level 2 and Birth Marriage Death (Level 3 specialist module).  I am also module leader for the third year Dissertation Module and chair the Departmental Ethics Committee that oversees research ethics for the undergraduate (and Masters) dissertation and the ethics of teaching-based research activities.

My specialist module on Birth Marriage Death is my favourite teaching.  It explores bioethical issues at the beginning and end of life (abortion, surrogacy, embryo research, treatment-refusal, advance decisions, assisted dying) as well as policy issues around marriage (plural marriage, different-sex civil partnerships, forced marriage).  It draws on research and debatee in sociology, anthropology, law, psychology, philosophy and policy to engage students in interrogating the socio-legal (and other) contexts which shape our ‘individual’ choices.

Additionally I teach parts of: Social Research Methods (on interviews, thematic analysis, media analysis and ethics); Conversation Analysis and Social Interaction (especially on repair), and Cultivating a Sociological Imagination (on sociology of deviance).

Some of my lecture slides are publicly available (e.g. for Gender Sexuality Inequality module on “Sociology of Toilets” click here).


I am Chair of Advanced Qualitative Methods (AQUALM) for the White Rose ESRC Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (click here).  I have taught a week-long Summer School at York on Conversation Analysis for the last few years (for a student report on this click here)

I regularly teach on University of York Sociology CPD courses aimed at graduate students in the Social Sciences and Linguistics carrying out interactional research (click here).

I have supervised PhD research on a wide range of topics including lesbian and gay parenting, representations of the vagina, interaction in home-birth helpline calls, and reporting violence in women-only police stations.  I currently have two PhD students, Anais Duong-Pedica (researching social representations of suicide, click here) and Gillian Loomes (researching everyday law and practice in relation to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, click here)

Other teaching

University of York CPD sessions for academic staff:

Recent contributions include:  ‘Developing and Enhancing the Real World Impact of Research’ for the ESRC IAA Pathways to Impact for the Social Sciences Workshop (2015)  and ‘Managing Sensitive Qualitative Data in the Internet Age’ for the Research Integrity Forum Lunchtime Workshop (click here).

CPD Courses for Legal, Social and Healthcare Professionals

I regularly provide training based on the research carried out by the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre.  Recent examples include:

  • British Psychological Society approved CPD workshop: ‘Advance Decisions to Refuse Treatment: Choices at the End of Life’ (Parts 1 & 2), 10 May & 28 September 2016
  • Calderdale Advocacy Service, ‘Dignity in Care’ event, 19 January 2016  
  • Acquired Brain Injury Training Day, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (& N Lancs Team), Sedbergh Health Centre, 2 December 2016
  • Ambulance Staff & Paramedics: CPD training on ADs for South Western Ambulance Service, Exeter, 14 April 2016
  • Hospiscare, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Exeter, 14 April 2016
  • Badby Park Care Home, Northampton, 5-6 November 2015
  • East Riding of Yorkshire CCG’s ‘Protected Day for Learning’ for GPs on the MCA, 16 April 2015
  • William Wilberforce Care Home, Pocklington, 20 January 2015

For more information about training click here

Honours and Awards

Honours and Awards

British Psychological Society’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ 2015 (Click here)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Award 2015 – First Prize for “Outstanding Impact in Society” (click here)

British Medical Association (BMA) Patient Information Award 2015 – First Prize for “Information on Ethical Issues” (click here)

Cardiff University Innovation Policy Award 2015 - for healthtalk resource and its impact on national clinical guidelines and public debate (click here)

Outstanding Research Award (2008), British Psychological Society Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section, for “Surprise as an interactional achievement” article, published in Social Psychology Quarterly (click here)

Distinguished Book Award (2003), Division 44 of the American Psychological Association, for my co-edited book, Lesbian and Gay Psychology (click here)

Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 44) (elected 2000) for “outstanding and unusual contributions to the science and profession of lesbian, gay and bisexual psychology”

Fellow of the British Psychological Society (elected 1997) for “ground-breaking contributions to ... understanding of women’s sexuality... outstanding scholarship and original thinking”

Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1995), Division 44 of the American Psychological Association, for "major contributions to the understanding of lesbian issues"

Distinguished Publication Award (1989) Association for Women in Psychology, for The Social Construction of Lesbianism (click here)

Contact details

Prof. Celia Kitzinger
Department of Sociology
University of York
Wentworth College
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322635