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Emily Nicholls
Lecturer in Sociology



  • PhD Sociology, Newcastle University
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Local Government Management, University of Warwick
  • MA Gender Research, Newcastle University
  • BA (Hons) Politics and Philosophy, University of Leeds

After graduating with a degree in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Leeds and  Masters in Gender Research from Newcastle University, I completed my PhD in Sociology at Newcastle University in 2015, exploring femininities and gender identity on a ‘girls’ night out’ in North-East England. I was also employed as a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield towards the end of my PhD, working on a project on footwear and identity in collaboration with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. Later in 2015 I was appointed as a Lecturer – and later Senior Lecturer – in Sociology at the University of Portsmouth, where I was also the Sociology Course Leader and School lead for admissions, recruitment and outreach. I joined the University of York as a Lecturer in Sociology in April 2021 and I am the Programme Lead for BA Sociology.

My research interests include gender and identity (specifically femininities); the sociology of consumption (specifically relating to alcohol and sobriety) and the Night Time Economy. My recent research includes work on women’s experiences of early sobriety, drinking in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and a project funded by the Institute of Alcohol Studies on the marketing and consumption of alcohol-free drinks. My first monograph on the ‘girls’ night out’ was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2019. I am the lead for the Gender, Sexuality and Inequalities research cluster here at York.



My research interests include gender and identity (specifically femininities); the sociology of consumption (specifically relating to alcohol and sobriety) and the Night Time Economy. My PhD explored the ways in which women negotiate the boundaries of ‘appropriately’ feminine identities on a ‘girls’ night out’ with female friends, with a specific focus on dress and appearance, alcohol consumption and risk management strategies. This was later adapted into a monograph on the negotiations of classed and gendered identities in the neoliberal Night Time Economy, published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2019 and shortlisted for the British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Memorial Prize.

Since my PhD, I have worked as a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield with Professor Victoria Robinson and Podiatry staff at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, on a project exploring the links between footwear and identity for podiatry patients (‘If the Shoe Fits’: Enabling Patient-Centred Podiatry). A website and toolkit of recommendations for practitioners were produced as outcomes of this project, which won the Allied Health Professions Research (CAHPR) Public Health Research competition and was also shortlisted for the Medipex NHS Innovation Award in 2015.

In 2018 I received funding from the University of Portsmouth for a project on women’s ‘sobriety stories’ – exploring the ways in which women who had stopped drinking in the past two years navigated and sustained a transition to sobriety and made sense of their drinking histories and sober presents. In 2019 I was awarded a research sabbatical and was a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

More recently, I have worked on a collaborative project with Dr Dom Conroy, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of East London, examining UK drinkers’ relationships with alcohol in ‘lockdown’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also received funding from the Institute of Alcohol Studies for a project exploring the ways in which alcohol-free products are marketed and consumed. I also co-convene the ‘Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation’ research cluster as part of the international and interdisciplinary Drinking Studies Network.

I am a qualitative researcher with experience using semi-structured interviews and focus groups, and more innovative methods including footwear diaries, drinking diaries and photography.


Selected publications

Nicholls, E. (2021). Sober rebels or good consumer-citizens? Anti-consumption and the ‘enterprising self’ in early sobriety. Sociology

Nicholls, E. and Conroy, D. (2020). Possibilities and pitfalls? Moderate drinking and alcohol abstinence at home since the COVID-19 lockdown. International Journal of Drug Policy, 88, 103025.

Nicholls, E. (2020). ‘I feel like I have to become part of that identity’: Negotiating femininities and friendships through alcohol consumption in Newcastle, UKInternational Journal of Drug Policy, 81, 102524.  

Nicholls, E., Robinson, V., Farndon, L., & Vernon, W. (2020). ‘You don’t like to tell them their job but it’s your foot at the end of the day’: theorising and negotiating ‘resistance’ in clinical encounters. Social Theory & Health, 1-17.

Nicholls, E. (2019). Negotiating Femininities in the Neoliberal Night-Time Economy: Too Much of a Girl?', Palgrave Macmillan (Gender and Sexualities in the Social Sciences series).

Nicholls, E. (2018). Book Review: The Nocturnal City. By Robert Shaw. London: Routledge. 2018. pp 136. £105 paper. ISBN 978-1138676404’, Cultural Geographies, pp. 1-2.

Nicholls, E. Robinson, V., Farndon, L. and Vernon, W. (2018). ‘A good fit?’ Bringing the Sociology of Footwear to the Clinical Encounter in Podiatry Services: A Narrative ReviewJournal of Foot and Ankle Research, 11(9), pp. 1-5. 

Nicholls, E. (2017). ‘Dulling it down a bit’: managing visibility, sexualities and risk in the Night Time Economy in Newcastle, UKGender, Place & Culture, 24(2), pp. 260-73.

Farndon, L., Robinson, V., Nicholls, E, and Vernon, W. (2016). If the shoe fits: development of an on-line tool to aid practitioner/patient discussions about ‘healthy footwear’Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, 9(17), pp. 1-6.

Nicholls, E. (2016). 'What on earth is she drinking?' Doing Femininity through Drink Choice on the Girls' Night OutJournal of International Women's Studies, 17(2), pp. 77-91. 

Nicholls, E. (2015). “Never, ever go down the Bigg Market”: Classed and Spatialised Processes of Othering on the ‘Girls’ Night Out’. In Thurnell-Read, T. (ed.) Drinking Dilemmas: Space, Culture and Identity, BSA Sociological Futures Series, London: Routledge, pp. 114-131.

Nicholls, E. (2012). Risky Pleasures? To what extent are the boundaries of contemporary understandings of (in)appropriate femininities shaped by young women’s negotiation of risk within the Night Time Economy? Graduate Journal of Social Science, Special Edition: Gendered Subjects, 9(3) 15-22.

Contact details

Dr Emily Nicholls
Lecturer in Sociology
Department of Sociology LMB/238
University of York
YO10 5GD