Dr Richard Tutton
Senior Lecturer



The first person in my family to go to university, I grew up on a post-war council estate in the South of England. My dad was a factory worker and my mum stayed at home to raise her children, tend the home, and look after her sister who had learning disabilities. At age 16, rather than find work in the local Siemens factory which my dad thought would be a smart move, I went to Further Education College and found myself studying Sociology, Economics and English Literature. Everything changed after that. I applied to the University of Essex to do an undergraduate degree in English and European Literature; there I was lucky to be taught by some amazing people who inspired me to pursue an academic career.

After completing a Master’s in Critical and Cultural Studies at Essex, I successfully gained an ESRC PhD studentship to undertake doctoral research with Professors Sarah Franklin and Maureen McNeil in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. I then took up a post-doc post in SATSU (Science and Technology Studies Unit) at University of York. When this research finished, I moved to the Institute for Science and Society (ISS) at the University of Nottingham.

In September 2007, I joined ESRC Cesagen (Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics) which formed part of the ESRC Genomics Network at Lancaster University. I remained at Cesagen until its closure at the end of 2012 when I joined the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. In 2016, I became the co-Director of the Centre for Science Studies and co-chaired the 20th biennial European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) conference, which took place at Lancaster University in July 2018. In October 2018, I moved to the University of York and came a co-Director of SATSU.

Beyond my roles in the Department of Sociology and SATSU, I am also the co-editor of the Taylor and Francis journal New Genetics and Society.



My research addresses visions and contestations of planetary and multiplanetary futures. In particular, I explore the tensions between positive, utopian futures of sociotechnical advancement and progress and anticipations of decline and collapse that animate contemporary social science accounts of societies in this century. This tension is vividly illustrated by the concept of the Anthropocene, which figures both despairing, fatalistic and hopeful, utopian futures. While many emphasize the negative and sometimes unknown consequences of human activity, others see that humanity can play an even greater, more purposeful role in reshaping this and other worlds.


Current project

My current project focuses on how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who have made their fortunes from digital technologies are now investing in improving human spaceflight capabilities, and how this will enable a new phase of human development. Figures such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are constructing visions of a future in which human beings inhabiting other planets in the solar system is presented as a matter of progress and the way to make the world a better place. However, this prospective future is also under threat from possible future catastrophes from which, it is claimed, humanity’s expansion into outer space could offer some mitigation. I investigate this interplay of optimistic and pessimistic registers in which what I call ‘multiplanetary imaginaries’ are articulated.


PhD supervision

Sadaf Noor (PhD) (2014- ) The Biomedicalization of Death (co-supervised with Dr Dawn Goodwin, Division of Medicine, Lancaster University.

Lizzie Houghton (PhD) (2013-17) The Student Experience: Class, Choice and Neoliberalism in the English University (co-supervised with Prof Andrew Sayer, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University).

Lee Wan-Ju (PhD) (2009-2015) Taiwan Biobank and the Political Economy of Promise (co-supervised with Professor Brian Wynne), Department of Sociology, Lancaster University.

Cecily Palmer (PhD) (2004-2008) ‘The Collection, Value and Meaning of Human Biological Material’ (co-supervised with Professor Brigitte Nerlich, University of Nottingham).

Michael Morrison (PhD) (2004-2008) ‘Beyond Therapy? The Use and Governance of Human Growth Hormone as a Biological Enhancement Technology’ (co-supervised with Professor Paul Martin, University of Nottingham).

Examined PhDs

Dr Satya Savitzky (2016) Icy futures: Carving the Northern Sea Route, Lancaster University, supervisors: Prof Monika Buscher and Prof John Urry (internal examiner)

Dr Shadreck Mwale (2014) Risk, Rewards and Regulation: Exploring Regulatory and Ethical Dimensions of Human Research Participation in Phase I (first-in-human) clinical Trials in the United Kingdom, Sussex University (supervisors: Dr Alex Faulkner and Dr Catherine Will) (external examiner)

Dr Kimberly Jamie (2012) Personalised Medicine and Hospital and Community-based Pharmacy, University of York (supervisor: Prof Andrew Webster) (external examiner)

Dr Carmel Davies (2012) Xenotransplantation 'Politics' from the Perspective of Lay Publics in Ireland Lancaster University (supervisors: Dr Mairi Levitt and Dr Richard Twine) (internal examiner)

Dr Katja Jacobsen (2011) Rethinking the 'bio' of Biopolitical Security through Humanitarian Experimentation: The Making of Bodily Boundaries and Technical Authority, Lancaster University; (supervisor: Dr Mark Lacy) (internal examiner)

Thomas Lynch (2010) Malignant Melancholia: Biomedical Discourses of ‘Surveillance’ and ‘Responsibility’, Lancaster University (supervisor: Prof Carol Thomas) (internal examiner)


Full publications list


Tutton, R. (2014) Genomics and the Reimagining of Personalized Medicine (Ashgate: London and Burlington)

Edited books

Tutton, R and O. Corrigan (eds) (2004) Genetic Databases: Socio-Ethical Issues in the Collection and Use of DNA (London: Routledge) [104]

Selected Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Tutton, R. (2017) ‘Multiplanetary Imaginaries and Utopia: The Case of Mars One’, Science, Technology and Human Values 43 (3): 518-539

Furbo, M. and R. Tutton (2017) ‘Spitting Images: Remaking Saliva a Promissory Substance’, New Genetics and Society 36 (2): 36 (2): 159-185

Weiner, K.; P. Martin, M. Richards and R. Tutton (2017) ‘Have We Seen the Geneticization of Society? Expectations and Evidence’, Sociology of Health and Illness 39 (7): 989-1004

Smart, A; D. Bolnick and R. Tutton (2017) ‘Health and Genetic Ancestry Testing: Time to Bridge the Gap’, BMC Medical Genomics 10(1): 1-9

Tutton, R. (2017) ‘Wicked Futures: Meaning, Matter and the Sociology of the Future’, The Sociological Review 65 (3): 478-492

McNeil, M.; M. Arribas-Ayllon, J Haran, A Mackenzie and R. Tutton (2017) ‘Conceptualising Imaginaries of Science, Technology and Society’ in U. Felt, R. Fouché, C. A. Miller, L. Smith-Doerr (eds), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (MIT Press: Cambridge)

Tutton, R (2014) ‘Pharmacogenomic Biomarkers in Drug Labels: What do they tell us? Pharmacogenomics 15 (3): 1462-2416

Tutton, R.; C Hauskeller and S Sturdy (2014) ‘Suspect Technologies: Forensic Testing of Asylum Seekers at the UK Border’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 37 (5): 738-752

Selected Book Chapters

Roberts. C and R. Tutton (2018) ‘Health Activism, Biosociality and Social Class‘ in J. Johnson, M. Levina (eds) Biocitizenship (New York University Press: New York)

Tutton, R. (2015) ‘Personal Genomics and its Sociotechnical Transformations’ in R. Chadwick and D. Kumar (eds) Genomics and Society (Academic Press: London)

Tutton, R.; C Hauskeller and S Sturdy (2015) ‘Importing Forensic Bio-Medicine into Asylum Adjudication: Genetic Ancestry and Isotope Testing in the U.K.’ in B. N. Lawrence and G. Ruffer (eds) Adjudicating Refugee and Asylum Status: The Role of Witness, Expertise, and Testimony

Contact details

Dr Richard Tutton
Senior Lecturer
Department of Sociology
University of York

Tel: 01904 32 3055