Dr Steph Lawler
Reader in Sociology



After leaving school, I worked as a civil servant and as an insurance clerk before going to Liverpool University to do a degree in sociology. After graduating, I did a PhD (a study of the mother-daughter relationship) at Lancaster University. I joined the sociology department at York in 2014 after posts at Lancaster, Durham and Newcastle.



From the start, my research has been concerned with social inequalities and social identities, particularly those of class, gender and generation. I have tried to explore the ways in which identity and inequality are interrelated through, for example, the conferring or the denial of value (if people are considered to be stupid or ignorant, how will their claims or demands be listened to?). ‘Identity’ is of course a contested and contentious term but I have been concerned to analyse it, not primarily in terms of the categories it produces, but in terms of how it is socially produced and how it socially circulates: in other words, I have asked how identity as such is possible, how it is made and re-made, and why it occupies such a privileged (yet often untheorized) position in the social imaginary.

I am happy to discuss PhD supervision in identity, class, gender, and / or using psychosocial perspectives, or the theoretical work of Bourdieu or Goffman.

Recently completed PhD students

  • 2014  Michelle Addison (ESRC funded, ft) Knowing how to play the game at work: a study of class, gender and emotion in Higher Education. Newcastle University
  • 2013  Gemma Metcalfe (ESRC funded, ft) Young women’s everyday lives: home and work in the North East of England. Newcastle University.
  • 2013  Peter Steggals (ESRC funded, ft). Harming the body/constructing the self: identity, selfhood and power relations in the construction of a self-harming subject.
  • 2012  Victoria Mountford, (ESRC funded, ft).Everyday class distinctions in Higher Education. Newcastle University.
  • 2010  Sabina Begum (ft) Narratives of Radical Lives: Women, Auto/Biography and Feminism in Bangladesh. Newcastle University. (MPhil).
  • 2009  Ceri Black (ESRC funded, ft) Virginity Practices: Sociological Perspectives on Agency, Identity and the Body. Newcastle University.
  • 2007  Elaine Robson (ESRC funded,ft) Yobs and Slobs: British media representations of youth. Durham University.
  • 2007  Steve Walls (ESRC funded, ft) ‘Are you being served?’: Gendered Aesthetics among Retail Workers. Durham University.
  • 2007  Judy Richards (ESRC funded,ft) ‘Older’ women’s identities in cyberspace. Durham University.
  • 2006  Susan Parker (pt) Mothering in the New Moral Economy: Making, Marking and Classing Selves. Durham University.
  • 2005  Andrew Smith (University of Durham, Millennium Studentship, ft) The process of change in a public-private partnership. Durham University.


Selected publications


  • Lawler, S. 2016 (forthcoming) Social Theory and Identity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lawler, S. 2013 Identity: Sociological Perspectives, 2nd edition (updated and with two new chapters). Cambridge: Polity.
  • Lawler, S. 2008 Identity: Sociological Perspectives, 1st edition. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Lawler, S. 2000 Mothering the Self: Mothers, Daughters, Subjects. London: Routledge.

Articles in refereed journals

  • Lawler, S. 2015 (forthcoming) Heroic workers and angry young men: nostalgic narratives of white working-class life. The European Journal of Cultural Studies.
  • Lawler, S. 2013 Unequal persons: a response to Simon Susen, Social Epistemology, 27, 3. 273-277.
  • Lawler, S. 2012 White like them: whiteness and anachronistic space in representations of the English white working class, Ethnicities 12, 4: 409-426.
  • Lawler, S. 2008 The middle classes and their aristocratic others: culture as nature in classification struggles, Journal of Cultural Economy 1, 3: 245-261. Also published in A. Warde, ed. (2011) Cultural Consumption, Classification and Power. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Lawler, S. 2007 Att känna avsmak: Så bildas medelklassens identitet (Swedish translation of ‘Disgusted subjects’) Fronesis, no. 24: 131-147.

Chapters in Books

  • Lawler, S. 2013 Identities and Social Divisions, in G. Payne, ed., Social Divisions. (3rd edition). London: Palgrave.
  • Lawler, S. 2012 Afterword: thinking and rethinking class, in S. Salmenniemi, ed., Rethinking Class in Russia. Farnham: Ashgate.
  • Lawler, S. 2011 ‘Normal people’: recognition and the middle classes, in D. Richardson, J. McLaughlin and P. Phillimore, eds, Contesting Recognition, London: Palgrave.
  • Lawler, S. 2008 Stories and the social world, in M. Pickering, ed., Research in Cultural Studies. Edinburgh University Press.

Other articles

  • Close, J. and Lawler, S. 2014. Blaming working-class parents for inequality lets our rampantly unequal society off the hook, The Conversation, July 2014.
  • Lawler, S. 2012 Writing ‘Heroic workers and angry young men’, Butler Scholarly Journal, November 2012.



Full publications list

Articles in Refereed journals

  • Johnson, P. and Lawler, S. 2005 Coming home to love and class, Sociological Research Online. 10, 3.
  • Lawler, S. and Byrne, D, eds 2005 special issue of Sociology on Class, culture and identity, Sociology 39, 5. 797-806.
  • Lawler, S. 2005 Introduction: class, culture and identity Sociology 39, 5
  • Lawler, S. 2005 Disgusted subjects: the making of middle-class identities, The Sociological Review 53 (3) 429-446.
  • Lawler, S. 2002 Mobs and monsters: Independent man meets Paulsgrove woman, Feminist Theory vol. 3 no. 1. 103-113.
  • Lawler, S. 2001 Introduction: the futures of gender and sexuality, Social Epistemology vol. 15, no. 2, 71-76.
  • Lawler, S. 1999 Getting out and getting away: women’s narratives of class mobility, Feminist Review, no. 63. 3-24.

Chapters in books

  • Lawler, S. 2005 Rules of engagement: habitus, class and resistance, in L. Adkins and B. Skeggs, eds, Feminism After Bourdieu. Oxford: Blackwell (Sociological Review monograph). Also published in The Sociological Review 52 (S2). 110-128.
  • Lawler, S. 2002 Narratives in social research, in T. May, ed, Qualitative Research: An International Guide to Issues in Practice. London: Sage. pp. 242-258.
  • Lawler, S. 2000 Escape and escapism: representing working-class women, in S. Munt, ed., Cultural Studies and the Working Class. London: Cassell. pp. 113 – 128.
  • Lawler, S. 2000 ‘A real giving up of self’: children’s needs and maternal subjectivities in narratives of middle-class motherhood, in K. Atkinson and S. Oerton, eds, Feminisms on Edge: Discourses and National Identities. Cardiff: Cardiff Academic Press. pp. 81 - 100
  • Lawler, S. 1999 Children need but mothers only want: the power of ‘needs talk’ in the constitution of childhood, in J. Seymour and P. Bagguley, eds, Relating Intimacies: Power and Resistance. London: MacMillan. pp. 64 –88.
  • Lawler, S. 1996 Motherhood and identity, in T. Cosslett et al, eds, Women, Power and Resistance. Buckingham: Open University Press. pp. 153 –164.
  • Lawler, S. 1995 ‘I never felt as though I fitted’: family romances and the mother-daughter relationship, in L. Pearce and J. Stacey, eds, Romance Revisited. London: Lawrence and Wishart. pp. 265 – 278.
  • Lawler, S. 1994 Mothers and daughters, in A. Warde and N. Abercrombie, eds, Family, Household and the Life Course. Lancaster: Framework Press.

Encyclopaedia entries

  • Lawler, S. 2012: Habitus, in D. Southerton, ed., The Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Lawler, S. 2012: Symbolic Capital, in D. Southerton, ed., The Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Lawler, S. 2012: Symbolic violence, in D. Southerton, ed., The Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Edited journal (normal editorship)

  • 2003-2006 Sociology (journal of the British Sociological Association) with David Byrne.
  • Edited journals (guest editorship)2001 The Futures of Gender and Sexuality (special issue of Social Epistemology vol. 15, no. 2).


Dr Steph Lawler

Contact details

Dr Steph Lawler
Reader in Sociology
Department of Sociology
University of York
North Yorkshire
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 32 4702