Prof Dale Southerton

Honorary Professor

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I joined the University of Manchester in 2000 directly from Lancaster University where I had completed my PhD on consumption, identity and social differentiation. My first post at Manchester was a Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition and, since 2006 I have been a member of the Sociology Department.

My research is conducted in collaboration with a wide range of research groups at Manchester, particularly the Morgan Centre, the Manchester Institute for Innovation Research (MIoIR), and the Sustainable Consumption Institute. Additionally, I work with a number of groups outside of Manchester, including the DEMAND Centre at Lancaster University, the Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford University, and with the European Sociological Association Research Network on Consumption.

The core focus of my research is the study of consumption and its significance in processes of societal change, with contributions made to a number of critical debates. (1) The significance of consumption in mediating senses of identity was central to my earlier work, with a particular focus on sociality, senses of community and belonging, and social distinction. (2) I have led on a number of research projects that explore the changing contemporary home, domestic spaces and technologies, with a particular interest in the relationship between materiality, inter-personal relationships and everyday practices. (3) A further focal area of my work has been the changing temporal organization of daily life, developing theories focused on the coordination of daily lives – of people and of social practices. (4) A further feature of my work has been comparative analysis, examining the changing patterns of consumption across European and North American societies.

While these four critical debates remain important areas of research, much of my recent focus has been on sustainable consumption. Here, my work has explored the synergies and tensions between different disciplinary-based theoretical understandings and applications of consumption; developed critiques of ‘consumer behavior’ in policy framings of sustainability; extended a focus on food consumption as a critical substantive challenge for sustainability; and has begun to develop new theoretical lenses for understanding processes of social change with respect to the relationships between production and consumption. 

An important part of my work is engaging with public debate and policy, which I have done through contributions to the IPCC Special Report Scoping panel, the UK Committee on Climate Change, DEFRA, the Scottish Government, and through a range of engagements with businesses. I have also served on a number of research grant assessment panels, including the ESRC, EPSRC, Formas, Mistra and the Danish Research Council. 

I have been Director of the Sustainable Consumption Institute since 2013, and was Director of the ESRC Sustainable Practices Research Group between 2010-14. Additionally, I am Visiting Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Copenhagen, and was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2018.

Further information

I am available to discuss with the media any aspects of my research, especially in relation to consumption, consumer culture, time, sustainability, and socio-cultural change. Previous media experiences includes 6 national television interviews/features, 18 radio interviews, and 11 UK newspaper article coverage.

For more information visit Dale's Morgan Centre webpages.

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