Sue Heath’s main research interests revolve around the themes of housing, home and everyday domesticity, with a particular focus on practices of home-making and cultures of everyday life in shared living arrangements, and the housing pathways and intergenerational dependencies of ‘Generation Rent'.
Sue led the ESRC-funded project 'Under the same roof: the everyday relational practices of contemporary communal living', along with Gemma Edwards, Katherine Davies and Rachel Scicluna. Focusing on sharers of all ages living in a wide variety of shared domestic contexts, the research has demonstrated how personal relationships provide the key to whether such arrangements flourish or falter. In turn, issues such as the organisation of household consumption, considerations of tenure, perceptions of the cultural significance of sharing at different points in the lifecourse, the use of domestic spaces and an appreciation of their sensory atmospheres, as well as the daily temporal routines of co-residents, all have a profound impact upon personal relationships and wider understandings of home and privacy. These themes are discussed in our book 'Shared Housing, Shared Lives: Everyday Experiences across the Lifecourse' (Routledge, 2018), as well as in other project publications.
Sue's interest in these issues is now taking a historical turn, as she has been awarded pilot funding from the John Rylands Research Institute and Library to explore the University's own archival materials relating to student lodging arrangements ('digs') from the 1930s to the late 1960s. The archives are providing some fascinating insights into concerns during this period about the suitability of different living arrangements for students, and are particularly revealing of anxieties linked to students' gender and nationality.
Throughout her career, Sue has also had strong methodological interests, with a particular focus on research ethics and creative qualitative methods. In 2015/16, Sue was the academic lead in a year-long collaboration between the Morgan Centre and Lynne Chapman, a Sheffield-based artist and 'Urban Sketcher'. As a Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence, Lynne created a visual record of everyday life in the Morgan Centre, whilst together Lynne, Sue and other Morgan Centre members explored the potential of observational sketching as a social science research tool. A journal article on the lessons we learnt from the residency is located here, and Sue and Lynne also have a chapter on sketching in the edited collection 'Mundane Methods'.