Professor Jason Hughes


BSc, PhD (Leicester), SFHEA, FAcSS, MAE (Hon)

Room: 1.06 Astley Clarke Building, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH
Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2734

Personal details

I am a Professor of Sociology in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology, elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and appointed Member of the European Academy, Academia Europaea. It was at Leicester that I read sociology for my Undergraduate degree and then undertook my PhD in the early 1990s. I'm extremely proud to have become part of the long-standing, globally influential tradition of sociology at Leicester!

I have a passion for both teaching and research, with a firm belief that one should feed into the other. I currently teach a range of modules relating to social and cultural theory, methods and substantive areas relating to my research interests (outlined in more detail below) which relate to problematised consumption (e.g. drugs) and production (e.g. work). I've been awarded prizes for excellence in teaching (e.g. Distinguished Teaching Award, 2005), and I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2018). I am also interested in (teaching, applying and developing) sociological theory, including the work of a key figure who previously taught and researched at Leicester: Norbert Elias. My published work has won various prizes and awards, including the Sage Innovation prize (2017); Emerald Literati Prize (2013); and Norbert Elias Prize (2006).

I was formerly Head of the Department of Sociology at Leicester, and then School of Media, Communication and Sociology over a span of six years. I have held and am currently holding external examiner roles at the University of Kent; City University, London; Ulster University; University of Mauritius; Mauritius Institute of Education; and the University of Hong Kong. I am editor of Sociological Research Online, member of the editorial board of Historical Social Research, chair of the editorial board for Human Figurations and have acted as guest editor for journals such as International Journal of Social Research Methods; Crime, Media and Culture; The Journal of Workplace Learning, and Historical Social Research. I am one of three members of the Board of the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam (a scholarly Foundation that oversees Elias's estate and promotes his work internationally). I am a member of the Intoxicants and Intoxication in Cultural and Historical Perspective research network convened from the University of Cambridge [Click on this link to go to the Intoxicants and Intoxication in Cultural and Historical Perspective Research Network web page], the Moral Panics Research Network based at Brunel University [Click on this link to go to the Moral Panics Research Network web page] and the Figurational Research Network based in The Netherlands. [Click on this link to go to the Figurational Research Network web page]

Recent Awards

  • As PI: ‘Raising community voice for future health research’. UK Research and Innovation Fund. £35086.00. FEC contribution from the University of Leicester £31717.22 Total FEC Equivalent Value of £66,803.22. Awarded December 2019. RS14G0092.
  • As PI: ‘Evaluating the impact of e-cigarette product labelling and warnings across different ages, ethnicities and genders’. ESRC Impact Accelerator Awards Scheme. £7355.45 (NB: Project also includes £18,796.70 FEC contribution from University of Cardiff). Awarded June 2019.
  • As Co-I: ‘Non-Genetic, Social and Pharmacological Determinants of ‘Vaping Careers’: A preliminary study to explore the potential combinations of non-genetic, pharmacological, psychological and social factors influencing adult trajectories from smoking to vaping. Wellcome Trust Strategic Institutional Support Fund. Discipline Bridges Scheme. £5756. Awarded November 2018.
  • As PI: Vaping/Smoking Cessation Workshops. Wellcome Trust Strategic Institutional Support Fund. Public Engagement Scheme. £3000. Awarded November 2018. RM38J0003M22.
  • As Co-I: 'Communicating smoking-related health risks: a scoping study of professional and lay understandings in China'. Co-Investigator, Funded by College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Development Fund. April 2018. £2,000.
  • As Co-I: ‘Exploring community relations: Then and now’. ESRC Festival of Social Science. SI 9654097. (Dunning, M. Goodwin, J. Hughes, J., O’Connor H). £600.
  • As Co-I: ‘Return to Winston Parva’ CSSAH Grant Writing Support Fund 17/18 (Dunning, M. Goodwin, J. Hughes, J., O’Connor H). (S14RE21). £4080. June 2018.
  • As Co-I: Return to Winston Parva (Dunning, M. Goodwin, J. Hughes, J. O’Connor H). Media, Communication and Sociology Research Fund. May 2018. £860.
  • 'Adolescent Vaping Careers'. Principal Investigator, Funded by Cancer Research UK. C60744/A23882. FEC Value of £278,321.17. 2017–2020.
  • ‘The Regulation of E-Cigarettes in and Around Organisational Lives’. Co-Investigator (PI Dr Charlotte Smith, Leicester Business School). Funded by Cancer Research UK. C60666/A23885. FEC value of £102,246.83. 2017–2020.



  • SY2087: Sociology Placement (Semesters 1 & 2)
  • SY3042: Undergraduate Research Project (Semesters 1 & 2)


  • Supervision of Masters and PhD theses
  • SY7037: Social and Cultural Theory (Semester 1)
  • SY7034: Exploring the Social World (Semester 1)


I have a broad range of research interests, all of which stem from my core engagement with relational/processual sociology: that is, sociology which focuses on social processes, human relationships, and which is centrally concerned with how the stuff of the social world 'comes to be'. Thus far, I have extended this engagement with relational/processual sociology to three key areas: consumption and regulation; sociological practice; and work, emotions and identity.

1. Consumption and Regulation

In my first book, Learning to Smoke (2003, University of Chicago Press) I explore an interest in 'regulation' in two key senses, first in the increasing socio-legal regulation over the manufacture, sale, and promotion of tobacco products, and second in the changing use of a particular substance in processes of 'self-regulation'. [Click on this link for more information via publisher] I discuss the book in depth in an interview with Laurie Taylor for BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed. [Click on this link to go to Thinking Allowed programme] The approach I developed in that early work formed the basis for subsequent studied, including some more recent research on e-cigarettes, including two projects for Cancer Research UK. I am particularly interested in e-cigarette use by young people, and exploring the relation between vaping and smoking (including the question of whether the former is a 'gateway' to the latter). Working together with Michelle O'Reilly (and other colleagues in and beyond the School of Media, Communication and Sociology), I have explored young people's use of social media, and the issues relating to how such platforms might be used to promote mental wellbeing (as well as the more general relationship between social media use and mental health of young people). We have published widely from this research, and some of our work has been used as evidence to UK parliament.

My interest in consumption and regulation also extends to media 'consumption' and processes of moral regulation. My work in this area includes a co-edited volume (together with Chas Critcher, Julian Petley and Amanda Rohloff) entitled Moral Panics in the Contemporary World (2013, Bloomsbury Academic) in which we, together with other contributors, sought to extend Stan Cohen and Jock Young’s concept of 'moral panic' in relation to a series of contemporary cases. [Click on this links for more information via publisher] The book's title draws from a conference I co-organised at Brunel University (December 2010). The conference spurred the development of an Moral Panics Research Network. [Click on this link to go to Moral Panics Research Network web page]

2. Sociological practice

Broadly speaking, 'sociological practice' is intended here to refer to sociological theory, methods, and the history of sociology. One of my core interests in this respect is the work of former University of Leicester sociologist, Norbert Elias. Together with Professor Eric Dunning, I have recently co-authored a major study into the work of Elias entitled Norbert Elias and Modern Sociology: Knowledge, Interdependence, Power, Process (2013, Bloomsbury Academic). [Click on this link for more information via publisher] In the book, we explore parallels, critical differences and affinities between Elias’s work and that of other major social theorists including Anthony Giddens (also formerly of Leicester), Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. We argue that, together with these and other theorists, Elias's work may point towards a possible 'relational turn' within the social sciences. I recently discussed some of the empirical components of Elias’s work for a BBC World Service programme on 'Manners' for the radio series The Why Factor. [Click on this link to go to The Why Factor programme]. In 2014, I co-organised together with Dr John Goodwin a major conference on the work of Elias held at College Court, Leicester. [Click on this link to go to the conference web site]. More recently, I have sought to extend this consideration of sociological practice to other key figures, including Howard Becker, and to debates surrounding methods in qualitative research — including a number of papers challenging aspects of the 'radical critique' of interviewing.

Other examples of my interest in sociological practice in relation to research methods include the four volume edited collections I have published for the Sage Library of Research Methods series: Visual Methods (2012, Sage Publications) [Click on this link for more information via publisher] and Internet Research Methods (2012, Sage Publications). [Click on this link for more information via publisher] plus, together with John Goodwin, a further four volume work for the Sage Benchmarks in Social Research Methods series entitled Documentary and Archival Research published in 2014. [Click on this link for more information via publisher] and with others, Contemporary Approaches to Ethnographic Research (2018).

3. Work, emotions and identity

Over the past decade, I have undertaken research and have written a series of articles on topics which address the interface between management research and organisational sociology, with a particular focus on emotions and identity. Key examples in this respect are papers on emotional intelligence, the learning organisation, happiness and well being, high performance working, and communities of practice (see co-edited book Communities of Practice, Critical Perspectives, Routledge 2007). [Click on this link for more information via publisher]  I have also worked together with Professor Ruth Simpson and Dr Natasha Slutskaya (both of Brunel University Business School) utilising Everett C. Hughes’s concept of 'dirty work' to explore the management of various forms of 'taint' in low status occupations. We have published widely relating to this research, including a manuscript entitled Gender, Class and Occupation (2016).


I have previously supervised research students in relation to such diverse topics as: retirement, power and influence; e-cigarettes and tobacco control; punk and ageing; homelessness among Polish migrants; graduate 'talent stories'; the sociogenesis of hypermasculinity; representations of climate change and moral panics; happiness, well-being and positivity; terrorism and civilisation; higher education and communities of practice; Chinese culture and learning; web 2.0 research; dark tourism; higher education and epistemic regimes; genocide and ethnic cleansing; knowledge management and knowledge sharing. I am interested in supervising research that fits with my current interests and cognate areas of concern, but am open to considering other topics.

Current Supervisions Include

  • Magdalena Brzeska: Homeless Polish Migrants’ Conceptions of Home
  • Peter Emmerson: Towards a Sociogenesis and Psychogenesis of Retirement in the Police
  • Tom Furniss: Video Reflexive Ethnography in Urgent Care Settings
  • Laurie Parsons: Sociological Storytelling: Working with the Problem of Cruise Ships Dancers and Family Relations
  • Jan Davis: The Sociogenesis of a Village
  • Bob Athwal: The Cultural Encoding of Social Backgrounds into Recruitment and Selection Processes
  • Matt McIntosh: A Critical Examination of Hypermasculinity: Gender and Power in the United States
  • Anthony Chan:  Sources and Representations of Taiwanese National Identity and Habitus
  • Akilah Maxwell: First and Second Generation Afro-Caribbean Members' Relationship with Changing Media and their Social Worlds


Past Completions Include

  • Sam Belkin: Your Co-worker Undressed: Tattoos, Identity, and Stigma in the American White Collar Workplace. University of Leicester. 2020.
  • Laura Way: Just ‘Typical Girls’? An Exploration of Older Punk Women’s Construction and Maintenance of Punk Identities. University of Leicester 2019.
  • Jacqueline Richards: Rethinking the makeshift economy: A case study of three market towns in Dorset in the later decades of the Old Poor Law. University of Leicester. 2019.
  • Cara Dobbing: The Circulation of the Insane: The Pauper Lunatic Experience of the Garlands Asylum. University of Leicester. 2019.
  • Tehjal Raijah: Towards a contextual model of employee engagement: an exploration of the construct in a Small Island Developing States setting. Open University of Mauritius. 2018. 
  • Richard Talbot: North South Divide of the Poor in the Staffordshire Potteries. University of Leicester. 2018.
  • Ben Harvey: Pauper Narratives in the Welsh Borders. University of Leicester. 2016.
  • Steven Taylor: Dealing with Insane Children: A Comparative Study of Child Insanity in England. University of Leicester. 2015.
  • Christos Mantas: Knowledge Management During an Economic Crisis: The Case of Greek firms. University of Leicester. 2015. 
  • Alexandra Jugureanu: The "New Science" of Happiness? A sociological exploration of the emergence and ascendancy of happiness studies. University of Leicester. 2015.
  • Richard Douglas: The Chief Learning Officer: Pursuing a Grounded Theory of Executive Leadership at the Top of the Human Resource Development Field. University of Leicester. 2014.
  • Michael Dunning: Britain and Terrorism: A Sociogenetic Investigation. Brunel University 2014.
  • Amanda Rohloff: Climate Change, Moral Panic, and Civilization: on the Development of Global Warming as a Social Problem. Brunel University. 2014

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School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Campus based courses
T: +44(0)116 252 3863

Distance Learning Courses
T: 0116 252 3755

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T: +44(0)116 252 2785

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