Dr Rebecca Leach

Title: Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Phone: +44 (0)1782 733359
Email: r.leach@keele.ac.uk
Location: CBC0.027
Role: Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Outreach
Contacting me: 'Office hour appointment: book direct via www.rleach.youcanbook.me
Leach_Rebecca

Current work

I have worked on various dimensions of the sociology of consumption and material culture for many years.  A clear thread through this work has been an endeavour to understand how it is that people process consumer goods as social and cultural objects.  In particular I have been interested in the ‘work done’ by consumers and their objects (and narratives/discourses surrounding them) in order to make meaning from consumption.  This has been particularly focused on domestic consumption, namely the cultural construction of notions of home and belonging through the consumption of home objects and the general material culture of belonging.

This work has led me to an exploration of boundaries of consumer culture and art-worlds, through the examination of how art objects are assimilated and constructed as belongings, and how they are lived with.

My current programme of work is called Turnover: ceramic stories of local belonging, and this examines the practice and culture of ‘turning over’ pottery by those from/connected to Stoke-on-Trent as part of a ‘local’ identity.  This work is in collaboration with Danny Callaghan of Ceramic City Stories [http://bit.ly/TurnoverClub]

My work in general focuses on Western consumer cultures as modes of social organisation, and have continued developing this theme with a particular focus on art objects, ideas of home, domestic tastes and wider material cultures.  I have completed research on:

  • consumption and taste in contributing to ideas of locality and identity in a new private housing estate; embodiment and consumer/object relations, particularly linked to ‘loss’ during burglary (with Tony Kearon);
  • dimensions of attachment to, and personal ‘curation’ of art objects in the At Home With Art project (with Colin Painter);
  • issues relating to generation and consumption, specifically on the so-called Baby Boomer generation in the UK (part of the AHRC/ESRC Cultures of Consumption programme).

Please see research tab for more information.

I am also responsible for strategic issues around Knowledge Transfer in the School of Social Science & Public Policy.

My research interests lie in the area of consumption and material culture, with specific focus on the home and the role of taste in constructing identities and relationships.

 

My current research – on turning over Stoke-on-Trent pottery - is ‘co-constructed’ with a local heritage activist group, Ceramic City Stories CIC, and together we ran a successful Turnover Tales day as part of the Heritage Open Day event in 2015. It has also featured in the local newspaper The Sentinel and had substantial social media attention, eg. featuring on BBC WM and Radio Stoke - see us on their Facebook account.

'Find out more about the Turnover Club research here: Find us on Facebook

Previous work

I was also Principal Investigator for a £200k project funded by the ESRC/AHRC Cultures of Consumption programme. This project was called Boomers and Beyond: Intergenerational Consumption and the Mature Imagination and is a multi-method study exploring the consumption patterns of the 1945-54 birth cohort as they near retirement. As PI on this widely cited project, funded by the ESRC/AHRC Cultures of Consumption programme, we generated a volume of data on the role consumption plays in transition to midlife and later life, and upon cohort and generation as organising principles based on consumption preferences and practices.  Outputs from this project are listed in the ESRC [http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/res-154-25-0003/read] and Keele [http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/view/creators/Leach=3AR=3A=3A.html] repositories.

Prior to the Boomers project, I was working on research tracing consumers' experience of objects within homes, documenting the way objects help to configure intimate social relations, and the ambiguity of (limited edition consumer) objects. This is represented in research that explored the way ambiguous art/consumer objects made their way within owners’ homes: part of the follow up to the At Home With Art exhibition, I pursued narratives of curation and adaption in a domestic context. This was published (Leach 2002) [http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/115/] as part of Contemporary Art and the Home, an important collection edited by artist Colin Painter, who had curated the AHWA project.

Previous work has explored the theoretical dimensions of consumer culture, the meaning of home and the symbolic construction of 'community' in new private housing estates in the UK. Further, my research has explored the theoretical dimensions of consumer culture (including the embodied elements of belonging and ontological security in homes, and their rupture in cases of burglary (Kearon & Leach, 2000) [http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/114/].

PhD Supervision

I have supervised two PhDs to completion: Dr Christian Gerstner and Dr Karen Castle, and I co-supervise a number of students currently.

I would be delighted to hear from potential PhD students interested in working in fields related to any of my research interests.

Impact

I have contributed to a number of public debates on questions of people’s relationship to objects, whether domestic, artistic or in consumption. This includes public lectures at Tate Britain, where I convened a workshop on material culture, and presented on object relations, consumption and art for a conference on the At Home With Art project (curated by Colin Painter). I have also spoken at the Institute for Contemporary Arts (for a workshop on The Multiple), contributed to the regional Visual Arts MA run by the NW Consortium at Tate Liverpool (along with a short research residency)  as well as other contributions to gallery/theatre education.  I was consultant for a BBC Radio 4 series on the meaning of home, “Where the Heart Is?” presented by John McCarthy and produced by Roger Childs.  I have been a regular contributor to BBC Radio Stoke on both specialist and general sociological issues.

In addition to engagement with cultural audiences, my work on the Baby Boomers engaged with the wider public and user groups.  I was consultant/contributor to a BBC4 documentary focused on the legacy of the Blair years: “Are We Having Fun Yet?” was an examination of the Boomer generation as they hit their 50s and 60s focused on consumption and lifestyle issues [http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0074tjc].  As part of the Boomers project we established an advisory panel including voluntary and policy organisations focused on Ageing, SAGA, retirement advisors and others.  The Boomers project outcomes were reported widely in national and local media [http://www.politics.co.uk/opinion-formers/economic-social-research-council-esrc/article/esrc-sixties-generation-is-heading-for-conventional-old-age], featuring on the Radio 4 Today programme and on more than 20 local radio shows around the UK, and they featured in an exhibition held at the ICA.

I have organised two ESRC Festival of Social Science events, one as part of the Cultures of Consumption programme, focusing on European baby boomers and held at the Royal Society – this attracted over 50 attendants, including the DWP, DoH, pensions advisors, marketers, European policy specialists and more. The second one focused on dissemination of sociology and criminology research at Keele to a sixth form audience.

I also contribute to the strategic discussion about arts and culture in the North Staffordshire locality – as a voluntary community arts producer outside of my Keele role, and as an academic interested in arts, culture and consumption, I sit on a number of advisory, programming and planning steering groups for cultural events at Keele and in North Staffordshire.

Research Projects, Funding and Consultancies

Principal investigator, £213,802 from AHRC/ESRC Cultures of Consumption programme ‘Boomers and Beyond: intergenerational consumption and the mature imagination’ (with Biggs & Phillipson)

Offices held:

  • Member of ESRC Peer Review College, 2010-present
  • Regular reviewer for journals & publishers
  • Aurora LFHE Women in HE Leadership graduate, 2015
  • External examiner, Sociology, University of Manchester, 2008-2012
  • 1996-2000 Co-Founder and Co-convenor, BSA Consumption Study Group
  • Previously member of BSA Network editorial board & Publications committee

Selected Publications

  • Leach R. 2016. The Turnover Club: locality and identity in the North Staffordshire practice of turning over ceramic ware. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES, vol. 22(6), 482-494. link> doi>
  • Leach RM, Phillipson C, Biggs S, Money A. 2013. Baby Boomers, consumption and social change: The bridging generation?. International Review of Sociology, vol. 23(1), 104-122. doi>
  • Leach RM. 2011. Ageing & Consumer Culture [Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture]. In Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture. Southerton D (Ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Leach RM. 2011. Bricolage.
  • Phillipson C, Leach R, Money A, Biggs S. 2008. Social and Cultural Constructions of Ageing: the case of the baby boomers. Sociological Research Online, vol. 13(3), Article 5. doi>

Full Publications List show

Journal Articles

  • Leach R. 2016. The Turnover Club: locality and identity in the North Staffordshire practice of turning over ceramic ware. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES, vol. 22(6), 482-494. link> doi>
  • Leach RM, Phillipson C, Biggs S, Money A. 2013. Baby Boomers, consumption and social change: The bridging generation?. International Review of Sociology, vol. 23(1), 104-122. doi>
  • Phillipson C, Leach R, Money A, Biggs S. 2008. Social and Cultural Constructions of Ageing: the case of the baby boomers. Sociological Research Online, vol. 13(3), Article 5. doi>
  • Leach R, Phillipson C, Biggs S, Money A. 2008. Sociological Perspectives on the Baby Boomers. Quality in Ageing, vol. 9(4). doi>
  • Biggs S, Phillipson, Leach R, Money AM. 2007. Baby Boomers & adult Ageing: Issues for Social and Public policy. Quality in Ageing, vol. 8(3). doi>
  • Biggs S, Phillipson, Leach R, Money AM. 2006. The Age-shift: observations on social policy, ageism and the dynamics of the adult lifecourse. Journal of Social Work Practice, vol. 20(3), 239-250. doi>
  • Kearon T and Leach R. 2000. Invasion of the 'body snatchers': Burglary reconsidered. THEORETICAL CRIMINOLOGY, vol. 4(4), 451-472. link> doi>
  • Leach RM. Review of "Consuming Traditions: Modernity, Modernism and the Commodified Authentic" by Elizabeth Outka. Times Higher Education Supplement.
  • Leach RM. Review of "The Household: Informal Order Around the Hearth" by Robert Ellickson. Times Higher Education Supplement.

Chapters

  • Leach RM. 2011. Ageing & Consumer Culture [Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture]. In Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture. Southerton D (Ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Leach RM. 2002. What happened at home with art: Tracing the experience of consumers. In Contemporary Art and the Home. Painter C (Ed.). Oxford, UK: Berg. link>
  • Leach R. 1998. The Virtual Home. In Machines, Agency and Desire. Brenna B, Moser I, Law J (Eds.). Oslo: TMV, University of Oslo.
  • Leach R. 1998. Embodiment & consumption. In Conceptualising Consumption. Leach RM, Kearon AT, Martens L (Eds.). (vol. 23). Salford: Salford University.
  • Leach R. 1998. Embodiment & consumption. In Conceptualising Consumption. Leach RM, Kearon AT, Martens L (Eds.). (vol. 23). Salford: Salford University.

Other

  • Leach RM. 2011. Bricolage.

I lead specialist, research driven modules in my areas of expertise, but also contribute to a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate core modules.

Recent module leadership includes:

  • SOC 20049 Contemporary Social Theory
  • SOC 20036 Cultures of Consumption
  • SOC 30032 Home: Belonging and Material Culture

I would welcome level 3 dissertation proposals on my areas of interest and am happy to discuss this with students.  In particular, I would encourage proposals on the sociology of consumption and material culture, specifically (but not exclusively) people’s relationship with objects and homes/gardens. Further, projects that explore the cultural sociology of North Staffordshire, particularly with a focus on material culture would be very welcome.

I have taught extensively at Masters’ level:  on the MRes Social Science (Sociology) offering theories of consumption, and research methodology; on the MA Urban Futures and Sustainable Communities, offering research methodology, and contributing to the City Cultures module; contributing sessions on Consumption and Crime to the MA Criminology and Criminal Justice; and on issues of home and consumption to the MA Social Gerontology, and guest lectures to MA Marketing on baby boomers and consumption.