I am a social theorist with particular expertise in micro-level sociological theory. I specialise in the perspectives of Symbolic Interactionism and Erving Goffman’s dramaturgy, as applied to empirical studies of selfhood, social identity and everyday life. I am also very interested in related branches of philosophy, namely phenomenology and existentialism, in relation to theories of the self, subjective experience, emotions, narrative identity and psychotherapy.

My research has mainly focused on deviant, stigmatised or contested identities, and how these are 'managed' in  interaction, both by the individual themselves and by those they encounter in everyday situations. This often involves the 'self-conscious emotions' of shyness, embarrassment, anxiety, shame, modesty, pride and guilt. I seek to understand how people experience these kinds of feelings, the identity work they do to make sense of them, and the dramaturgical techniques of self-presentation and impression management that can be used to strategically conceal, display or reveal social discomfort and awkwardness.

My publications include four research books: Shyness and Society (Palgrave, 2007), Making Sense of Everyday Life (Polity, 2009), Total Institutions and Reinvented Identities (Palgrave, 2011), and Negotiating Identity (Polity, 2015). I have also written numerous articles from a Symbolic Interactionist or Goffmanian perspective about substantive topics including shyness, embarrassment, boredom, stage fright/performance anxiety, total institutions, asexuality, politeness, and social interaction in swimming pools. I am also interested in qualitative research methods, especially issues of reflexivity and 'confessional tales' about things that go wrong: how mistakes and unexpected events affect the researcher's identity. 

I am currently (2018) developing an original research project, 'Narratives of Nothing', which forms the basis of my next book, The Sociology of Nothing: Silence, Invisibility and Emptiness in Social Life (Routledge, 1999). This explores various forms of non-doing, non-being and non-having, and their effects on biographically narrated self-identities. Methodologically, I am collecting personal stories about things that people have not done or that have not happened to them in their lives, and how these experiences have affected them. I am analysing these data in relation to themes of silence, invisibility, absence, emptiness and motionlessness. To find out more, please read my recent (2018) article in Sociology (52, 1: 3-19) and visit my project website: . I am still looking for volunteers to participate in the study!

My externally funded research projects include the sociology of shyness (ESRC), shyness and interactive art (EPSRC), risk and treatability in personality disorders (Wellcome Trust) and asexual identities and practices of intimacy (Leverhulme Trust). 

I have set up an international research network, ANNSoR: the Anglo-Nordic Network of Social Research. Please join this group if you are interested in Nordic societies and cultures!