Dale Southerton is SCI Professorial Research Fellow and Professor of Sociology. He is Director of the Sustainable Consumption Institute, and previously led the Sustainable Practices Research Group (SPRG), funded by the ESRC, Defra and the Scottish Government (2010-2014).
The core focus of Dale’s 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 his earlier work, with a particular focus on sociality, senses of community and belonging, and social distinction. (2) He has led on research that explores the changing contemporary home, domestic spaces and technologies exploring the relationship between materiality, inter-personal relationships and everyday practices. (3) A further focal area 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) His research also has a strong comparative angle, examining the changing patterns of consumption across European and North American societies.
While these four critical debates remain important areas of research Dale’s recent work has turned more explicitly to the challenge of sustainable consumption. Here, his 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.
His contribution to the above debates and beyond can be found in 21 journal articles, 5 books and 22 book chapters. This includes his role as Editor of the three volume Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture (Sage, 2011), which remains the most extensive reference work on the subject of consumption available. He has also led on 7 ESRC funded projects and supervised 9 PhD students (7 to completion). Beyond research, Dale plays an active role as an expert advisor on a number of policy bodies, including for the UK Climate Change Commission, DEFRA, the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Office. He serves on the commissioning and evaluation panels of UK and European Research Councils. Dale has also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal ‘Sociology’ (Sage) and is currently an Editorial Board member of the Journal ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption’ (Elsevier).