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Simon Williams

Simon Williams

Professor of Sociology


Room: D0.07

Telephone: +44 (0)2476 523064


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Background - Biography

Simon joined the Department of Sociology at Warwick in 1992, becoming a full Professor in 2006. Prior to that he was a Research Fellow in the Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS) at the University of Kent (1990-1992) after successfully completing his doctoral studies at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London, in 1990.

Simon is a passionate teacher and researcher with strong conviction in the enduring power and promise of the social and political sciences in a complex, changing world. He is also strongly committed to interdisciplinary conversations, particularly those of a biosocial and biopolitical kind, and to wider engagements with diverse audiences and publics, including media profiling of his work.

Simon has served on the editorial boards of a number of key international journals in his field (such as Sociology of Health & Illness; Health; Social Theory & Health). He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Read Simon's Abridged CV

Research Profile

Simon's research to date falls into the following interrelated areas of social and political science pertaining to: the body, health and society; bioscience, biomedicine, biopolitics; (new) media, culture and everyday/night life, including new digital forms of self-tracking and the sharing of such data on social media, particularly sleep data. He also has longstanding interests in social theory (particularly realist social theory, relational sociology, psychoanalytically informed social theory, and biologically minded social theory) and newly emerging interests in the challenges and complexities of big data.

He has been notably active in recent years, as an outgrowth of his previous interests in body matters, in developing with colleagues social and interdisciplinary research agendas regarding sleep and society, including an early agenda-setting ESRC 'Sleep and Society' seminar series and other recent discussions and reflections on sleep matters and the politics of sleep in Somatosphere, the RSA journal and Discover Society. This in turn has been augmented through other interrelated strands of research (some early, others now well established) on the sociology and politics of pharmaceuticals; mental health and illness; biomedical enhancements and 'biohacking'; new forms of monitoring, measuring, managing and optimising ourselves in the digital age and the big data era, and most recently of all, the social, cultural and political dimensions of chronobiology in society.

Research awards to date include grants (as PI or CI) from funding bodies such as the ESRC, the British Academy and the NHS Executive, as well as the co-supervision of a number of successfully completed ESRC doctoral studentships and a co-funded Warwick-Coeliac UK studentship. Recent projects for example, include a collaborative (Royal Holloway, Warwick, King's College London) ESRC funded study of Medicated Sleep and Wakefulnes: A Social Scienfitic Investigation of Stakeholder Interests, Policies and Practices and a Wellcome seed fund project (with colleagues at Surrey and Royal Holloway) on 'Social Media and Sleep: Ethical Agendas in the Digital Age'.


To date, Simon has authored, co-authored or co-edited well over 100 publications, including books, co-edited volumes, journal articles, as well as special issues of key journals such as Sociological Research Online (on sleep, gender and the lifecourse) Body & Society (on sleeping bodies), Sociology of Health & Illness (on pharmaceuticals and society), Subjectivities (on neuroscience and subjectivity) and Social Science and Medicine (on 'pharmaceuticalization: problems and prospects'). His most recent single-authored book is 'The Politics of Sleep: Governing (Un)Consciousness in the Late Modern Age' (2011, Palgrave Macmillan). He has also recently finished a new co-edited Sociological Review Monograph on 'Biosocial Matters' (2016) and is currently writing up papers from his ESRC sleep medicines project. Other book projects are in the early stages of development.

Recent Publications:

Coveney, C., Williams, S.J, and Gabe, J. (2019) Enhancement imaginaries: Exploring public understandings of pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement drugs. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy.

Coveney, C., Williams, S.J., and Gabe, J (2019/2018) Medicalisation, pharmaceuticalisation or both? The medical management of sleeplessness as insomnia. Sociology of Health and Illness. 41, 2: 266-284.

Williams, S.J, Coveney, C. and Gabe, J. (2017) The concept of medicalisation reassessed: A response to Joan Busfield. Sociology of Health and Illness. 39, 5: 775-80.

Gabe, J., Williams, S.J and Coveney, C (2017) Prescription hypnotics in the news: a study of UK audiences. Social Science and Medicine. 174 (Feb) 43-52.

Meloni, M., Williams, S.J., Martin, P. (eds) (2016) 'Biosocial Matters: Rethinking Sociology-Biology Relations in the Twenty-First Century'. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Gabe, J., Coveney, C. and Williams S.J. (2016) Prescriptions and proscriptions: Moralising sleep medicines. Sociology of Health & Illness. Nov 20. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12383.

Williams, S.J., Coveney, C. and Meadows, R (2015) M-apping sleep? Trends and transformations in the digital age. Sociology of Health & Illness. 37 (7): 1039-54.

Teaching and Supervision

Simon convenes and teaches the following half modules:

He has also taught on a range of other undergraduate and postgraduate modules in the Department over the years and successfully co-supervised a number of doctoral students. Current/recently completed doctoral student projects include studies of: Coeliac disease and self-care in the digital age (Sam Martin, co-funded by Warwick and Coeliac UK, now successfully completed); the emergence of digital 'afterlives' in the age of social media (Debra Bassett, on-going).