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Simon Williams

Simon Williams

Emeritus Professor



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Background - Biography

Simon joined the Department of Sociology at Warwick in 1992, becoming a full Professor in 2006 and Emeritus Professor in October 2019. 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.

Ever since his undergraduate days, Simon has always had a 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, broadly speaking, is located at the intersections of sociology, politics and science and technology studies, with particular reference to: (i) body matters; (ii) sleep, health and society; (iii) bioscience, biotechnology and biomedicine; (iv) new digital technologies to track and optimise ourselves; (v) human enhancement and the future of humanity. He also has longstanding interests in social theory (particularly realist social theory and biologically minded social theory) and social research methods.

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 on the sociology and politics of pharmaceuticals; biomedical enhancements; new forms of monitoring, measuring, managing and optimising ourselves in the digital age; and most recently of all, the social, cultural and political dimensions of chronobiology in society.

Research awards 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. Another collaborative book venture 'TechnoSleep: Frontiers, Futures, Fictions' is in the early stages of development.

New and Recent Publications:

Williams, S., Coveney, C and Meadows, R. (2021) Thinking through the biosocial in pandemic times: Some rhythmic reflections. Somatosphere April 19.

Calnan, M, Williams, S.J. and Gabe, J. (2020) Uncertain times: Trust matters during the Pandemic. Discover Society. June 01.

Simon J. Williams and R. Meadows (2020) Coronavirus: Why sleep gaps may widen during and after the crisis. Discover Society. April 12th.

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 has taught on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules in the Department over the years, including the sociology of health and medicine and the sociology of the body. He has also successfully co-supervised a number of doctoral students. Recent successfully 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); the creation and inheritance of digital 'afterlives' (Debra Bassett).

PLEASE NOTE: Simon has now retired and so is no longer teaching or taking on any new PhD students or post-docs.