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Daniel Welch

Dr

Personal profile

Overview

I am a Lecturer in Sociology and a researcher at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI). My work falls into two broad categories: firstly, a concern with the unsustainability of our consumer societies, and secondly, an interest in how to understand social change. My research focuses on consumption and consumer culture, sociology of the future, environmental sustainability, social theory and cultural sociology. Much of my work has sought to develop theories of practice to understand processes of social and cultural change.

I am Co-Editor of the journal Consumption and Society and an active member of the European Sociological Association Consumption Research Network. My current research project is an international collaboration led by Consumption Research Norway (SIFO, OsloMet University) - “Imagine: Contested Futures of Sustainability” - which explores how the ways in which we imagine the future of food, clothing and transport influence processes of social change.

Biography

I joined the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) and Department of Sociology as a PhD student in 2008, supervised by Alan Warde and Dale Southerton. Following my PhD, in 2013, I joined the Sustainable Practices Research Group, a major ESRC research programme, before becoming a Research Associate and subsequently Research Fellow at the SCI. In 2019 I became a Lecturer in Sociology. Prior to academic work, I was Co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine and a researcher at the Ethical Consumer Research Association, and worked freelance as a copywriter and researcher, chiefly in sustainability communications. I did my first degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, and an MA in Cultural Studies at Lancaster University.    

Research interests

Specific research interests:

  • sociology of consumption, with a particular interest in transitions towards more environmentally sustainable and socially just forms of consumption
  • theories of social action and social change, particularly theories of practice
  • sociology of the future
  • cultural sociology, with a particular interest in how widespread cultural understandings shape, and are shaped by, social change

Research Projects

“IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability" P.I. Nina Heidenstrøm, Oslo Metropolitan University (01/12/2021 – 31/12/24)

I currently co-lead an integrative work package on a major international collaboration, developing from my previous ESRC project (below), funded by the Norwegian Research Council. IMAGINE sets out to research the power of cultural imaginaries of sustainable futures in the fields of food consumption, clothing and transport. You can read more about the project here: https://imagine.oslomet.no/the-project/

As part of the project I have co-organised a series of project workshops,  and presented widely on the emerging theoretical framework of the project. I will be co-editing a Special Issue of project papers for publication in the journal Consumption and Society.

“Imagined Futures of Consumption” (PI, ESRC ‘New investigators’ Grant’ ES/R007942/1) (01/09/2018-28/02/2022).

Imagined futures of consumption have played an important role in economic and political imaginaries since the end of the Second World War, critically in the form of the promise of ‘prosperity for all’ realised through mass consumption in the consumer society. Today, the imagined future of consumer society is fundamentally challenged, opening up cultural and social space for competing imagined futures of consumption. Within this social and political-economic context the project sought to explore the role of imagined futures of consumption in processes of social and political contestation and legitimation, and how such imaginaries shape, and are shaped by, social processes. The core empirical component of the project explored lay expectations of the future of consumption through collaboration with the Mass Observation Archive Directive (Ehgartner and Welch, forthcoming). I am currently writing a monograph drawing on the project.

I have presented widely on the project, including invited presentations at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense), Oslo Metropolitan University, and the University of Padua. In 2022 I was invited to give the keynote presentation at the European Sociological Association Consumption Research Network conference in Oslo. As part of the project I co-organised with Prof Giuliana Mandich two Research Streams on the sociology of the future at the 2019 and 2021 European Sociological Association Biennial Conferences; the largest Research Streams at their respective conferences.

You can read more about the project here: https://archive.discoversociety.org/2019/10/02/imagined-futures-of-consumption-lay-expectations-and-speculations/

Theories of Practice

Much of my work has sought to address lacunae that can be identified in practice theory (Welch and Warde 2015; Warde, Welch and Paddock, 2017). One strand of this work has addressed the implications of practice theory for interventions into behavioural change, particularly in realtion to sustainable consumption (Spurling, McMeekin, Shove, Southerton and Welch, 2013; Welch, 2017a; Welch and Southerton, 2019). In another strand of work I have sought to build social theory on Schatzki’s (1996, 2002) social ontology of practice. Here I have addressed how to conceptualise within a practice theoretical framework: firstly, widely shared cultural understandings (Welch and Warde, 2017); secondly, configurations of multiple practices and discourses or “teleoaffective formations” (Welch, 2017b); thirdly, collective actors and collective activity (Welch and Yates, 2018, 2022); and lastly, projectivity towards the future (Welch, Mandich and Keller 2020).

Previous Research Projects

"Sustainable Consumption & Production and Political Economy in the UK Food Services Sector" (Research Associate/Fellow, funded by the SCI, 2016-18)

The project explored the cultural political economy of the UK food services sector, with a focus on understanding the role of economic imaginaries in processes of change in the sector associated with corporate sustainability (Welch, 2018).

‘Households, Retailers and Food Waste Transitions’ (Research Associate, ESRC project ES/L00514X/1, P.I. Prof. David Evans, 2014-2016.

The project explored how collective actors in the UK framed, responded to and interpreted the issue of food waste and sought to intervene in debates around the ‘responsibilisation of the consumer’ in sustainable consumption (Evans, Welch & Swaffield, 2017, 2018; Swaffield, Evans & Welch, 2018; Welch, Swaffield & Evans, 2018).

"Understanding the Commercial Field of Sustainability Communications"

My PhD research (2008-2013), supervised by Alan Warde and Dale Southerton (Sociology, University of Manchester) addressed the formation and development of the commercial field of sustainability communications, and its significance for cultural intermediation of sustainable consumption and corporate sustainability. 

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Expert Reviewer FORMAS, Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (March 2023 – current)

Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts: Invited in 2008 to become a fellow “in recognition of…work in the development of ethical consumerism” 

Supervision information

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students with interest in:

  • sociology of consumption;
  • sustainable consumption;
  • consumer culture;
  • cultural political economy;
  • theories of practice;
  • sociology of the future;
  • social imaginaries;
  • the interface of environmental sociology and cultural sociology.  

I currently supervise four PhD students:

Topo Mokokwane (Sociology) “The Nexus of Culture and Ecology in Sustainability: A Theory of the Linguistic Construction of Worldview and its Relationship to Modern Environmental Issues”

Linqing Xia (Sociology) “Sustainable Consumption in China’s Consumer Culture”

Ryan Harries (Sociology) “The Multiple Ontologies of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy”

Sam Toscano (Politics) ““Investigating the sustainability communications of corporate climate pacts: governmentality and the (re)structuring of environmental action.”

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

External positions

Director, Ethical Consumer

1 Oct 20081 Jan 2025

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Sustainable Consumption Institute

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