Personal profile


I joined Manchester Sociology in 2003, having gained my PhD in Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London. My research interests are in architecture and social housing, material cultures of publishing, and social and political theory. I have published a monograph in each of these fields and my work has been translated in eight languages (Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Lithuanian, Serbian, Korean, Thai, Farsi). I teach in work and economy, the sociology of conflict, and social theory, and serve as a member of the editorial board of the journal New Formations

Research interests

Architecture and Social Housing

My most recent book, Brutalism as Found (Goldsmiths Press, 2022), explores the social life, architecture, and demolition of Robin Hood Gardens, the east London council estate designed by Brutalist architects Alison and Peter Smithson. Recovering the social in the architectural, the book centres the estate’s lived experience by a multiracial working class, not to displace the architecture’s formal qualities, but to radicalise them in the present crisis of housing affordability. The research was funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, and was a collaboration with a photographer, Kois Miah, and two campaigning local charities, South Poplar Action for Secure Housing (SPLASH) and Docklands Outreach.

Brutalism as Found is published in concert with an online exhibition of residents' portraits and architectural photographs, following previous exibitions in a London community centre and Four Corners gallery. The portraits have featured in the Guardian and the Big Issue, and two journal articles from the project are available open access, 'Concrete and Council Housing', in City, and 'Salvage Brutalism', in Oxford Art Journal.

Material Cultures of Publishing

My second book, Anti-Book (University of Minnesota Press 2016, open access version 2019) explores the forms, processes, and relations of publishing as arenas of artistic and political practice. The book develops a series of concepts through engagement with experimental practice, from the pamphlet as ‘communist object’, to the ‘rhizome book’, magazine ‘diagrammatic publishing’, and the ‘unidentified narrative objects' of political myth. Two recent interviews and a podcast provide introductions to the themes of the book, here, here, and here.

My writing about publishing has appeared in Social Text, New Media and SocietyCultural Critique, and other leading journals, and in a coedited special issue of New Formations (with Sas Mays) on ‘Materialities of Text’. My most recent article in this field, 'Twitter, Book, Riot' in Theory, Culture and Society, explores how a book's material forms can be transformed by uprising against racial terror.

Social and Political Theory

My first book, Deleuze, Marx and Politics (Routledge 2003) was the first extended study of Deleuze’s relation to Marx, taking off from Deleuze’s unrealised plan to write a book called the Grandeur of Marx. The book coins the concept of ‘minor politics’ — a politics based not on collective identity but on the fraught experience of being riven by competing imperatives and constraints — and develops this in analysis of the organisational and expressive aspects of social movements concerned with the ‘refusal of work’. I discusses some of the themes of the book in a recent podcast.

My research in social and political theory has also explored the sociology of objects in a coedited collection titled Objects and Materials (Routledge 2013), and the politics of the ‘future’ in a coedited book (with Gary Genosko) of Franco Berardi’s writings, After the Future (AK Press 2011). My research in this field has branched into other work on social movements, including a critique of militant subjectivity in the Weather Underground and analysis of the interplay of class and minority in the Industrial Workers of the World. I also co-edited (with Ian Buchanan) a collection on the political implications of Deleuze's thought, titled Deleuze and Politics (Edinburgh University Press 2008).

My more recent research on social and political theory includes a critique of the ‘Idea of communism’ in Badiou, Zizek, and others; a development of the concept of ‘cramped space’ for a journal special issue on this theme from my first book; and book chapters on Mario Tronti and Marxist theories of communication.

My journal articles can be found on the publications tab on this site and on

Other research

Supervision areas

I am happy to receive inquiries about PhD projects in my broad areas of research interest.

Current and past PhD students

Hala Marshood 'Governing Palestinians After the 2021 Uprising: How Are Israeli Reactions Recalibrating Policy Frameworks Towards Palestinian Citizens of Israel?'

Aleksandr Lange 'Dating, Love, and Subjectivity in the Age of Digital Capitalism'

Lucie Slamova 'Radical Left in Central and Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities'

Xin Li 'Digital Pathways and Transformation of Chinese Cities in the Short-Video Era: A TikTok Case study', second supervisor

Jamie Stevenson 'In the Shadow of Grenfell: Residents' Understandings and Policy Impacts of the Grenfell Tower Fire', first supervisor

Martin Greenwood 'The Post Office and Postcapitalism: the Role of Public Services in Radical Futures', co-supervisor

Judy Thorne 'Hope and Despair in the Greek Crisis: An Ethnography of Utopia at the Margins of Europe', second supervisor. Awarded 2022

Barbora Cernusakova 'Collective Action of Roma in the Czech Republic: A Revival of Class Consciousness?', fisrt supervisor. Awarded 2022

Chung Yan Priscilla Kam 'The Dynamics of Hong Kong Identity in Post-Colonial Hong Kong', co-supervisor. Awarded 2020

Jamie Matthews 'Organising Radical Spaces: Occupy the London Stock Exchange and the New Global Politics of Occupation', first supervisor. Awarded 2017

Medina Aitieva 'Family Formations in Kyrgyzstan', second supervisor. Awarded 2015

Ulrike Flader 'Struggle for a Livable Life: Everyday Resistance among the Kurdish Population in Turkey', first supervisor. Awarded 2015

Sivamohan Valluvan 'Integration Reconsidered: A Study of Multi-Ethnic Lives in two Post-Integration Cities', co-supervisor. Awarded 2014

Svetoslav Nenov 'Biopolitics, Counter-Terrorism and Law after 9/11', first supervisor. Awarded 2013

Ben Garner 'Trade, Culture and the New Politics of Cultural Development at UNESCO', co-supervisor. Awarded 2011

Raphael Schlembach 'Social Movement Constructions of European Nationalism', second supervisor. Awarded 2010

Gavin Grindon 'Carnival against Capital: The Theory of Revolution as Festival', co-supervisor. Awarded 2007

Henning Klatran 'Beyond Sexual Identity? Friendship between Straight and Gay Men', co-supervisor. Awarded 2007  

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 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Dive into the research topics where Nicholas Thoburn is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles