Introducing…Dr. Rob Creasy

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Rob entered HE at the age of 25 having realised that he was not a very good electrician, and on the strength of an “O” level in Sociology (Grade B, still his only “O” level). He started teaching GCSE Sociology 3 years later when his “O” level tutor retired leaving a vacant class (Rotherham CAT was desperate). 28 years later he is still teaching sociology and still thinks that someone is going to find out sooner or later.  As YSJU students know, what he really wanted to do was play for Sheffield Wednesday but that was just for the cheers, he is an attention seeker!

Rob is best described as an academic drifter having degrees in Sociology, Social Policy & Education. He is currently completing a book which argues that education in England is tame and that this is not at all good. Instead, he argues, education should be wicked! (this is a term that’s quite trendy now in policy matters but the book draws heavily on sociology to make its point).

Introducing…Anaïs Duong-Pedica


I’m  Anaïs and I’ve recently joined the YSJ Sociology team as a part-time lecturer. I’m originally from New-Caledonia (a French colony in the South Pacific but have been living at York for the past 6 years).

I’m currently in the process of writing my PhD on non-assisted suicide at the University of York. Unlike many suicidologists, I’m interested in instances in which suicide prevention is problematised and suicide isn’t necessarily perceived as a social nor health problem (for example: suicide as a rational decision or as a right to die). I look at narratives or spaces that provide alternatives to the mental health discourse or reject it altogether.  Two of my sources of data are « suicide websites » and my personal experience. In parallel, I’m (slowly) collecting data for a side research project on young girls’ (below 13 years old) sexual and romantic experiences with other girls and challenging notions of asexuality and heteronormativity in children, especially girls.

In the past, I’ve written on personal narratives of victims/survivors of sexual violence by using women’s memoirs and diaries. I looked at the ways in which they negotiated and reconstructed their identity after rape. This has led me to be a prevention of sexual violence activist for several years. I’ve been involved in local associations who support victims of sexual violence such as Survive and have organised training for university stakeholders and students on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus. In my MA in Women’s Studies I was famous for being the one who wrote a dissertation on mermaids! I looked at visual representations of mermaiders (a subculture of people who dress up as mermaids, mermen and merbabies for entertainment or personal purposes, principally in the US but increasingly in the UK) and compared them to photographs of Polynesian women in the South Pacific islands. I showed that Polynesian women and mermaids shared many visual markers in the western imagination especially as exotic Others. As you can see, my academic interests are varied : death, sexual violence, feminism, postcolonialism, pop culture, personal experiences, visual methods, sexuality and queer studies…

Before teaching at YSJ, I was tutoring on seminars in Social Psychology and on the Sociological Imagination at the University of York. I’m also an academic writing tutor and give advice to students about the ways in which they can improve their academic writing. You can follow me on Twitter where I re-tweet a lot of resources that are relevant to my teaching and learn more about my research projects on my academic blog.

Introducing…Jack Denham

Jack Denham

Hi, I’m Jack. I, like Ben, joined the newly established school of Psychological and Social Sciences in September as a Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology – helping establish the first year of two new degree pathways. As an early career researcher, I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my PhD that investigates the cultural consumption of crime through physical objects. That’s things like, crime museums, communities who collect crime artefacts, and crime products like clothes, for example. My PhD is researched from a Cultural Criminology perspective, and my background is as a Criminologist. But despite this crime focus, my research interests are far reaching and include crime in popular culture, deviant leisure, dark tourism, death and morbidity.

On that note, I recently organised a three day international conference called Death and Culture. This brought together scholars from a broad array of disciplines to discuss death and its importance in sociology, museums studies, heritage, modern studies, art history, history, literature, film, television, theatre, sociology, criminology and many more. You can see the conference website here, and a review crafted by some conference guests here. There will be follow up events taking place collaboratively at York St John University and The University of York, as well as a series of publications, and you can subscribe to this blog for further updates. This interest in death was driven by overlaps with my PhD work on morbid fascination – and you can read some of my work on the commodification of infamous criminal Charles Manson here, published in the journal Mortality.

My teaching at York St John University will be far reaching as a multi-disciplinary scholar in a small department, but for the time being I am running two first year criminology modules; Key Concepts for Criminologists – laying the foundations of criminological knowledge, and Crime and Deviance in a Contemporary World – considering the implications of globalisation on criminology. And two sociology modules; the first year Investigating Sociologically, and the second year The Sociology of Work. Before embroiling myself in all of this morbidity, I was a student and teacher at The University of York where I completed all of my degrees. This consisted of studying a BA in Sociology with Criminology, followed by an MA in Social Research Methods, and a PhD in Sociology. Teaching included criminology and sociology modules Popular Culture, Media and Society, Introduction to Crime and Deviance and Social Research Methods.

My current research agenda includes submitting my thesis in the coming months, before editing and submitting this research for journal publication. In particular, this will take the form of an ethnography of crime museums for Theoretical Criminology, an analysis of the market for mass produced crime consumables, and an investigation of the value and meaning of collections of crime artefacts, both intended for Crime, Media, Culture. You can keep up to date with the progress of my work by following me on twitter, or by subscribing to my academic blog.

Introducing…Dr. Matthew Spokes


So I’m Matt – officially Dr. Matthew Spokes (I worked for it so I should probably use if more often) – and I’ve been lecturing for around five years. My teaching experience has been pretty varied; before coming to St.John at the tail-end of 2015, I’d worked at the University of York for four years, intially as a post-graduate teacher where I ran seminars for first year students on Sociological Theory whilst I was completing my PhD, and then as an Associate Lecturer, a teaching-only role that enabled me to develop my pedagogic practice and build up a portfolio of experiences across a diverse range of sociological and criminal topics.

At ‘other’ York I was responsible for running first year Criminology (The Sociology of Crime and Deviance), and worked with colleagues to deliver year long modules on Social Research Methods and Crime, Culture and Social Change in Year 2. I also taught on Year 3 modules for Theoretical Criminology and Master’s sessions on Research with Social Media and Critical Perspectives on the Criminal Justice System. At St. John I’ve built on these experiences to design modules that equip first year Criminology students with a solid grounding in research methods and fundamental theories in criminological research, trying to ensure a contemporary spin on the classics, assist first year Sociology students in developing a critical eye for questions around deviancy, and cultivate perspectives of enquiry for second year Sociology students moving towards their dissertations.

Aside from teaching, I’ve also developed my research a fair amount since beginning my lectureship at St. John. My PhD focused on deviant subcultures around avant-garde music, and the connections between the classifications, organizations, spatial and resistive practices of participants, stemming from a reappriasal of Becker’s Art Worlds. I suspect unlike many academics, I’ve little interest in publishing from the PhD (drawn a line through it and move on etc.) though space and resistance are themes that continue to run through my work. I’d describe myself as a magpie academic so far, as I tend to find inspiration not in following one particular route or theoretical framework, but instead allowing chance and circumstance dictate things somewhat. This might be why I’m writing another blog post comparing social demographic changes in Cumbria with Postman Pat (according to creator John Cunliffe, Greendale is supposedly modeled on Longsleddale near the Southern Lakeland town of Kendal where he grew up).

At the beginning of September I delivered a paper at the Death and Culture conference in York which has been accepted for publication following revisions, so I will be spending the next few weeks tinkering with that. Alongside this I am working with a former colleague on a long-winded and often-stalled project on the quantification of the self (using Lupton’s work) where my own database of my PhD drinking habits is being used to demonstrate the problems with unreliable data sets. Finally, I am collaborating with an artists community in East London on a paper about gentrification and the housing crisis, looking at the redevelopment of the Woodberry Down Estate from an insider-perspective: the paper uses photo documentary, photo-elicitation and psycho-geography to explore the narratives of current residents, with the intention to co-write the article with participants.

Introducing…Benedikt Lehmann

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting brief biographies of the staff who teach on Criminology and Sociology programmes at YSJ. First up, we have Benedikt, who teaches on Sociology modules in Semester 1 and Criminology module in Semester 2:

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‘I joined the recently established School of Psychological and Social Sciences in September 2016 as a Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology. As is perhaps suited to such a young school, I am also an earlier career researcher with broadly spanned interests across the social sciences. My main research focus is centred on social theory, financial industries, and both material and moral dimensions in the growing implementation of automation technology.  In addition to this, I have previously conducted research on urban planning and the politics of public space. This study was ethnographic in nature and concentrated on crime prevention strategies in town centres. More recently, my PhD research dealt with the growth of automated financial trading activities with a focus on high-frequency trading – a special kind of automated trading, which employs algorithms to execute orders in financial markets at speeds beyond human capabilities.

Growing up in Germany and the Philippines, I moved on to study Applied Criminology at Canterbury Christ Church University, followed by postgraduate studies in Criminology at the University of Kent. Shortly after completion of my MA and having already taught on a number of Criminology modules at Canterbury Christ Church University, I received a part-time teaching position at London Metropolitan University across a range of courses in the social sciences. After moving to York in September 2015, I stepped in to lead modules on York St John’s ‘Children, Young People and Families’ programme, also contributing to the validation process of the new BA Criminology degree. For my PhD, I was awarded an EU funded joint doctoral fellowship between Hamburg University in Germany and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

My current teaching at York St John spans across the criminology and sociology programmes, including modules on social inequalities, violence, prevention and punishment as well as victimology.’

This time next week, Dr. Matthew Spokes will be profiled.