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Dr Gemma Edwards

Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Gemma Edwards
Gemma is a former graduate of the University and completed her PhD in 2006 before commencing a lectureship.

Whilst a lot of sociology concentrates on how societies are reproduced over time, there are also important questions about how and why social change happens.

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street we have regular reminders that ‘people make history’.

Personal networks

Dr Gemma Edwards’ research is interested in this basic question of how people – through collective action in protests and social movements (and sometimes outside of them) – make social change happen.

She is particularly interested in how ordinary people become involved in activism through their personal networks. She co-leads the research group movements@manchester, and edits the UK journal Social Movement Studies. 

Manchester graduate

Gemma is a former graduate of Manchester Sociology and completed her PhD in 2006 before commencing a lectureship.

She has conducted research into historical and contemporary protest movements, from the strikes of firefighters and teacher trade unionists, to the militancy of suffragettes.

In her research on the suffragettes, Gemma used letters and diaries to get an understanding of the personal contacts of suffragettes. She was interested in how their decisions about whether or not to adopt militant tactics in the fight for the vote were shaped by their personal ties to others.

Secret groups

Her focus on militancy has led to research on the nature of covert (secret) networks and how they operate.

She is part of a team of researchers from The Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis who are looking into this question through a grant from The Leverhulme Trust.

The issue of how personal social networks can play a role in people living a life that ‘goes against the grain’ is taken up in a different context in her most recent ESRC funded project ‘Under the Same Roof’.

Gemma is part of a team of sociologists from the Morgan Centre for the Study of Everyday Lives who are looking at contemporary practices of shared living, from taking a lodger to setting up a housing cooperative.

Shared living has been hailed as a potential solution to environmental, social and economic constraints, but the project is keen to look at the everyday experiences of living with non-kin.

Research-led teaching

  • Winner of a University Teaching Excellence Award 2015
  • Shortlisted for Best Humanities Lecturer in 2013, Gemma is passionate about research-led teaching.
  • Her third year sociology module ‘Power and Protest’ has brought students into contact with activists from outside the university, like feminists campaigning in support of Pussy Riot. Her recent book, Social Movements and Protest (Cambridge University Press, 2014) is aimed at students of the subject.

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