I am a Lecturer in Media and Communication in the Department of Sociology. Before joining the University of Surrey in September 2020, I researched and taught at Bournemouth University, Birmingham City University, the University for the Creative Arts, and Roehampton University. I hold a PhD in Cultural Studies from Roehampton University.
My research is situated within the field of feminist media studies, with a focus on formations of feminism and postfeminism in popular culture and media. I am especially interested in the construction of these formations in popular music on the one hand, and political communication (in its broadest sense) on the other.
At Surrey, I teach on the undergraduate modules on the BSc Media and Communication and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).
Areas of specialism
Affiliations and memberships
My research is situated within the field of feminist media studies, with a focus on embodiments and formations of feminism and postfeminism in popular culture and media. My work is centred around two main strands:
- female embodiment in popular music, with a focus on audiovisual culture. My work explores the ways in which female pop artists perform gender on the audiovisual music stage, especially in music videos. I am particularly interested in modes of (and challenges to) authorship, and how these shape and are reflected in the media reception of female pop artists.
- populism and gender in popular media and culture. I research the ways in which gender is manifested in populist media discourse, for example in feminist and gendered modes of protest against populism, and national and Brexit discourse in the UK press coverage of Meghan Markle. I am interested in how these discourses move across and between different media, particularly television, social media, and the press.
I teach on the undergraduate modules on the BSc Media and Communication and have taught on the following modules:
- SOC1045 Contemporary Issues in Media and Communication
- SOC2067 Crime and Media
- SOC2087 Audiences and Users in Media and Communication
- SOC2088 Analysing Media and Digital Communication
- SOC2089 Communicating Culture: Concepts and Frameworks
Much work focuses on the nature of populism, as a communicative style and a weak ideology, yet little work has explored the appeal of populism. The work introduces evidence that populism appeals most to citizens who feel disenfranchised and marginalized yet belong to the majority ethnic group. Drawing on work around identity, we show how populist appeals position the pure people against out of touch or corrupt elites and migrants who threaten their status. The lack of sophistication of marginalized groups leads them find resonance in populist’s simple eye-catching, controversial, and amusing statements and join echo chambers which reinforce their Manichean, us versus them, view of the world supported by the dynamics of the modern communication environment.
Ten years after her eccentric entrance into the pop scene with ‘Just Dance’, Gaga’s image is now markedly less edgy, in part due to her current focus on her film and TV acting career which requires a different image. In her musical work, Gaga is known for referencing artists that came before her in her music and music videos, and she has previously pushed the assumed boundaries between pop and art. This bricolage of influences often gives rise to claims of inauthenticity where rapidly changing and subversive image has left critics questioning who the ‘real’ Lady Gaga is. Moving beyond limited and value-laden discourses of authenticity, we instead suggest that her performances exemplify a posthuman approach to art and/as subjectivity. In the posthuman view, one’s ‘self’ is not a singular, static, autonomous individual, but a subjectivity that is emergent; an entanglement between entities, both human and non-human. Posthuman theory consequently troubles dualistic binaries, such as those between male/female, self/other, subject/object and human/machine/animal. This allows for a critique of anthropocentric hierarchies, instead arguing for a rhizomatic acknowledgement of the different entities in the subjectivities that emerge. We suggest that Lady Gaga’s work on her 2013 album Artpop exemplifies this approach, as Gaga fashions her body to resemble artworks and wears visual references to (female) artists that came before her. She incorporates different objects, machines, animals and others into her performances, thereby embodying a posthuman subjectivity. This work therefore signifies a reconsideration of what it means to be an audio-visual-artist and challenges not only the sanctity of self, but also the Romantic model of the male artist and singer-songwriter which persists in much popular music media criticism. However, problematically anthropocentric approaches remain throughout via Gaga’s foregrounding of self, and her current return to more muted performance styles might be seen as indicative of the difficulties of living a posthuman life in a humanistic society and marketplace.
Grace Jones, the celebrated black singer and disco diva, released her comeback album Hurricane in 2008 after a 19-year musical hiatus that saw her making professional DJ appearances but ceasing to release any new recorded material. Hurricane, and the promotional live performances that followed, were met with critical acclaim and extensive media coverage largely focusing on Grace Jones’ supposedly ‘ageless’ body (Gardner, 2012), while neglecting the actual musical output that constituted her comeback. Throughout her career, Grace Jones has arguably queered a myriad of identity categories in her performances, including race, gender, sexuality and national identity (Guzman, 2010). Invoking the term ‘queer’ in both her status as a disco icon and as an identificatory figure for marginalised audiences, Jones has a long and pronounced history of unsettling and disrupting identity configurations such as gender, sexuality and race (Kershaw, 1997; Royster, 2012). Equally undisputed is her status as a (disco) diva (Lobato, 2007). But this chapter is concerned with the fusion between these two concepts, exploring how a particular queer diva ages in the spotlight. The diva has been identified as a potentially successful performance strategy for ageing, female, popular music performers (Jennings, 2012), and this chapter will explore the ways in which Grace Jones queers the concept of the diva during her comeback at the age of 60 through a queering of gender, race and sexuality. Through close analysis of the lyrical content of Hurricane (2008), the music video for the single ‘Williams Blood’ (2009) and a photo shoot with Chris Cunningham for Dazed & Confused magazine (2008), this chapter will explore the ways in which Jones’ comeback continues to present queer ‘lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made… to signify monolithically’ (Sedgwick, 1994: 8).
This article examines the relationship between femininity, popular feminism, and the monarchy in the UK in a time of national and political crisis. Since her entry into the royal family as Prince Harry’s fiancée in November 2017, Meghan Markle has been the subject of much hyped and often problematic media coverage. Celebrated as a feminist, Markle is seen as rejuvenating the British monarchy by injecting some much-needed diversity and progressive politics. Based on the analysis of UK broadsheet and tabloid coverage between 2016 and 2018, this article argues that her embodiment of royal femininity is part of an UK image revamp after a Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 steeped in imperial nostalgia, the aftermath of which saw a rise in reported hate crimes and loss of international reputation. However, her articulations of progressive racialised and feminised politics are equally considered a threat to the cohesion of the royal family, and by extension the nation. As such, Markle’s mediated royal femininity is overburdened with meaning from both ends of the political spectrum, and highlights the gendered dimensions of dominant Brexit discourses. This article emphasises popular media and culture as a terrain in which the ideological work of Brexit (and its resistance) is done.