Staff Profiles

Liz Stanley

Liz Stanley
Professor Liz Stanley FAcSS
Professor of Sociology and ESRC Professorial Research Fellow
SociologySchool of Social and Political ScienceUniversity of Edinburgh
6.22 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
++44 (0)131 651 3139
Research Interests
Historical sociology, feminist theory, sociological theory, social change, narrative & auto/biographical methodologies, South Africa, 'Documents of life', in particular letters and diaries, everyday life sociology, Norbert Elias & figurational sociology

Present projects

I hold an ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship from 2013 to 2017. The research component of this focuses on 'Whites Writing Whiteness - Domestic Figurations & Representations of Whiteness in South Africa 1770s - 1970s' - for more information, see Whites Writing Whiteness is analytically shaped by the sociological thinking of Norbert Elias and involves a Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR) historical sociology investigation of social change and the processes of racialisation in South Africa over a 200 year period. Its core data is provided by archive collections containing up to six or seven generations of letter-writing. In addition, there is a Research Associate - Dr Andrea Salter - and an ESRC PhD Student - Mr Jacques Human -  attached to the project, so please see their webpages too. I hold Visiting Professorial posts at the Universities of Pretoria and Johannesburg and an Extraordinary Professorial appointment at the University of the Free State, through which I contribute to capacity building in South African higher education. And as this suggests, I'm interested in supervising students on any aspect of South African society, present as well as past.

Whites Writing Whiteness has developed from the Olive Schreiner Letters Project and its highly successul edition of the complete Olive Schreiner letters. Schreiner (1855-1920) was an astute social commentator as well as world-leading writer and her letters provide amazing insights on the increasing racialisation of South African society and politics over the period of her letter writing. Please see the Olive Schreiner Letters Online at

My other research interest is on 'The Domestication of Death', and is carried out with Emerita Professor Sue Wise from Lancaster University. It has a number of facets - (1). re-theorising the sequestration argument propounded by Giddens and others; (2) researching representations of 'the ineffable', death itself; (3) exploring the role of domestic figuration in managing dying and death; (4) carrying out a number of case studies from the 1840s to the 2010s. More information will be found on the project website at 

There are some strong links between these projects. Firstly, a feminist sociology framework underpins all three. Secondly, they are all influenced by the work of the great Norbert Elias and in particular his ideas about sociogenesis, figuration and change. And thirdly, all three involve qualitative longitudinal research which explores social change as experienced and represented by the people who lived this, and so they are also all associated with everyday life sociology and its analytical attention to the quotidian. 

Main research interests

I'm interested in almost everything connected with sociology and society! Particular interests are --- Feminist theory. Sociological theory, in particular the work of Norbert Elias. Historical sociology and archival research. Cultural sociology. Lives, letters & narrative inquiry. Everyday life sociology. Death and its domestication. Intersectional theory and research.


(a) Books 2002-2014

(2014) The World's Great Question: Olive Schreiner's South African Letters Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society (with Andrea Salter). Go to

(2013) Documents of Life Revisited: Narrative and Biographical Methodology for a 21st Century Critical Humanism Farnham: Ashgate. Go to

(2012) 'Simone de Beauvoir: The Useless Mouths' Translated with an editorial introduction by Liz Stanley & Catherine Naji, in (ed) Margaret A Simons & Mary-Beth Timmerman The Useless Mouths and Other Writings, volume 4 of Simone de Beauvoir: Literary Writings USA: Illinois University Press.

(2009) Mourning Becomes… Post/Memory and the Concentration Camps of the South African War Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

(2006) Mourning Becomes… Post/Memory and the Concentration Camps of the South African War Manchester: Manchester University Press; USA: Rutgers University Press.

(2002) Imperialism, Labour and the New Woman: Olive Schreiner's Social Theory Durham, UK: sociologypress.

(b) Special Issues of Journals 2008-2014

'Narratives, selves and life writings: dialogues, exchanges and commentaries' Special issue of Life Writing 7: 3 (March 2010), edited by Liz Stanley.

'Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons: Narratives and stories from minor to major (in honour of Charles Tilly) special issue of Sociological Research Online 14: 5 (November 2009), edited by Liz Stanley

'Narrative Methodologies: Subjects, Silences, Re-Readings and Analyses' special issue of Qualitative Research 8: 3 (September 2008), edited by Liz Stanley & Bogusia Temple.

(c) Articles & chapters 2008 - 2014

(2013) 'Olive Schreiner, Epistolary Practices and Microhistories: A Cultural Entrepreneur in an Historical Landscape' J. Cultural & Social History 10: 577-97 (with Andrea Salter and Helen Dampier)

(2013) 'The work of making and the work it does: Cultural sociology and 'beinging-into-being' the cultural assemblage of the Olive Schreiner letters' Cultural Sociology 7: 287-302 (with Andrea Salter and Helen Dampier)

(2013) 'Whites writing: Letters and documents of life in a QLR project' in (ed) Liz Stanley    Documents of Life Revisited Farnham: Ashgate, pp.59-73. 

(2012) '"I just express my views & leave them to work": Olive Schreiner as a feminist protagonist in a masculine political landscape with figures and letters' Gender and History 24: 677-700 (with Helen Dampier)

(2012) 'The epistolary pact, letterness and the Schreiner epistolarium' a/b: Auto/Biographical Studies 27: 262-93 (with Helen Dampier, & Andrea Salter)

(2011) 'The domestication of death: The sequestration thesis and domestic figuration' Sociology 45: 947-62 (with Sue Wise)

(2011) 'The Epistolary Gift: The Editorial Third Party, Counter-Epistolaria: Rethinking the Epistolarium' Life Writing 8:3, pp.137-54.

(2011) 'The ESRC's 2010 Framework for Research Excellence: Fit For Purpose?' (with Sue Wise) Sociological Research Online 15, 4, 12

(2011) 'Towards the epistolarium: Issues in researching and publishing the Olive Schreiner epistolarium' (with Helen Dampier) African Research and Documentation: Journal of the SCOLMA 113: 27-32.

 (2011) 'Olive Schreiner, 'A Returned South African', Her Letters, Her Essays, Her Fiction, Her Politics, Her Life: The Epistolarium Revisited' in (ed) Liz Stanley 'Olive Schreiner & Company: Schreiner's Letters and 'Drinking In the External World'' Olive Schreiner Letters Project Working Paper on Letters, Letterness & Epistolary Networks no.3, University of Edinburgh, pp.19-44

(2010) 'Olive Schreiner globalising social inquiry: a feminist analytics of globalization' (with Helen Dampier and Andrea Salter) Sociological Review 58,4: 656-79.

(2010) '"Men selling their souls & the future - & fate watching them"' - Olive Schreiner on Union' Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa 64, 3: 121-36 (with Helen Dampier)

(2010) 'To the letter: Thomas & Znaniecki's The Polish Peasant… and writing a life, sociologically speaking' Life Writing 7:2, 137-51.

(2009) 'The number of the South African War (1899-1902) concentration camp dead: Standard stories, superior stories and a forgotten proto-nationalist research investigation' Sociological Research Online 14: 5 (with Helen Dampier)

(2009) '"Her letters cut are generally nothing of interest" ¬ The heterotopic persona of Olive Schreiner and the alterity-persona of Cronwright-Schreiner English in Africa 36, 2: 7-30 (with Andrea Salter).

(2009) 'Rethinking 'current crisis' arguments: Gouldner and the legacy of critical sociology' (with Robert Hollands) Sociological Research Online 14:1

(2008) 'It has always known and we have always been 'other' - Knowing capitalism and the 'coming crisis' of sociology confront the concentration system and Mass-Observation' Sociological Review 56:4, 535-51.

(2008) 'Madness to the method? Using a narrative methodology to analyse large-scale complex social phenomena' Qualitative Research 8: 3, 435-47.

(2008) 'Parallel narratives: Photographs in Boer women's wartime testimonies' in (eds) David Robinson et al Narratives and Fiction Huddersfield, UK: University of Huddersfield Press: 9-24 (with Helen Dampier).

(2008) '"She wrote Peter Halket": Fictive and factive devices in Olive Schreiner's letters and Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland' in (eds) David Robinson et al Narratives and Fiction Huddersfield, UK: University of Huddersfield Press: 61-71 (with Helen Dampier).

(2008) 'Feminist methodology matters! in (eds) Diane Richardson & Vicki Robinson (3rd edition) Gender and Women's Studies Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan pp.221-43 (with S. Wise).


Topics interested in supervising

* Historical sociology - any aspect of theory and research * Feminist theory, in particular the work of Simone de Beauvoir & Olive Schreiner Norbert Elias & figurational sociology * Intersectional theory & research - gender, class, 'race' * South Africa, both the post-1994 transition period and any aspect of its past * Narrative theory & methodology * Documents of Life and everyday sociology I've supervised over 70 PhDs to successful conclusion and welcome inquiries and proposals for doctoral research in any area of sociologial research that connects with my research interests & related publications.

If you are interested in being supervised by Liz Stanley, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology; MSc (R) Sociology; MSc (R) Socio-Cultural Studies