Professor Sue Wilkinson

  • Emeritus Professor of Feminist and Health Studies

My career began as an undergraduate at Leicester University, where – while undertaking a broad-based training in psychology - I developed interests in social interaction and qualitative methods. These evolved into research projects and professional work on gender issues, particularly concerning the role of women in psychology. During my first university teaching post – at Liverpool University - I became increasingly involved in the British Psychological Society, first as an active member of the Social Psychology Section, and then as a leader of the campaign to set up a Psychology of Women Section. Later, I would also play a key role in the formation of what is now the Psychology of Sexualities Section.

The Psychology of Women Section was eventually formed in 1989, and I was its first elected Chair. I established several publication outlets for the new field: most importantly - a peer-reviewed, international journal, Feminism & Psychology, which I founded in 1991, and edited until 2007. I next took up a post as Head of Psychology at Coventry University, and was responsible for introducing an undergraduate Women’s Studies programme there, while continuing my research on the social construction of sexuality and sexual identity. My research became increasingly interdisciplinary, and, following appointment to a research post at the University of Hull, I began to specialise in women’s health, particularly breast cancer, and to offer consultancy work using focus groups. My move to Loughborough in 1994 provided the opportunity to combine my feminist interests with discursive psychology, through the flourishing Discourse and Rhetoric Group, and to teach on - and to direct - the graduate Women’s Studies programme. I held a Visiting Professorship at the University of Waikato, New Zealand in 1999, and was promoted to Full Professor at Loughborough in 2000.

Having been enthused by a 6-week workshop on conversation analysis at the University of California, Santa Barbara in summer 2001, I spent most of my sabbatical year in 2002 as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sociology at University of California, Los Angeles, where I undertook intensive training in conversation analysis with the world leaders in the field. The following academic year, I was granted special leave to take up an Endowed Chair in Canada for two years. As the Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Professor of Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, I was responsible for outreach and consultancy work in the feminist and health communities across British Columbia, and organized a major international conference . While in Canada, as well as continuing my work on breast cancer, I married my long-term partner and colleague, Celia Kitzinger, and, with her, began new research on the social construction of marriage and other forms of partnership recognition.

I returned to Loughborough in September 2004, as Professor of Feminist and Health Studies, and began to develop a number of projects involving conversation analysis of healthcare interactions, as well as ‘everyday’ talk about health and illness.  In 2006, Celia and I fought - and lost - a landmark High Court battle for the recognition of our marriage as a marriage (and not as a civil partnership) in the UK; we subsequently founded a campaigning organization, Equal Marriage Rights (which we continue to run).

  • conversation analysis;
  • helpline interaction;
  • women's health;
  • equal marriage rights.