Ashley R. Bullard
My research began as an investigation into the emergence of cognition enhancers on the policy agenda from roughly 2002 through to its disappearance in 2009. During this period, the positioning of cognition enhancers changed from something that was thought to be widespread and to become common place, to something that was no longer mentioned. However, as the project has evolved, I have become increasingly interested in the centrality of identity in policy making, in opposition to rationalist accounts common within mainstream social policy analysis.
This orientation has emerged through an engagement with Critical Social Policy scholarship, especially that of a critical-race and critical-feminist, psychosocial-informed approach that has come to theorize social identity and human power and agency to rethink the essentialising terms of mainstream social policy and welfare debates. I have also been influenced by decolonial poststructuralist political theory, with its epistemological critiques and methodologies which I have utilised to understand sociological historical analysis.
Using the original case study of cognition enhancers in the UK policy context, I have considered how identity structures the logic of policy making. This empirical study has been used to consider how the identity of the imagined citizenship, policy makers, and objects (cognition enhancers and other 'drugs'), interact in instances of policy making, generating rationalisations for policy action (or inaction).
Motivation for doing a PhD
I began my academic path here at the University of Leeds as an undergraduate Maths student, but quickly realised that my interests were better suited to doing a Social Sciences degree; so I transferred to Leeds Metropolitan University to study Social Sciences BA in 2010. Doing well and knowing then I would want to undertake study beyond undergraduate level, I transferred into SSP at Leeds University at level 2 to do Sociology and Social Policy (International) BA for which I obtained a First.
I was fortunate to receive the School’s Leeds Graduate Bursary to do my Masters here also; studying Social Research MA (Distinction). During this I was awarded the University’s ESRC +3 (Social Policy) Scholarship to begin the following year.
I have long been interested in the question of how can drug policy continue in its current form in the face of such overwhelming evidence that it is arbitrary, irrational, and counter-productive. Over time I’ve become interested in theories of power, especially from critical-feminist and critical-race approaches. I have similarly developed an interested in anti-foundationalist critiques of the social sciences more broadly.
Understanding and Researching Contemporary Society (level 1)
Crime and Deviance (level 1)
The Sociology of Modern Societies (level 1)
Power and Conflict (level 1)
Research Methods (level 2)
I also provided cover for Formations of Modernity (level 1)
Power and Conflict (level 1) – An interdisciplinary blended learning module (first of its type at the University of Leeds), I was part of the development team on this discovery module, responsible for the 2-week ‘Social and Societal Power and Conflict’ unit, also contributing content to other units on the module.
Crime and Deviance (level 1) – On the topics of drugs.
Bullard, A. (2018) Neither Licit nor Illicit: A Discursive Analysis of Cognition Enhancers. Contemporary Drug Problems. 45 (3) pp. 262-282. doi:10.1177/0091450918789415
Special Issue Editor
Beresford, J., & Bullard, A. (2018) Focus: Narrating Policy – Potentials of Narrative Methods and Theories in Extending and Re-Orientating Policy Research [Editorial]. Discovery Society. [Online.] Available at: https://discoversociety.org/2018/08/01/focus-narrating-policy-potentials-of-narrative-methods-and-theories-in-extending-and-re-orientating-policy-research/
Bullard, A. (2016) Review: Bob Jessop’s The State: Past, Present, Futures. LSE Review of Books. Available at:
Bullard, A. (2017) Review: Kath Woodward’s Psychosocial Studies: An Introduction. Journal of Psycho-Social Studies. 10 (1) pp.84-87
My research interests cover antifoundationalist philosophy, relational politics, and centrality of identity in policy making.
- Social Policy and Sociology (International) BA (Hons) - First
- Social Research MA - Distinction