Professor Ruth Holliday

Professor Ruth Holliday


Having completed my BA (in Electronics and Management Science) at Keele University and PhD at Staffordshire University I worked at Birmingham City University (Business Studies) and Staffordshire University (Sociology, then Cultural Studies). I came to Leeds in 2002, first as Director of Studies, then Director, for the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies. I was made Professor of Gender and Culture in 2008. The Centre was re-located to the School of Sociology and Social Policy in 2010 and I was Director of Research between 2015 and 2018. As Programme Director I designed and developed the MA in Society, Culture and Media from 2017, stepping down from that role in 2020. 

Research interests

I am best known for my work on the (cultural) sociology of the body, gender, material culture and consumption, particularly in the areas of Kitsch and Cosmetic Surgery. This work is also rooted in social inequalities and the politics of identity, particularly the intersections of gender, class and sexuality. I have worked in many different areas of sociology – employment relations, organisation studies, cultural studies, media studies, gender studies, for example, and these have come together to inform my most recent project on cosmetic medical tourism from 2011-2014. The project explored cosmetic surgery tourism from the UK, China and Australia, focussing not only on the experiences of patients, but also on the structure and regulation of the industry, the cultural conditions and media which promote or enable it and the classed and gendered relations between surgeons and patients, medical and sales staff, care workers, translators and patients, across different national contexts.

My earlier work on cosmetic surgery considers the way it is experienced by women and men of different classes, ethnicities, nationalities and sexualities, and critically engages with (some) feminist constructions of aesthetic surgery as a ‘problem’ of gender relations.

Related to the cosmetic surgery research, I have a broader theoretical interest in beauty and taste and consumption as applied to both things and people. My co-written book Kitsch! Cultural Politics and Taste - which draws on Kant, Bourdieu and Ranciere to explore the construction of popular taste in opposition to art – was published in 2012 with Manchester University Press. The book examines the cultural politics of kitsch, specifically the ways in which it has been classed, gendered and racialised as ‘bad taste’ or the taste of ‘the other’. It argues that two ‘taste structures’ – camp and cool – allow kitsch to be reclaimed, but that camp and cool have profoundly different orientations to kitsch in their use of irony. Whilst Camp is ‘tender feeling’, Cool masks distance from kitsch.

In addition to these substantive themes I also have a strong international reputation for my work on methodologies, especially visual methods. This, and my interests in sexualities, emerged initially from an ESRC research project, completed in 1999, that examined the identity performances of queer subjects, using video diaries. From this research the importance of both the body and material culture emerged as major factors in the construction of identities. I was also Co-I on the ESRC project ‘Building Capacity in Visual Research’ completed in 2006.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Sociology
  • BA Electronics and Management Science

Professional memberships

  • Member of the British Sociological Association

Student education

I am currently teach on the following modules.

  • Theorising Gender (MA)
  • Contested Bodies (MA)
  • Central Problems in Sociology (2nd year)
  • Dissertations (3rd year and MA)

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>