Professor Karen Throsby


I have a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from Lincoln College, Oxford, and MSc Gender from the Gender Institute, London School of Economics.

I completed my PhD in 2002 (also at the LSE Gender Institute) on the topic of people's experiences of IVF failure; with the support of an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship, this thesis became my first monograph, When IVF Fails: Feminism, Infertility and the Negotiation of Normality (Palgrave, 2004). I am also the co-editor (with Flora Alexander) of Gender and Interpersonal Violence: Language, Action and Representation (Palgrave, 2008) and the author of Immersion: Marathon Swimming, Embodiment and Identity (Manchester University Press, 2016).

Based on research funding by the Leverhulme Trust, my latest book, Sugar Rush: Science, Politics and the Demonisation of Fatness,  will be published by Manchester University Press in June 2023Since completing my PhD, I have held sociology lectureships at the LSE and the University of Warwick, before joining the School of Sociology and Social Policy at Leeds in 2013. 


  • Head of School

Research interests

My research explores the intersections of gender, technology, the body and health, with a particular focus on the mundane processes, technologies and practices of bodily transformation. Taking an intersectional feminist approach, I explore how those transformations are experienced, negotiated and resisted and what this says about the wider social context within which they are made (il)legible.

I have explored these questions across a range of contexts, including the new reproductive technologies, obesity surgery, extreme endurance swimming, the social life of sugar, and most recently, food avoidance (for example, synthetic liquid meal replacements, food allergies, taste and preference and poverty-induced avoidance. Using a wide range of qualitative methods, including ethnography, autoethnography, interviews and media and textual analysis, these diverse research sites have enabled me to explore normative conceptualisations and practices of "good" embodiment, both materially and discursively, speaking to central concerns about whose bodies 'count' in contemporary society and embodied belonging is materially and discursively constituted and contested.

My recently completed book, Sugar Rush: Science, Politics and the Demonisation of Fatness (MUP, 2023) is based on research, supported by the Leverhulme Trust. It draws on an archive of over 500 UK newspaper articles about sugar from 2013-2020, supplemented with policy documents, scientific publications, popular science tracts, self-help literature and film and TV documentaries, and begins from the question: What are the social meanings and practices of sugar in the context of a 'war on obesity'? The research begins from the recent supplanting of fat by sugar as 'public enemy number one', and adopts a position of suspicion towards the contemporary demonisation of the fat body (and the sugar’s demonisation in relation to it).

My goal isn't to determine the 'truths' of the vociferous dietary debates that sugar finds itself in the centre of, or to offer up prescriptions of how people should or should not eat; instead, I use sugar to think about a wide range of issues including: scientific knowledge production, validation and appropriation; contemporary panics around health and body size; the role of generation, gender, race and class in the production of embodied citizenship; and the politics of food and its lived inequalities. 

<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>


  • BA (Hons, II:i) English Language and Literature, Lincoln College, Oxford, 1989)
  • MSc Gender (Distinction) (Gender Institute, London School of Economics, 1997)
  • PhD (Gender Institute, London School of Economics, 2002)

Student education

I am currently Head of the School of Sociology and Social Policy. 

I also welcome PhD students working in the areas of gender, technology, health and the body. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
  • Centre for Health, Technologies and Social Practice

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>