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Sociology: People


Lauren Wilks

Lauren Wilks
Lauren Wilks
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Domestic work, care, gender, class, social inequality, migration, mobility, commuting, work and labour, precarity, family and personal relationships, gender-based violence, ethnography, qualitative research, social history

Research Overview

Funded by the ESRC, and based on sixteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, my PhD explores the everyday lives and experiences of commuting domestic workers in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. Daily commuters are among the growing ranks of ‘live-out’ or ‘visiting’ domestic workers in Kolkata, most of whom work part-time in one or more (usually several) households a day; however, unlike those residing within the city’s limits, commuting domestic workers – who live in rural and peri-urban areas outside the city and who must travel often considerable distances to get to work – are yet to receive proper academic attention. My research seeks to address this gap, building on the work of Ray and Qayum (2010), Sen and Sengupta (2016) and others and foregrounding the narratives of commuters who are variously employed to cook, clean, and care in private households across Kolkata. 


Dr Julie Brownlie & Dr Hugo Gorringe


Journal Articles & Book Chapters:

(forthcoming). L. Wilks. ‘Gender and Domestic Work in India.’ In Handbook on Gender in Asia, edited by S. Huang & K. N. Ruwanpura. Edward Elgar. 

(2011). L. Wilks. 'Missionary medicine & the "separatist tradition": an analysis of the missionary encounter with leprosy in late nineteenth-century India,' Social Scientist, 39 (5-6): 48-66.

Book Reviews:

(2017). L. Wilks. Book review of S. Sen and N. Sengupta’s Domestic Days: Women, Work, and Politics in Contemporary Kolkata (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016), Contemporary South Asia, 25 (1): 110-111.

(2016). L. Wilks. Book review of S. P. Shah's Street Corner Secrets: Sex, Work, and Migration in the City of Mumbai (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), Sociology, 50 (4): 825-829.

Media Publications:

I have written about my research interests for various media publications, including Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Huffington Post, The Observer, and The Guardian.

(2015). J. Dey & L. Wilks. ‘The Indian Elite Has a Toilet Problem it Doesn't Want to See.’ The Wire. 2 December.

(2015). L. Wilks. ‘India's Domestic Workers Need a Break.’ The Guardian. 10 June.

(2014). L. Wilks. ‘World Cup 2014: Is Brazil's Sex Industry Crackdown a Threat to Human Rights?’ for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The Guardian. 14 February.

Conference & Workshop Presentations

(2018). L. Wilks. ‘Contestation and Constraint: Commuting Domestic Workers and their Employers in Contemporary Kolkata.’ Servants’ Pasts: 2nd International Conference, 11-13 April, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany.

(2017). L. Wilks. ‘Does an Outsider Ever Become One’s Own? Commuting Domestic Workers and Employment Relations in Kolkata.’ Annual Meeting of the South Asia Anthropologists’ Group (SAAG), 8 September, University of Edinburgh, UK.

(2017). L. Wilks. ‘Contestation and Negotiation in the Workplace: Paid Domestic Labour in West Bengal, India.’ New Directions, 20-21 April, Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK.

(2016). L. Wilks. ‘Everyday Violence and Resistance in the Personal Lives of Women Engaged in Daily Commuting and Domestic Work in West Bengal, India.’ Modern Matters: Negotiating the Future in Everyday Life in South Asia, 20-22 September, Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET), University of Lund, Sweden.

(2016). L. Wilks. ‘Madhobi and Kobita: A Discussion of ‘Honour’ and Violence in the Personal Lives of Women Domestic Workers in West Bengal.’ Annual Meeting of the South Asia Anthropologists’ Group (SAAG), 12-13 September, Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL), UK.

(2015). L. Wilks.  ‘Gender, Migration, and Domestic Work in West Bengal, India.’ (En)gendering Migration: Narratives from South Asia and Beyond, 20 February, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK), India.

Teaching Experience & Student Support

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, having completed the course Introduction to Academic Practice (IntroAP).

Guest Lecturing:

(2018/19). ‘Gender, (Paid) Domestic Work and Globalisation.’ Development: Principles and Practices (postgraduate course), School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.

(2018/19). ‘Doing Ethnographic Research: Gender and Domestic Work in Eastern India.’ Researching Global Social Change (postgraduate course), School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.


(2018/19). Sociology 2A: Thinking Sociologically (UG, second-year course), School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

(2017/18). South Asia: Culture, Politics and the Economy (UG, honours course), School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

(2016/17). Sociology 1B: The Sociological Imagination - Private Troubles, Public Problems (UG, first-year course), School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.


(2017-2018). Project Support Assistant, PTAS student journal project, Social Anthropology (working with Dr John Harries and Dr Laura Major), University of Edinburgh. For information about the project and journal, see: 

(2016-2018). Mentor (and previously Committee Member) for the SSPS PGT Peer Support Scheme, a new initiative aimed at supporting taught master’s students in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. 

(2017). Helped design and facilitate sociology 'taster' workshops for prospective students as part of the Sutton Trust Summer School and the Kickstart Summer Programme - two of the University's widening participation initiatives. 

(2014). English Language Tutor, The Welcoming Association, Edinburgh.

(2010-2011). School Speaker, British Red Cross, Edinburgh (facilitated humanitarian education workshops and peer education projects in schools across Fife, Lothian & Borders).

Research & Policy Experience

(2018). Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh & Edinburgh College of Art ('Platforming Creativity' project with Dr Karen Gregory & Dr Harry Weeks).

(2014). Policy Assistant, Carnegie UK Trust, Dunfermline.

(2011- 2012). Historical Research Assistant, Carnegie UK Trust, Dunfermline.

(2011). Research Assistant, Centre for South Asian Studies (with Prof Crispin Bates), University of Edinburgh.

Activities & Projects 

(2017-present). Involvement in ‘Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives: Questions of Identity, Pedagogy and Violence in India and the UK’, a UGC and UKIERI funded project led by Dr Radhika Govinda. Project website:

(2017). Helped coordinate the Annual Meeting of the South Asia Anthropologists’ Group (SAAG) at the University of Edinburgh with Dr Hugo Gorringe, Dr Radhika Govinda and Dr Jeevan Sharma (8 September). 

(2016). Contributor/panelist at ‘Whose Voice is it Anyway?’, a public event organised by Dr Charlotte Bosseaux and the Department of Translation Studies at the University of Edinburgh (30 September). Focusing on the issue of ‘voice’ in interpreting and translation contexts, the event brought together interpreters, translators and researchers.

(2016). Co-organised an exhibition titled ‘Women’s Worlds’ with Lisa Kalayji as part of the bi-annual Global Ethnographies series at the University of Edinburgh (28 March – 1 April). Along with the exhibition, we also held a workshop on research dissemination and zine-making for postgraduate students in the School of Social and Political Science.

(2014). Editor at Routes, a collaborative blog based at the University of Edinburgh.

(2014). Contributor/panelist at the Innovative Learning Week event 'Understanding and Working with the Media' at the University of Edinburgh (20 February).

(2013). Student Fellow at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

(2012-2013). Assistant Editor at The South Asianist.

Grants & Awards

(2012-2017). 1 + 3 Award, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

(2017). President’s Fund, Edinburgh Association of University Women.

(2015). Tweedie Exploration Fellowship, University of Edinburgh.

(2013). Amnesty International Student Human Rights Reporter Award, Amnesty International UK in partnership with NUS, the Observer and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

(2011). Annabella Kirkpatrick Prize Scholarship in History, University of Edinburgh.

(2011). Rafe Bullick Scholarship, University of Edinburgh.


(2013). MSc by Research in Sociology, University of Edinburgh (Distinction).

(2011). MA (Hons) in History, University of Edinburgh (First Class).