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Sociology: People


Liz Stanley

Liz Stanley
Professor Liz Stanley FAcSS
Professor of Sociology and ESRC Professorial Research Fellow
6.22 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh EH8 9LD, UK
++44 (0)131 651 3139 - but please email for strong preference!
Research Interests
Historical sociology, feminist theory, sociological theory, social change, narrative & auto/biographical methodologies, South Africa, 'Documents of life', in particular letters and diaries, everyday life sociology, Norbert Elias & figurational sociology

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • I am presently on research leave, but unless in South Africa I am pleased to be available for meetings with students - please email me.

Present projects

I hold an ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship from 2013 to 2018. This focuses on 'Whites Writing Whiteness - Domestic Figurations & Representations of Whiteness in South Africa 1770s - 1970s' (see The WWW project is shaped by the social theory of Norbert Elias and involves a Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR) historical sociology investigation of social change and the processes of racialisation in South Africa. Whites Writing Whiteness has developed from the ESRC-funded Olive Schreiner Letters Project, rated as 'outstanding' by the ESRC; for details on the letters and publications of this key feminist theorist, see the Olive Schreiner Letters Online at

Main research interests

I'm interested in almost everything connected with sociology and society! Particular interests are --- Feminist theory. Sociological theory, in particular the work of Norbert Elias and Dorothy Smith. Historical sociology and archival research. Cultural sociology. 'Documents of life'. Lives, letters & narrative inquiry. Everyday life sociology. Death and its domestication. Intersectional theory and research. PhD enquiries on any of these areas are very much welcomed.

In addition, I hold Extraordinary Professorial positions at the Universities of Pretoria and the Free State, through which I contribute to capacity-building in South African higher education. And as this suggests, I'm also very interested in supervising PhD students on any aspect of South African society.


(a) Books 2006-2018

(2018) Dorothy Smith, Feminist Sociology and Institutional Ethnography Edinburgh: X Press. Go to

(2017) The Racialising Process: Whites Writing Whiteness in Letters, South Africa 1770s-1970s Edinburgh: X Press. Go to

(2016) The Archive Project: Archival Research in the Social Sciences (Liz Stanley with Niamh Moore, Andrea Salter, Maria Tamboukou) London: Routledge. (2016) Chapter 1 'In other archives and beyond ', lead author; Chapter 2 'Archival methodology inside the blackbox', sole author; Chapter 6 'The beginning in the ending: reassembling the archival practices', co-lead author with Maria Tamboukou.

(2014) The World's Great Question: Olive Schreiner's South African Letters Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society (with Andrea Salter). Go to

(2013) Documents of Life Revisited: Narrative and Biographical Methodology for a 21st Century Critical Humanism Farnham: Ashgate. Go to

(2012) 'Simone de Beauvoir: The Useless Mouths' Translated with an editorial introduction by Liz Stanley & Catherine Naji, in (ed) Margaret A Simons & Mary-Beth Timmerman The Useless Mouths and Other Writings, volume 4 of Simone de Beauvoir: Literary Writings USA: Illinois University Press.

(2008) Mourning Becomes… Post/Memory and the Concentration Camps of the South African War Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

(2006) Mourning Becomes… Post/Memory and the Concentration Camps of the South African War Manchester: Manchester University Press; USA: Rutgers University Press.

(b) Articles & chapters 2008 - 2018

(2018 in progress) 'Ordinary letter-writing and the "actual course of things": white colonial settlers doing the business' in eds Anne Chappel, Julie Parsons, Maria Tamboukou Handbook of Auto/Biography Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

(2018 in press) 'Dorothy Smith' in eds Paul Atkinson and Sara Delamont Sage Encyclopaedia of Qualitative Research London: Sage.

Liz Stanley and Emilia Sereva (2018  in press) 'Letters and documents of life revisited' in eds Paul Atkinson and Sara Delamont Sage Encyclopaedia of Qualitative Research London: Sage. 

(July 2018 in press) "Epistemology" in (ed) Michael Ryan Essential Concepts in Sociology New York: Wiley.

(2018 in press) 'Before: The avant-textes of ‘From Man to Man’ and Olive Schreiner’s writing practices' Journal of Commonwealth Literature.

(2017) 'Settler colonialism and migrant letters' in eds. Marcello Bprges and Sonia Cancian Migrant Letters: Emotional Language, Mobile Identities, and Writing Practices in Historical Perspective (Routledge, 2017)
ISBN: 978-1-138-56019-2
Planned Publication Date: 13/12/2017

Liz Stanley and Margaretta Jolly (2017) 'Epistolarity: life after death of the letter?' a/b: Auto/Biographical Studies 32. 2: 229-33.

(2016) "Telling lives in feminist narrative inquiry" in (eds) Kelly Lockwood, Kate Smith & Jo Woodiwiss Feminist Narrative Research: Opportunities and Challenges Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

(2016) "Settler colonialism and migrant letters: the Forbes family and letter-writing in South Africa 1850-1922" History of the Family. free access at 

(2015) “The reader, the text and the editor: On the making of Olive Schreiner's letters and The World's Great Question” English in Africa 42:1, 59-76.

(2015) “The death of the letter? Epistolary intent, letterness and the many ends of letter-writing” Cultural Sociology 9:2, 240-55.

(2015) “The scriptural economy, the Forbes figuration and the racial order” Sociology 49:5, 837-52.

(2015) “Documents of life: Analysing letters and other found data in researching 'Whites Writing Whiteness' in South Africa” in SAGE Research Methods Datasets. SAGE Publications Ltd.

(2015) “Operationalizing a QLR project on social change and whiteness in South Africa, 1770s – 1970s” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 18:3, 251-65.

(2015) ““Olive Schreiner, Sociology and the company she kept” in (eds) Alexander Law and Eric Royal Lybeck Sociological Amnesia: Cross-Currents in Disciplinary History Farnham: Ashgate, pp.89-104.

(2013) 'Olive Schreiner, Epistolary Practices and Microhistories: A Cultural Entrepreneur in an Historical Landscape' J. Cultural & Social History 10: 577-97 (with Andrea Salter and Helen Dampier)

(2013) 'The work of making and the work it does: Cultural sociology and 'beinging-into-being' the cultural assemblage of the Olive Schreiner letters' Cultural Sociology 7: 287-302 (with Andrea Salter and Helen Dampier)

(2013) 'Whites writing: Letters and documents of life in a QLR project' in (ed) Liz Stanley Documents of Life Revisited Farnham: Ashgate, pp.59-73. 

(2012) '"I just express my views & leave them to work": Olive Schreiner as a feminist protagonist in a masculine political landscape with figures and letters' Gender and History 24: 677-700 (with Helen Dampier)

(2012) 'The epistolary pact, letterness and the Schreiner epistolarium' a/b: Auto/Biographical Studies 27: 262-93 (with Helen Dampier, & Andrea Salter)

(2011) 'The domestication of death: The sequestration thesis and domestic figuration' Sociology 45: 947-62 (with Sue Wise)

(2011) 'The Epistolary Gift: The Editorial Third Party, Counter-Epistolaria: Rethinking the Epistolarium' Life Writing 8:3, pp.137-54.

(2011) 'The ESRC's 2010 Framework for Research Excellence: Fit For Purpose?' (with Sue Wise) Sociological Research Online 15, 4, 12

(2011) 'Towards the epistolarium: Issues in researching and publishing the Olive Schreiner epistolarium' (with Helen Dampier) African Research and Documentation: Journal of the SCOLMA 113: 27-32.

 (2011) 'Olive Schreiner, 'A Returned South African', Her Letters, Her Essays, Her Fiction, Her Politics, Her Life: The Epistolarium Revisited' in (ed) Liz Stanley 'Olive Schreiner & Company: Schreiner's Letters and 'Drinking In the External World'' Olive Schreiner Letters Project Working Paper on Letters, Letterness & Epistolary Networks no.3, University of Edinburgh, pp.19-44

(2010) 'Olive Schreiner globalising social inquiry: a feminist analytics of globalization' (with Helen Dampier and Andrea Salter) Sociological Review 58,4: 656-79.

(2010) '"Men selling their souls & the future - & fate watching them"' - Olive Schreiner on Union' Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa 64, 3: 121-36 (with Helen Dampier)

(2010) 'To the letter: Thomas & Znaniecki's The Polish Peasant… and writing a life, sociologically speaking' Life Writing 7:2, 137-51.

(2009) 'The number of the South African War (1899-1902) concentration camp dead: Standard stories, superior stories and a forgotten proto-nationalist research investigation' Sociological Research Online 14: 5 (with Helen Dampier)

(2009) '"Her letters cut are generally nothing of interest" ¬ The heterotopic persona of Olive Schreiner and the alterity-persona of Cronwright-Schreiner English in Africa 36, 2: 7-30 (with Andrea Salter).

(2009) 'Rethinking 'current crisis' arguments: Gouldner and the legacy of critical sociology' (with Robert Hollands) Sociological Research Online 14:1

(2008) 'It has always known and we have always been 'other' - Knowing capitalism and the 'coming crisis' of sociology confront the concentration system and Mass-Observation' Sociological Review 56:4, 535-51.

(2008) 'Madness to the method? Using a narrative methodology to analyse large-scale complex social phenomena' Qualitative Research 8: 3, 435-47.

(2008) 'Parallel narratives: Photographs in Boer women's wartime testimonies' in (eds) David Robinson et al Narratives and Fiction Huddersfield, UK: University of Huddersfield Press: 9-24 (with Helen Dampier).

(2008) '"She wrote Peter Halket": Fictive and factive devices in Olive Schreiner's letters and Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland' in (eds) David Robinson et al Narratives and Fiction Huddersfield, UK: University of Huddersfield Press: 61-71 (with Helen Dampier).

(2008) 'Feminist methodology matters! in (eds) Diane Richardson & Vicki Robinson (3rd edition) Gender and Women's Studies Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan pp.221-43 (with S. Wise).

Topics interested in supervising

* Historical sociology - any aspect of theory & research * Feminist theory, in particular by Dorothy Smith, Simone de Beauvoir & Olive Schreiner * Norbert Elias & figurational sociology * Intersectional theory & research - gender, class, 'race' * South Africa, both the post-1994 period & any aspect of its past * Narrative theory & methodology * Documents of Life and everyday sociology. I've supervised over 80 PhDs to successful conclusion and welcome inquiries and proposals for doctoral research in any area of sociologial research that connects with my research interests and publications.

If you are interested in being supervised by Liz Stanley, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology