University of Essex

Research Students

Mr David Watson

Position in departmentMPhD Candidate in Management
Staff positionGraduate Teaching Assistant

David Watson is an experienced and engaged researcher and a confident and accomplished communicator and writer who has experience of teaching undergraduate students. He has experience of working in a number of settings outside academia including local government and the third sector. Currently completing his PhD in the Business School he has also undertaken an MA in Sociological Research Methods at the university of Essex. He is an experienced qualitative researcher and has trained in both quantitative and qualitative methods. Whilst teaching during his PhD study he has gained fellowship to the Higher Education Academy and has a broad range of academic interests.

2012- Present
PhD Management Studies; Exploring Alternatives; the Role of Community Food Initiatives in Enhancing Wellbeing
MA Sociological Research (Distinction), University of Essex
During the course I completed modules on quantitative and qualitative methods and the Environment and Society. For my dissertation I used qualitative interviews to investigate how a Social Movement is framed.
BA Philosophy (2:1), University of Sheffield
Included modules on Critical Thinking, Formal Logic, Ethics and Human Rights, Political Philosophy, Social Knowledge and Value Theory
Associate fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy 

Current research

My PhD research occurs at the nexus of an increasing interest in well-being as a concept for evaluating and shaping policy and the interest and expansion in alternative food system and within that community food initiatives. The study looks at the experience of participation in community supported agriculture and community gardens utilising predominantly ethnographic methods and semi-structured interviews. I am interested in how the experience of participating in such initiatives impacts on the participant's well-being and draw substantially on Sen's Capabilities Approach in analysis and methodology but also the wider literature around local and alternative food and to some extent Marxist literature.

Research interests

  • The Sociology of Food
  • Political Economy of Food Systems
  • Alternative Food Systems
  • Food Security and Sovereignty
  • Marxist theory, in particular Marx's concept of 'alienation' and humanist and green Marxism

  • Teaching responsibilities

    BE 410 Organisational Behaviour

    BE413 International Business Environment

    CS200 Social Entrepreneurs, Sustainability and Community Action

    • Boehm, S, Misoczky, M C, Watson, D & Lanka, S (Forthcoming) “Alternative to Green Growth? Possibilities and contradictions of self-managed food production” in Dale, G, Mathai, M V, De Oliveira J A P, (eds.) Green growth: Political Ideology, Political Economy and Policy Alternatives, Surrey: Zed books
    • Watson, D, Boehm, S & Bharucha, Z (2014) “Should we feel sorry for Tesco? The human cost of cheap food” The Conversation
    • Watson, D. (2010) ‘The Distinction between Deep and Shallow Ecology; Does Deep Ecology Have Anything to Offer?’ in The Graduate Journal of Sociology No.10, Colchester: University of Essex
    Study areas
    • The study of well-being, particularly policy application and Amartya Sen's Capabilities Approach
    • Alternative Food System

    SupervisorProfessor Steffen Boehm
    Thesis titleExploring Alternatives: the Role of Community Food Initiatives in Enhancing Wellbeing

    The case for local or community food and alternative methods of food production has been made forcefully against the conventional agri-food system, critiques of which are well established. Common to these arguments is the perception that local and alternative food is somehow better for us. Yet despite calls for analytical and conceptual clarity throughout the literature, there remains a lack of a clear evaluative framework by which to assess their value. There is then a persistent view that these alternatives have potential yet we lack a coherent way of understanding this potential and developing it. The concept of well-being can provide a useful starting point to understand the value of community food and has promise as a potential solution.

    In order to develop a rich description of participation in community food projects I employ an ethnographic approach and use qualitative interviewing. The intention is to generate detailed qualitative data to address the research questions outlined above. Within these questions I explore the experience of participation in different dimensions: labour, nature of exchange, social relationships, organizational structure, interaction with the environment, relationship with food and place and the values of community food participants. These dimensions could all be viewed as important aspects contributing to well-being. However rather than setting out with a pre-defined definition of well-being I take a flexible approach in operationalising the concept in my research, in doing so I hope to steer a course between under and over specified accounts of well-being.

    Drawing on Amartya Sen’s flexible capability approach I determine the initial parameters of enquiry through a detailed reading of existing literature around local and alternative food, personal experience as a participant and a short pilot study. This is a starting point for exploring how involvement in community food can contribute to well-being but the loose definition and the qualitative methods employed provide space for participants to articulate their own understanding of well-being that goes beyond this.

    • Watson, D, Smith-Macguire, J, & Lang, J (2015) ‘Food and Drink Markets: The Production and Consumption of Alternative Market Practices and Narratives’ – Stream convened and chaired at Is there an alternative? Management after critique (9th International conference in Critical Management studies), University of Leicester 8-10th July
    • Watson, D. (2015) “Exploring a flexible framework for the measurement of well-being” Essex Business School Research Conference, University of Essex 13th May
    • Watson, D. (2014) “Working the Field: A Marxist interpretation of labour in Community Supported Agriculture” The Fruits of our Labour: Work, Labour and the political economy of our food system (part of ESRC seminar series, The Future of our Food), Essex Sustainability Institute, 29th October
    • Watson, D (2014) “The Role of Community Food in Promoting Well-being: Evidence for a New Paradigm” Fourth International Conference on Food Studies, University of Monash Prato Centre, 20-21st October
    • Watson, D. (2014) “Community food projects: De-alienating everyday life in response to capitalism” What’s so critical about your critical management studies PhD, University of Leicester, 16-17th September, 2014
    • Watson, D. (2014) “Exploring Alternatives; the Role of Community Food Initiatives in Enhancing Wellbeing in the East of England” European Society for Rural Sociology Summer School, Centre Olivier de Serres Ardeche 8-12th September
    • Watson, D (2014) “Exploring Alternatives: The Impact of Community food on Well-being” Presentation given to Tendring Eco Group, 12th May
    • Watson, D & Boehm, S (2014) “Food, capitalism, crisis: Potential for feeding a post-growth economy” Organizing for the post-growth economy, Copenhagen Business School, 8-9th May
    • Watson, D (2013) “Food security: Defining the debate” Nine Billion Essex University and Writtle College Interdisciplinary Conference, 23rd November

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