Dr Katy Wheeler

Department of Sociology
Dr Katy Wheeler
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873061

  • Location

    6.352, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Thursday 11.00-13.00 or by appointment



Katy returned to Essex University after working for three years as a central academic at The Open University (Milton Keynes). Whilst at the OU, Katy played a leading role in the development of a first year interdisciplinary module, Investigating the Social World (DD103). Before this, she held positions as a post-doctoral researcher at Essex University and Queen Mary, University of London where she conducted research on recycling and obesity interventions respectively. Katy's PhD research explored Fairtrade consumption and support in the UK, focusing on the Fairtrade Towns movement. Katy completed her PhD (ESRC 1+3) and undergraduate studies at Essex. Katy has been an instructor at the Essex Summer School since 2012, offering a course in qualitative interviewing and analysis. She is a Professional Trainer for the qualitative software, MAXQDA. Katy is on the editorial board for the Journal of Cultural Economy. Twitter @KatyMWheeler


  • PhD, Sociology (2010)

  • MA Sociological Research Methods (2006)

  • BA Sociology & Criminology (2004)

  • Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy (2016)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Sociology of consumption and consumer culture

Consumption Work

Ethical consumption and Fairtrade

Recycling and waste management

Moral economy and political economy

Food provisioning

Sustainability and climate change

Theories of practice

Qualitative interviewing and analysis

Current research

Katy's work deals with the ways ordinary consumers respond to the normative pressures placed upon them to act in sustainable or responsible ways. Katy has researched the Fairtrade movement and recycling in comparative contexts, exploring how these different consumer practices generate distinctive moral economies. There has been a growing interest in the concept of moral economy along with the growing interest in sustainable consumption and markets. Her recent work develops a holistic moral economy framework that explores the interactions and interdependencies between individuals, communities and political-economic structures.

Katy is currently developing her interests in consumption and moral economies, through exploring the growing number of ethically certified schools (Eco Schools, Fairtrade Schools, MSC Schools) and environmental education programmes. She was awarded a British Academy Small grant in 2017 entitled 'Educating young people as sustainable citizen-consumers'.

Katy is also working with Dr. Stephanie Taylor (The Open University) and Dr. Bridget Conor (Kings College) to explore new forms of own-account creative work within the digital economy.

Teaching and supervision

  • Researching Social Life I (SC101)

  • The Sociological Imagination (SC111)

  • Researching Social Life II (SC203)

  • Stratification Across the Life Course: Inequalities From Cradle to Grave (SC208)

  • Consumption, political economy and sustainability (SC507)


Journals (11)

Wheeler, KM., (2017). Moral economies of consumption. Journal of Consumer Culture

Wheeler, KM., (2017). The Moral Economy of Ready-Made Food. British Journal of Sociology

Wheeler, K. and Glucksmann, M., (2015). ‘It's Kind of Saving them a Job isn't it?’ The Consumption Work of Household Recycling. The Sociological Review. 63 (3)

Wheeler, KM., (2015). Review of David Evans 'Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life'. Cultural Sociology. 9 (4)

Wheeler, K., (2015). Book Review: Christell Lane, The Cultivation of Taste: Chefs and the Organisation of Fine Dining. Sociology. 49 (3)

Wheeler, K., (2014). Nice Save: The Moral Economies of Recycling in England and Sweden. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 32 (4)

Goodwin, DM., Cummins, S., Sautkina, E., Ogilvie, D., Petticrew, M., Jones, A., Wheeler, K. and White, M., (2013). The role and status of evidence and innovation in the healthy towns programme in England: a qualitative stakeholder interview study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 67 (1)

Wheeler, K. and Glucksmann, M., (2013). Economies of Recycling, ‘Consumption Work’ and Divisions of Labour in Sweden and England. Sociological Research Online. 18 (1)

Wheeler, K., (2012). ‘CHANGE TODAY, CHOOSE FAIRTRADE’. Cultural Studies. 26 (4)

Wheeler, K., (2012). The Practice of Fairtrade Support. Sociology. 46 (1)

OGILVIE, D., CUMMINS, S., PETTICREW, M., WHITE, M., JONES, A. and WHEELER, K., (2011). Assessing the Evaluability of Complex Public Health Interventions: Five Questions for Researchers, Funders, and Policymakers. Milbank Quarterly. 89 (2)

Books (3)

Wheeler, K. and Glucksmann, MA., (2015). Household Recycling and Consumption Work - Social and Moral Economies. Palgrave MacMillan. 9781137440433

Drake, D., Morris, A., Shipman, A. and Wheeler, K., (2015). Investigating the Social World 2. The Open University. 978-1-7800-7956-1

Wheeler, K., (2012). Fair Trade and the Citizen-Consumer: Shopping for Justice?. Palgrave Macmillan. 978-1-137-28367-2

Chapters (1)

Wheeler, K., (2015). Fair trade: Bridging Boundaries?. In: Investigating the Social World 2. Editors: Drake, D., Morris, A., Shipman, A. and Wheeler, K., . The Open University. 978-1-7800-7956-1

Grants and funding


Educating young people as sustainable citizen-consumers

The British Academy

+44 (0) 1206 873061


6.352, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Thursday 11.00-13.00 or by appointment