Professor Kenneth Plummer

Emeritus Professor
Department of Sociology
Professor Kenneth Plummer



I arrived at Essex in January 1975 to teach social psychology and the sociology of deviance. The following year I also started a long standing link with the Sociology Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara where I also taught for many years. Over the years, I have held many roles at Essex including Graduate Director and Head of Department; and have researched and written widely on sexuality (especially lesbian and gay studies, and since the late 1980's, queer studies). My main interests have always been in the development of a humanistic method and theory to help towards a better social world where there will be less socially produced suffering. My methodological concerns have been with the development of narrative, life story, symbolic interactionism and the post-modern turn. My approach is that of a critical humanist. I have also had a long standing interest in the teaching of introductory sociology, having taught the first year at Essex for eighteen years and produced the textbook with John Macionis, Sociology: A Global Introduction (3rd ed 2005; 4th edition 2008). Written or edited around 15 books and over a hundred articles, including Sexual Stigma (1975), The Making of the Modern Homosexual ed (1981), Symbolic Interactionism Vols 1 & 2 (1991), Modern Homosexualities: Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experience (1992), Chicago Sociology : Critical Assessments (1997: 4 volumes); Telling Sexual Stories (1995), Sexualities (2002: 4 volumes), Documents of Life-2: An invitation to a critical humanism (2001) and Intimate Citizenship (2003). In 1996, I set up the journal Sexualities and remain its editor. I am still young in heart, but sadly felt the need to retire in 2006, requiring transplant surgery in 2007. Recovering well, I now have quite a few books in me to write, and look forward to a continuous engagement with a wonderful department, continuing to see students – undergraduate and graduate - whenever I can.


  • BA London,

  • PhD London,

Research and professional activities

Research interests


Its links to sociology, and its theories and tools for examining social life. I am concerned with the ways in which humans create little social worlds and how these change.

Intimacies and sexualities

My old interests remain and centre mainly around editing the journal Sexualities. I am concerned with the ways in which the personal dwells in the social.

The sociologies of 'suffering' and 'well being'

A very wide ranging interest in then 'bad news' and the 'good news'. I am concerned with the terrible things we do to each other, and yet also the ways we can develop astonishingly rich social life worlds.

Medicine, narratives and transplants

After transplant surgery in 2007, I am thinking about the nature of illness. I am concerned with the ways in which illness must partially be seen as narrative and, sometimes, as an opportunity.


Still crazy after all these years. Shorn of a lot of parochialisms, sociology is a fine way to see lives and for creating thinking people. I am concerned to keep the buzz going that I got from it forty years ago, and to do this via my textbook!

Teaching and supervision

Previous supervision

Elisa Attili
Elisa Attili
Degree subject: Occasional Study: Sociology (Research)
Degree type: Occasional Postgraduate Study
Awarded date: 16/1/2011


Journal articles (5)

Plummer, K., (2003). Queers, Bodies and Post-Modern Sexualities: A Note on Revisiting the "Sexual". Qualitative Sociology. 26 (4), 515-530

Plummer, K., (2003). Continuity and Change in Howard S. Becker's work: An Interview with Howard S. Becker. Sociological Perspectives. 46 (1), 21-39

Plummer, K., (2002). Critical Humanism in a Post-Modern World. Studies in Symbolic Interaction. 25, 291-301

Plummer, K., (2001). In Memoriam: William Simon (1930-2000). Sexualities. 4 (2), 131-134

Plummer, K., (2001). The Square of Intimate Citizenship. Citizenship Studies. 5 (3), 237-253

Books (16)

Plummer, K., (2014). Imaginations:Fifty Years of Essex Sociology. Wivenbooks Press. 978-0957085046

Carrabine, E., Cox, P., Fussey, P., Hobbs, D., South, N. and Thiel, D., (2014). Criminology: A Sociological Introduction (3rd Edition). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 978-0-415-64080-0

Macionis, J. and Plummer, K., (2011). Sociology: A Global Introduction (5th Edition). Prentice Hall. 9780273727910

Plummer, K., (2010). Sociology: The Basics. Routledge. 978-0-415-47205-0

Carrabine, E., Lee, M., South, N., Cox, P. and Plummer, K., (2008). Criminology A Sociological Introduction, 2nd Edition. Routledge. 9780415464505

Carrabine, E., Iganski, P., Lee, M., South, N., Plummer, K. and Turton, J., (2004). Criminology: A Sociological Introduction. Routledge. 9780415640787

Plummer, K., (2003). Intimate Citizenship: Private Decisions and Public Dialogues. University of Washington Press. 978-0295983318

Plummer, K., (2001). Documents of Life 2: An Invitation to A Critical Humanism Second Edition. SAGE Publications. 9780761961314

Plummer, K., (1997). The Chicago School: Critical Assessments. Routledge. 9780415116398

Plummer, K., (1994). Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds. Routledge. 978-0415102964

Plummer, K., (1992). Modern Homosexualities: Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experiences. Routledge. 978-0415064217

Plummer, K., (1991). Sexualities: Critical Concepts in Sociology (4 volumes). Routledge. 978-0415212724

Plummer, K., (1991). Symbolic Interactionism: Volume 1 - Foundations and History; Volume 2 - Contemporary Issues. Edward Elgar Publishing. 9781852781583

Plummer, K., (1983). Documents of Life: An Introduction to the problems and literature of a Humanistic Method. Allen & Unwin. 978-0043210291

Plummer, K., (1981). The Making of the Modern Homosexual. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 9780389201595

Plummer, K., (1975). Sexual Stigma: An Interactionist Account. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 978-0710080608

Book chapters (14)

Plummer, K., (2007). Herbert Blumer. In: Key Sociological Thinkers, 2nd edition. Editors: Stones, R., . Palgrave Macmillan. 9780230001565

Plummer, K., (2007). The Flow of Boundaries : Gays, Queers and Intimate Citizenship. In: Crime, Social Control and Human Rights: from moral panics to states of denial, essays in honour of Stanley Cohen. Editors: Downes, D., Rock, P., Chinkin, C. and Gearty, C., . Willan Publishing. 978-1843922285

Plummer, K., (2006). Rights Work: constructing lesbian, gay and sexual rights in late modern times. In: Rights: Sociological Perspectives. Editors: Morris, L., . Routledge. 978-0415355223

Plummer, K., (2005). Intimate Citizenship in an Unjust World. In: The Blackwell Companion to Social Inequalities. Editors: Romero, M. and Margolis, E., . Wiley-Blackwell. 978-0631231547

Plummer, K., (2005). Queer Theory and Critical Humanism. In: The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edition. Editors: Denzin, NK. and Lincoln, YS., . Sage. 978-0761927570

Plummer, K., (2004). Social Worlds, Social Change and The New Sexualities Theories. In: Sexuality Repositioned: Diversity and the Law. Editors: Brooks-Gordon, B., Gelsthorpe, L., Johnson, M. and Bainham, A., . Hart Publishing. 978-1841134895

Plummer, K., (2004). Male Sexuality. In: Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities. Editors: Connell, R., Hearn, J. and Kimmel, M., . Sage. 9780761923695

Plummer, K., (2004). The Sexual Spectacle: Making a Public Culture of Sexual Problems. In: Handbook of Social Problems A Comparative International Perspective. Editors: Ritzer, G., . Sage. 9780761926108

Plummer, K., Kong, T. and Mahoney, D., (2001). Queering the Interview. In: Handbook of Interview Research. Editors: Gubrium, JF. and Holstein, J., . Sage. 239- 259. 978-0761919513

Plummer, K., (2001). Gay Cultures / Straight Borders. In: British Cultural Studies. Editors: Morley, D. and Robins, K., . Oxford University Press (OUP). 387- 398. 978-0-19-874206-7

Plummer, K., (2001). The Call of Life Stories in Ethnographic Research. In: The Handbook of Ethnography. Editors: Atkinson, P., Coffey, A., Delamont, S., Lofland, J. and Lofland, L., . Sage. 9780761958246

Plummer, K., (2000). Intimate Choices. In: Understanding Contemporary Society Theories of the Present. Editors: Browing, G., Halci, A. and Webster, F., . Sage. 9780761959267

Plummer, K., (2000). Mapping the Sociological Gay: Pasts, Presents and Futures of a Sociology of Same Sex Relations. In: Lesbian and Gay Studies : An Introductory, Interdisplinary Approach. Editors: Sandfort, T., Schuyf, J., Duyvcendak, JW. and Weeks, J., . Sage. 9780761954187

Plummer, K., (2000). Symbolic Interactionism in the Twentieth Century. In: A Companion to Social Theory. Editors: Turner, BS., . Blackwell Publishing. 193- 222. 978-0631213666



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