Dr Katy Wheeler

Senior Lecturer
Department of Sociology
Dr Katy Wheeler



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'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. She is also exploring the ways young people are educated about sustainability through a British Academy Small Grant, entitled 'Educating young people as sustainable citizen-consumers'. 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 and is a convenor for the BSA Climate Change Study Group. 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

'Educating young people as sustainable citizen-consumers' (BA Small Grant)

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'.

New forms of own-account creative work within the digital economy - with Dr. Stephanie Taylor (The Open University) and Dr. Bridget Conor (Kings College)


Journal articles (11)

Wheeler, K., (2019). Moral economies of consumption. Journal of Consumer Culture. 19 (2), 271-288

Wheeler, K., (2018). The Moral Economy of Ready-Made Food. British Journal of Sociology. 69 (4), 1271-1292

Wheeler, K., (2015). Book Review: Christell Lane, The Cultivation of Taste: Chefs and the Organisation of Fine Dining. Sociology. 49 (3), 600-601

Wheeler, K., (2015). Review of David Evans 'Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life'. Cultural Sociology. 9 (4), 586-587

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), 551-569

Wheeler, K., (2014). Nice Save: The Moral Economies of Recycling in England and Sweden. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 32 (4), 704-720

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), 106-112

Wheeler, K. and Glucksmann, M., (2013). Economies of Recycling, ‘Consumption Work’ and Divisions of Labour in Sweden and England. Sociological Research Online. 18 (1), 1-14

Wheeler, K., (2012). ‘Change Today, Choose Fairtrade’ Fairtrade Fortnight and the citizen-consumer. Cultural Studies. 26 (4), 492-515

Wheeler, K., (2012). The Practice of Fairtrade Support. Sociology. 46 (1), 126-141

OGILVIE, DAVID., CUMMINS, STEVEN., PETTICREW, MARK., WHITE, MARTIN., JONES, ANDY. and WHEELER, KATHRYN., (2011). Assessing the Evaluability of Complex Public Health Interventions: Five Questions for Researchers, Funders, and Policymakers. Milbank Quarterly. 89 (2), 206-225

Books (3)

Wheeler, K. and Glucksmann, M., (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

Book 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


5A.320, Colchester Campus