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Dr Gail Lewis


Academic background

  • Gail Lewis joined the department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck in September 2013.  She studied at the LSE for her first degree was in Social Anthropology, followed by an MPhil in Development Studies gained from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex.  Her PhD in Social Policy was gained at the Open University, where she was a member of the Social Sciences Faculty between 1995-2004 and again between 2007-2013. Between her two spells at the Open University she worked at Lancaster University in the Institute for Women’s Studies, where she was Head of Department.  She is also a qualified psychodynamic psychotherapist. Her academic interests centre on the constitution of subjectivity as racialised and gendered, psychoanalysis, black feminism, experience as a site of knowing and knowledge production, social policy and welfare practice, psychodynamics of organisational process, multiculture and formations of national belonging.

Research and teaching


  • My research interests focus on three specific areas. The first is the ways in which social policy as policy and professional practice constitutes the terrain of the social as populated by gendered-racialised subjects with hierarchically organised claims to and positions within the nation.  In so doing I have gained a national and international reputation as a leading figure in the crafting of a sociology of postcolonial welfare. Publication examples include Race, Gender, Social Welfare: explorations in a postcolonial society (2000); ‘Categories of exclusion: ‘race’, gender and the micro-social in social services departments’ (2002), in Breitenbach, et al.
  • A second strand in my research focuses on the ways that the category ‘experience’ offers a lens through which to excavate and analyse processes of gendered-racialised subject formation as lived subjectivity. In this I have drawn on research on welfare professionals as well as autobiographical narratives and memory to show the complexities, consonances and dissonances between subjects’ sense of ‘self’ and artefacts of the social such as policy, music, or family photographs. For example my articles in Feminist Review(1996), Cultural Studies (2007), Studies in the Maternal(2009), Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society (2012).
  • My more recent work has assumed an explicitly psychosocial orientation as I have extended these foci to conceive institutions as an organisational dynamic in the social relations of welfare and as active in both the constitution of subjectivity and the interpersonal experience of gendered-racialised subjectivity.  For example, the article in Signs (May 2013) and my peer reviewed chapter in Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process (2010). Publications associated with these three strands are evidence of my track record of publishing in highly ranked, strategic journals.
  • While a constant of my research has been and remains the articulation of gender and race in the constitution of subjectivity and experience and the animation of practice, there has been a shift in orientation from a focus on the social action of discourse to a focus on affective flows circulating among human and non-human objects configured in multiple constellations and sites. Through the assimilation of the theoretical component of my training as a psychodynamic psychotherapist I have refashioned my intellectual project as a psychosocial sociology.  Across the three areas and notwithstanding the shifting emphasis, feminist, critical race, postcolonial, poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory have provided the theoretical frames through which I engage my objects of enquiry.  It is this focus that positions me as both complimenting and bringing new dimensions to the department.

Research interests

  • Gender and Racialisation
  • Black Feminism
  • Psychodynamics of Organisation
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Social Policy and Welfare Practices
  • Multiculture

Research listings


  • I am Programme Director for the BA Psychosocial Studies (first in-take of students October 2014).
  • I teach on the MA Culture, Diaspora, Ethnicity and the Post-Graduate Certificate in Psychosocial Studies.


  • I currently supervise PhD students who are working on:
  • Racialised-gendered experience of black women prison officers in the English carceral institution
  • Maternal subjectivity and dynamics of dementia care in institutional contexts
  • Reality t.v., the normalised family and the (re)constitution of the Turkish nation
  • I have also supervised students to successful completion who have worked on, among other areas, lesbian sex and discourses of risk; constructions of lesbian space as white; discourses of Irishness and constructions of Irish identity among second generation migrants in England; constructions of Swedishness in secondary school education; learning institution and discourses of equality for disabled and racialised subjects; political subjectivity among Asian women.
  • Areas of interest:
  • Intersections of race and gender; formation of subjectivity/identity; organisational process; psychoanalytic theory; intersubjectivity and experience; black feminist theory and/or activism.



  • Authored
  • Citizenship: personal lives and social policy (2004) edited and co-authored. Bristol, The Policy Press in Association with the Open University
  • ‘Race’, Gender, Social Welfare: Encounters in a postcolonial society (2000) Cambridge, Polity Press.
  • Edited
  • Rethinking European Welfare, (2001) edited (with J. Fink and J. Clarke), London, Sage.
  • Rethinking Social Policy, (2000) edited (with S. Gewirtz and J. Clarke), London, Sage.
  • Unsettling Welfare: The Reconstruction of Social Policy, (1998) edited (with G. Hughes, London, Routledge.
  • Forming Nation, Framing Welfare, 1998 editor, London, Routledge
  • Charting the Journey: Writings by Black and Third World Women (1988) (edited  with S. Grewal, J. Kay, L. Landor and P. Parmar), London, Sheba Feminist Books.
  • In Progress
  • Difficult Knowledges: gender and the trauma of race
  • Book Series Editorship
  • Series Co-Editor, ‘Gender, Racism, Ethnicity’ (London and New York, Routledge, 1990 to 2000): with K.K. Bhavnani, A. Brah and A. Phoenix. Titles published in this include J. Sudbury, (1998), ‘Other Kinds of Dreams’ ; Gedalof, I. (1999), Against Purity; E. Koffman, A. Phizacklea, P. Raghuram and R. Sales, (2000) Gender and International Migration in Europe.

Book chapters

  • ‘Reading Obama: Collective Responsibility and the Politics of Tears’, (2011) in Who Should Be First: feminists speak out on the 2008 Presidential Election, ed. Beverly Guy-Sheftal and Johnnetta Betsch-Cole, SUNY, (with M. Jacqui Alexander and Gloria Wekker) pp.285-304
  • ‘Visions of Legacy: Legacies of Vision’ (2010) inTransatlantic Conversations: Feminism as Travelling Theory, ed. Kathy Davis and Mary Evans, London: Ashgate. pp.167-182
  • ‘Animating hatreds: research encounters, organisational secrets, emotional truths’, (2010), in Secrecy and Silence in the research process, ed. By Roisin Ryan-Flood and Ros Gill, London, Routledge, pp.211-227
  • ‘Cosmopolitan Phantasies and Multicultural Publics’ (2007) inWissenschaf(f)t Geschlecht ( Gendered Knowledge), L. Behmenburg, M. Berweger, J. Gevers, (eds), Frankfurt: Ulrike Helmer Verlag
  • ‘Racialising Culture is Ordinary’, in Contemporary Culture and Everyday Life, (2004) E.B. Silva and T. Bennett, (eds), Durham: Sociology Press, pp.111-129
  • “Do Not Go Gently…”: Terrains of Citizenship and Landscapes of the Personal’, in Citizenship: personal lives and social policy (2004) G. Lewis (ed) Bristol: The Policy Press in association with The Open University, pp.1-37
  • ‘“All That Heaven Allows”: The Worker-Citizen in the Post-War Welfare State’, in Citizenship: personal lives and social policy (2004), ibid. (with J. Fink), pp.39-83
  • ‘Race’, ‘Ethnicity’ and Identity’, in Questioning Identity, (2004) K. Woodward (ed) London: Routledge (with A. Phoenix), pp. 115-150
  • ‘Migrants’ in The Student’s Companion to Social Policy, (2003) P. Alcock, A. Erskine and M. May (eds.) Oxford: Blackwell Publishers (second edition), pp.325-334
  • ‘Difference and Social Policy’, in Developments in British Social Policy 2, (2003) N. Ellison and C. Pierson (eds.), second edition Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.90-106
  • ‘Categories of Exclusion: “Race”, Gender and the Micro-social in Social Services Departments’ (2001) in The Changing Politics of Gender Equality in Britain, E. Breitenbach, A. Brown, F. Mackay, J. Webb, (eds.), Basingstoke, Palgrave, pp.143-163
  • ‘Transitions and Trajectories in European Welfare ’ (2001), inRethinking European Welfare, J. Fink, G. Lewis and J. Clarke (eds.), London: Sage in association with The Open University (with J. Fink and J. Clarke, pp.1-30
  • “Stuart Hall” and Social Policy’ ‘An Encounter of Strangers? (2000) inWithout Guarantees , P. Gilroy, L. Grossberg, A. McRobbie (eds.), Verso Press, pp.193–202.
  • ‘The Body and Social Policy: Social Policy and the Body’ (2000) inOrganizing Bodies, L. Mackie et al. (eds.), Macmillan, with G. Hughes and E. Saraga, pp.10–31.
  • ‘Expanding the Social Policy Imaginary’, in Rethinking Social Policy, (2000) G. Lewis, S. Gewirtz and J. Clarke (eds), London, Sage in association with The Open University, pp.1-21
  • ‘Discursive Histories, the Pursuit of Multiculturalism and Social Policy’ (2000) in Rethinking Social Policy, ibid. pp.259-275
  • ‘“Coming Apart at the Seams”: The Crises of the Welfare State’ (1998) in Unsettling Welfare: The Reconstruction of Social Policy, G. Hughes and G. Lewis (eds.), London, Routledge in association with The Open University, pp.39-79
  • ‘Citizenship’ (1998) in Imagining Welfare Futures, G. Hughes (ed.), London, Routledge, in association with The Open University, pp.103-150
  • ‘Welfare and the Social Construction of “Race”’ (1998) inEmbodying the Social, E. Saraga (ed.), London, Routledge in association with The Open University, pp.91–138,
  • ‘Black Women’s Employment and the British Economy’ (1993) in Inside Babylon: The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain, W. James and C. Harris (eds.) London, Verso, pp.73–96.
  • ‘Who Feels It Knows It: Rethinking the Peace Movement’ (1988) inCharting the Journey, S. Grewal, J. Kay, L. Landor, G. Lewis and P. Parmar (eds.) London, Sheba, pp.271–277; and ‘Preface’, pp.1-6.
  • ‘From Deepest Kilburn’ (1985) in Truth, Dare, Promise: Girls Growing Up in the Fifties, L. Heron (ed.) London, Virago, pp.213–236.

Journal articles

  • ‘Not By Criticality Alone’: connection and the reparative gesture, Feminist Theory, 15(1) (April 2014)
  • ‘Unsafe Travel: Experiencing Intersectionality and Feminist Displacements’, (May 2013) Signs: a journal of women and culture
  • ‘In the Absence of Truth at Least not the Lie: travels towards self, other and relatedness’, (2012) Psychology of Women Section Review (BPS), Spring
  • ‘Where Might I Find You’: Popular Music and the Internal Space of the Father’, (2012) Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society
  • ‘Locating the Complexities of Feminist Europe’, (2012)European Journal of Women’s Studies, 19 (2)
  • ‘Our Memories of the Uprising: the 1980s revisited’: report on a meeting, History Workshop Journal, Autumn 2011 (with Phillip Hatfield and Sarah Evans of the BL)
  • ‘The ‘Europe’ of the European Journal of Women’s Studies’, (2010) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 18 (1)
  • ‘Celebrating Intersectionality? Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies, (2009) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 16 (3)
  • ‘Birthing Racial Difference: conversations with my mother and others’ (2009); Studies in the Maternal, vol.1(1), an e-journal, available at
  • ‘Racialising Culture is Ordinary’, (2007) Cultural Studies 21/6 (Nov), pp.866-886
  • ‘Journeying Toward the Nation(al): Cultural Difference as the Impossibility of Citizenship’, (2006) Mobilities, vol. 1(3) November
  • ‘Imaginaries of Europe, Technologies of Gender, Economies of Power’, (2006) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 13(2), Spring, pp.87-102
  • ‘Cosmopolitan Phantasies and Multicultural Publics’, (2004)Treca special issue, Borders, Boundaries, Borderlands.
  • ‘Welcome to the Margins: Diversity, Tolerance and Policies of Exclusion’, (2005) Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no.3 May special issue, pp.536-558.
  • ‘Contemporary political contexts, changing terrains and revisited discourses’, (2005) Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28, no.3, pp.423 – 444.
  • ‘Audre Lorde: Vignette and Mental Conversations’, (2005),Feminist Review, 80, pp.130-145
  • ‘Racialising emotional labour and emotionalising racialised labour:anger, fear and shame in social welfare’, (2001) inJournal of Social Work Practice, vol.15, no.2, pp.125-142 (with Y. Gunaratnam)
  • ‘Negotiated Belongings’ an interview with Simon Hamilton-Clarke (1998) in ‘Windrush Echoes’, Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, no.10, Autumn, pp.157–169.
  • ‘Situated Voices: Black Women’s Experience and Social Work’ (1996) in Feminist Review 53, Summer, pp.24–56.
  • ‘Welfare Settlements and Racializing Practices’, (1996) in ‘The Public Good’, Soundings: a Journal of Politics and Culture, pp.109–120.
  • ‘Audre Lorde: Vignettes and Mental Conversations’ (1990) inFeminist Review 34, pp.100–114

Edited journals

  • European Journal of Women’s Studies, (2014) Race and Anti-Race in Europe, Special Issue, co-edited with madeleine kennedy-mcfoy
  • Mobilities (2006), vol.1(3), November, Special Issue, co-edited with Anne-Marie Fortier
  • Ethnic and Racial Studies (2005), vol. 25(3) May Special Issue co-edited with Sarah Neal
  • ‘Windrush Echoes’ (1998) Special Issue of Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, no.10, Autumn, edited with L. Young.
  • ‘Citizenship: Pushing the Boundaries’ (1997) Feminist Review 57, Autumn, with H. Crowley, P. Werbner, N. Yuval-Davis.
  • ‘Contesting Feminist Orthodoxies’ (1996) Feminist Review 54, Autumn, with M. Storr.
  • ‘The Irish Issue, The British Question’ (1995) Feminist Review 50, with C. Connolly, C. Hall, M. Hickman, A. Phoenix, A. Smyth (eds).
  • ‘The New Politics of Sex and the State’ (1994) Feminist Review 48, with H. Crowley, N. Druce, M. MacIntosh, A. Whitehead (eds).
  • ‘Thinking Through Ethnicities’ (1993) Feminist Review 45, with L. Gamman, C. Hall, A. Phoenix, A. Whitehead, L. Young (eds),  (Authored article on Audre Lorde, pp.4–8.
  • ‘Many Voices, One Chant: Black Feminist Perspectives’ (1984) Feminist Review 17, with V. Amos, A. Mama and P. Parmar (eds).

Professional Membership and visiting professorships

Professional membership

  • British Sociological Association; Psychosocial Studies Network, UK; Tavistock Society of Psychotherapists.

Visiting professorships

  • School of Education, York University, Toronto, Canada, July 2012
  • Gender Studies Department, Lund University, Lund, Sweden and REMESO Graduate School Linköping University, Sweden, April 2012
  • School of Social Work, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, December 2011
  • Central European University summer school on Race and Gender Perspectives on Citizenship: Democracy and Globalization, Budapest, July 2008
  • Gender Studies Department, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland, Erasmus/Socrates Exchange Programme, March ,2007
  • Visiting Professor, International Development, Community and Environment Dept. at Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610, USA, Sept – Dec 2004

Contact details

Room 508, 30 Russell Square
Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT

Tel: +44 (0)20 7631 6251