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Professor Margaret Wetherell

Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Emeritus Professor
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Psychology & Counselling
  • Psychology

Professional biography

I held a Chair in Social Psychology at The Open University until I retired in 2011. I now combine an Emeritus Professor position with a half-time Chair in the Psychology Department at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Over the 23 years I worked at the OU, my research focused on developing discourse theory and methods for social research and on the study of identity including investigations of ethnic and national identities, citizen identities, and the social psychology of masculinities. From 2003-2008, I directed the Identities and Social Action Programme for the UK Economic and Social Research Council and this was followed by the award of an ESRC Director’s fellowship in 2009/2010.

Research interests

My current research concerns discursive and affective practices. I am interested in patterns in people's embodied meaning-making and understanding the trajectories in their emotional responses and everyday activities. These patterns are closely implicated in the development of subjectivity and identity, and strongly connected with social relations, broader cultural formations and collective sense-making. My current theoretical work explores how best to theorize and investigate affective meaning-making, and this topic is the subject of my most recent book Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding published by Sage.

My work in the 1980s (with Jonathan Potter and other colleagues) established the field of discourse analysis in social psychology and in social research more widely. I have published many articles and books in this area, but our 1987 volume Discourse and Social Psychology is probably the best known and has been very widely cited. My books and articles have been translated into a number of languages including Spanish, Greek, Chinese, German, Turkish and French. From 1999 to 2004 I was Chief Editor (with Stephen Reicher) of the British Journal of Social Psychology.

In 2003 I was appointed as the Director of the ESRC Programme on Identities and Social Action. This role which continued until 2009 involved managing and leading a £4million public investment in research on identity issues. The ISA Programme consisted of 25 research projects across UK universities and brought together over 90 researchers in social psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, geography, sociolinguistics, social policy and education. Three edited books gather together the fruits of this work (see Recent Publications) while The Sage Handbook of Identities I edited with Chandra Talpade Mohanty and published in 2010 presents a 27 chapter overview of the field of identity research, bringing together work on identities from across the globe.


Wetherell, M. (2012) Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding. London Sage.

Wetherell, M. and Talpade Mohanty, C. (eds.) (2010) The Sage Handbook of Identities. London: Sage.

Wetherell, M. (ed.) (2009) Identity in the 21st Century: New Trends in Changing Times. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wetherell, M. (ed.) (2009) Theorizing Identities and Social Action. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wetherell, M., Lafleche, M. and Berkeley, R. (eds.) (2007) Identity, Ethnic Diversity and Community Cohesion. London: Sage.

Davies C., Wetherell, M. and Barnett, E. (2006) Citizens at the Centre: Deliberative Participation in Healthcare Decisions. Bristol: Policy Press.

Van Den Berg, H., Wetherell, M. and Houtkoop, H. (eds.) (2003) Analyzing Racist Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Selected Recent Articles and Chapters

Wetherell, M. (2011) ‘Winds of Change: Some Challenges in Reconfiguring Social Psychology for the Future’. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50, 399-404.

Wetherell, M. (2011) ‘The Prejudice Problematic’. In J. Dixon and M. Levine (eds.) Beyond Prejudice: Extending the Social Psychology of Conflict, Inequality and Social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davies, C., Wetherell, M. and Barnett, E (2009) ‘A Citizens Council in the Making: Dilemmas for Citizens and their Hosts’. In P. Littlejohns and M. Rawlins (eds.) Patients, the Public and Priorities in Healthcare. Oxford: Radcliffe.

Wetherell, M. (2008) ‘Speaking to Power: Tony Blair, Complex Multicultures and Fragile White English Identities’. Critical Social Policy, 28 (3), 299-319.

Wetherell, M. (2008) ‘Subjectivity or Psycho-Discursive Practices: Investigating Complex Intersectional Identities’. Subjectivity, 22 (1), 73-81.

Wetherell, M. and Edley, J (2008) ‘Masculinity Manoeuvres: Critical Discourse Psychology and the Analysis of Identity Strategies’. In N. Coupland and A. Jaworski (eds.) The New Sociolinguistics Reader. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Edley, N. and Wetherell, M. (2008) ‘Discursive Psychology and the Study of Gender: A Contested Space.’ In L. Litosseliti, H. Saunston, K. Segall and J. Sunderland (eds.) Gender and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Approaches. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wetherell, M. (2007) ‘A Step Too Far: Discursive Psychology, Linguistic Ethnography and Questions of Identity’. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 11 (5), 661-682.

Reynolds, J., Wetherell, M. and Taylor, S. J. (2007) ‘Choice and Chance: Negotiating Agency in Narratives of Singleness’. The Sociological Review, 55 (2), 331-352.

Wetherell, M. (2006) ‘Formulating Selves: Social Psychology and the Study of Identity’. Social Psychological Review, 8 (2), 62-73.

Seymour-Smith, S. and Wetherell, M. (2006) '"What He Hasn't Told You …": Investigating the Micro Politics of Gendered Support in Couples Co-Constructed Accounts of Illness. Feminism and Psychology, 16 (1), 105-127.

Wetherell, M. (2005) ‘Unconscious Conflict or Everyday Accountability?’. British Journal of Social Psychology, 44 (2), 169-175.

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Teaching interests

I worked on a large number of OU Psychology courses and several generations of Social Sciences Foundation Courses. My main focus, however, was on producing and presenting third level social psychology courses such as D307 and D317, and on chairing and producing Masters courses such as D843 Discourse Analysis.

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