Kudos Column: Dr. Gavin Brent Sullivan
I am a Reader (Associate Professor) in Social Psychology for the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement at Coventry University and research lead for the theme: “Identities and Resilience in Communities and Organisations” (IRCO). My work is broadly social psychological with interests in political topics and situations where emotions, discourses and identities are important and topics such as group vulnerability and resilience are prominent.
Research and recent publications
I have had a long-term interest in issues of power and psychology in the very general sense in which psychologists use their expertise to define and control others in a wide range of situations (e.g., investigating how power works in broader society (e.g., in securing or retaining resources and/or social capital after disasters). Some of my early work in psychology engaged with the critical work of Nikolas Rose on the “psy” disciplines and practices by which people are constructed as neoliberal agents (and citizens) free to choose behaviours for which they are individually accountable while others are designated and managed as “risky” (e.g., forensic patients). More recently, I have become explored issues of nationality, ideology and identity, primarily through theorizing and researching the impact of megasporting events on citizens of the nations that host them (as well as the impact on other nations that compete in these types of events). This work has built upon and extended Billig’s work on “banal nationalism” to consider instances of “hot” and “ecstatic” nationalism. Collective emotions such as collective pride are particularly important in persuading people to devote resources to nation-building projects. In recent work (currently being written up) with a colleague from Bremen University Dr. Thomas Kühn on this topic, we used qualitative interviews to explore contrasting emotions and representations of collective shame after the 2014 World Cup semi-final defeat of Brazil by Germany. An important consideration was how feelings about the event were judged relative to the wave of social protests in Brazil before the World Cup and ongoing concerns about corruption, societal inequality, and Brazil’s international status. Several recent projects in the IRCO theme have focused on emotions – individual, group-based and collective emotions – in relation to collective and coordinated actions. For example, recent pre-, post and 6-month follow-up survey research with IRCO colleagues and other collaborators has focused on emotional and identity-related features of voting choices by English participants in the United Kingdom 2015 general election. We also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with people voting in England for the controversial United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) to examine their arguments and views on key political issues (e.g., Euroscepticism, anti-immigration views, etc.). In IRCO, we have also explored representations of Europe, national identity and representations of England and the UK in relation to the upcoming EU Referendum. The survey-based part of this research has focused on the important role that increases in solidarity with Europe—but not solidarity with England—has in predicting positive attitudes towards migrants and refugees from outside the UK (but this appears to be mediated by subjective social status). A further IRCO project has examined the contrast between young people’s political disengagement (i.e., re. national elections) and their strong feelings and views about Europe and the EU referendum. The future looks bright for the IRCO research theme and we are particularly keen to engage with international colleagues in collaborative and comparative political psychology and interdisciplinary research using qualitative (e.g., discourse analysis, grounded theory) and quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, experiments) on topics such as group-based and collective emotions (e.g., in social movements and in response to security issues) and collective action (e.g., research on protests, voting, political engagement, intergroup conflict etc.).
Reader in Identity and Resilience in Communities and Organisations