Les Back BSc PhD

Staff details

Position Professor
Department Sociology
Email l.back (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone +44 (0)20 7919 7380
Les Back BSc PhD

Les Back joined the department in 1993. This was something of a return to Goldsmiths for him because he studied at Goldsmiths as both postgraduate and undergraduate during the 1980s. Prior to returning to the college, he taught at the University of Birmingham in the Cultural Studies department and before that worked as a contract researcher at Birkbeck College and the Institute of Education.


Les convenes a third year undergraduate option called Why Music Matters for Sociology and makes contributions to the core undergraduate courses across the degree programmes. Les is also significantly involved in teaching on MSc in Social Research.

Areas of supervision

Race and racism, multiculturalism, urban life, social exclusion, popular culture and music, sport sociology, postcolonial theory, youth and gender, work and institutional racism, visual sociology, health and illness.

Completed PhD students

He has supervised seventeen PhD candidates to completion:

  • Sireita Mullins Post colonial legacies of marginalisation as rendered in the visual works of multiethnic young people in Lambeth , 2011 (Full-time ESRC Case Studentship)
  • Takeshi Arimoto, Body Culture and Nationaliskm in Modernizing Japan 1868 to the 1920s, 2011
  • Alex Rhys-Taylor Coming to Our Senses: A Multisensory Exploration of Class and Multiculture in East London 2011 (full-time ESRC Student)
  • Patrick Turner  Hip Hop Versus rap: An Ethnography of the Cultural Politics of New Hip Hop Practices, 2011 (Full-time ESRC Studentship)
  • Emma Jackson Young Homeless People and Urban Space: Dis/placements, Mobilities and Fixity  2010 (Full-time ESRC Studentship)
  • Polly Haste Tackling the 'difficult' subject: an ethnographic exploration of sexual learning in secondary schools (Full-time ESRC funded student) 2008
  • Emma Nugent Building a Creative Persona, (Full-time ESRC funded student) 2004
  • Yasmeen Narayan Race and Identities, (Full-time ESRC funded student) 2004
  • Alison Rooke Lesbian Geographies, (Full-time ESRC funded student) 2004
  • Jo Hadley Police and Institutional Racism (Full-time ESRC funded student) 2004
  • Roxy Harris New Ethnicities and Language Use, 2004
  • Jo Sadler – Policing and Youth Crime (Full-time ESRC funded student), 2004
  • Hiroki Orasawa – Sectarianism and Football Culture in Scotland, 2003
  • William Henry – Dance Reggae and the Hidden Voice of Black London, 2002 (full ESRC studentship)
  • Colin King – Play the Whiteman: Black Players and the transition to management, 2002
  • Philly Desai – Spaces of Identity, Cultures of Conflict: the development of New British Asian Masculinities (full-time, ESRC studentship) 2000
  • Garry Robson - ‘No One Likes Us...’: Millwallism, class and masculinity in south London (full-time, ESRC Studentship) 1999

Research Interests

Sociology of racism and ethnicity, popular culture and music, urban life, community, social divisions class, social theory and sociological methods.

Publications and research outputs


Back, Les and Sinha, Shamser. 2018. Migrant City. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9780415715416

Back, Les. 2016. Academic Diary. London: Goldsmiths Press. ISBN 9781906897581

Back, Les. 2007. The Art of Listening. Berg. ISBN 9781845201210

Back, Les and Ware, V.. 2002. Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics and Culture. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226873420

Back, Les; Crabbe, T. and Solomos, J.. 2001. The Changing Face of Football: racism, identity and multiculture in the English game. Berg. ISBN 1859734782

Edited Book

Back, Les and Puwar, Nirmal, eds. 2013. Live Methods. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3959-8

Back, Les and Bull, M., eds. 2003. The Auditory Cultures Reader. New York: Berg. ISBN 1859736130

Book Section

Henry, William 'Lez' and Back, Les. 2020. Reggae Culture as Local Knowledge: Mapping the Beats on South East London Streets. In: William 'Lez' Henry and Matt Worley, eds. Narratives from Beyond the UK Reggae Bassline: The System is Sound. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 29-57. ISBN 9783030551605

Back, Les. 2016. Let a Thousand Stones Roll: Living and Thinking with Music. In: Thomas Johansson and Johan Söderman, eds. Låt alla stenar rulla - lärande, estetik, samhälle. En vänbok till Ove Sernhede. Daidalos, pp. 119-137. ISBN 978-91-7173-488-4


Lisiak, Agata; Back, Les and Jackson, Emma. 2021. Urban Multiculture and Xenophonophobia in London and Berlin. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 24(1), pp. 259-274. ISSN 1367-5494

Back, Les. 2021. Hope's Work. Antipode, 53(1), pp. 3-20. ISSN 0066-4812

Back, Les. 2017. Taking and Giving Hope: a Response to Ros Gill’s “What Would Les Back Do? If Generosity Could Save Us… a Review of Les Back’s Academic Diary: Or Why Higher Education Still Matters (2016: Goldsmiths Press, 272 pp)”. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 31(1), pp. 111-125. ISSN 0891-4486

Back, Les. 2016. Les Back: A Shared Sociology. Sociology, 50(5), pp. 1023-1032. ISSN 0038-0385

Back, Les and Sinha, Shamser. 2016. Multicultural Conviviality in the Midst of Racism's Ruins. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 37(5), pp. 517-532. ISSN 0725-6868

Back, Les. 2016. Moving Sounds, Controlled Borders: Asylum and the Politics of Culture. Young, 24(3), pp. 185-203. ISSN 1103-3088

Back, Les. 2015. How Blue Can You Get? B.B. King, Planetary Humanism and the Blues behind Bars. Theory, Culture and Society, 32(7-8), pp. 274-285. ISSN 0263-2764

Back, Les. 2015. Why Everyday Life Matters: Class, Community and Making Life Livable. Sociology, 49(5), pp. 820-836. ISSN 0038-0385

Back, Les and Tate, Maggie. 2015. For a Sociological Reconstruction: W.E.B. Du Bois, Stuart Hall and Segregated Sociology. Sociological Research Online, 20(3), pp. 155-166. ISSN 1360-7804

Back, Les. 2014. Journeying Through words: Les Back reflects on writing with Thomas Yarrow. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20, pp. 766-770. ISSN 1359-0987

Sinha, Shamser and Back, Les. 2014. Making methods sociable: dialogue, ethics and authorship in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 14(4), pp. 473-487. ISSN 1468-7941

Sinha, Shamser and Back, Les. 2014. Making methods sociable: dialogue, ethics and authorship in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 14(4), pp. 473-487. ISSN 1468-7941

Back, Les and Moreno Figueroa, Monica. 2014. Following Stuart Hall. City, 18(3), pp. 353-355. ISSN 1360-4813

Gane, Nicholas and Back, Les. 2012. C. Wright Mills 50 Years On: The Promise and Craft of Sociology Revisited. Theory, Culture & Society, 29(7-8), pp. 399-421. ISSN 0263-2764

Back, Les; Shamser, Sinha and Charlynne, Bryan. 2012. New hierarchies of belonging. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(2), pp. 139-154. ISSN 1367-5494

Back, Les. 2011. Trust Your Senses? War, Memory, and the Racist Nervous System. The Senses and Society, 6(3), pp. 306-324. ISSN 1745-8927

Back, Les; Keith, Michael; Khan, Azra; Shukra, Kalbir and Solomos, J.. 2009. Islam and the New Political Landscape: Faith Communities, Political Participation and Social Change. Theory, Culture and Society, 26(4), pp. 1-24. ISSN 1460-3616

Back, Les. 2009. Researching community and its moral projects. 21st Century Society: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 4(2), pp. 201-214. ISSN 1745-0144

Hall, Stuart and Back, Les. 2009. At Home and Not At Home: Stuart Hall in conversation with Les Back. Cultural Studies, 23(4), pp. 658-688. ISSN 0950 2386

Back, Les. 2009. Portrayal and betrayal: Bourdieu, photography and sociological life. The Sociological Review, 57(3), pp. 471-490. ISSN 0038-0261

Back, Les. 2009. Global Attentiveness and the Sociological Ear. Sociological Research Online, 14(4),

Anim-Addo, Joan and Back, Les. 2008. British Literature in British Universities – A Twenty-first Century Reality? English Subject Centre Newsletter(15), pp. 10-14.

Back, Les. 2008. An ordinary virtue. New Jewish Thought,

Back, Les. 2008. Beaches and graveyards: Europe's haunted borders. Eurozine,

Back, Les. 2008. Straende und Friedhoefe. Die Gespenster der europaeischen Grenzen. Wespennest, 152, pp. 106-109.

Back, Les. 2008. Sociologists Talking. Sociological Research Online, 13(6),

Back, Les. 2007. Written in Stone: Black writing and Goldsmiths College. Sociology Working Papers, pp. 1-11.

Dunneier, Mitchell and Back, Les. 2006. Voices from the sidewalk: ethnography and writing race. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 29(3), pp. 543-565.

Shukra, Kalbir; Back, Les; Keith, Michael; Khan, Azra and Solomos, J.. 2004. Race, Social Cohesion and the Changing Politics of Citizenship. London Review of Education, 2(3), pp. 187-195. ISSN 14748460

Shukra, Kalbir; Back, Les; Khan, Azra; Keith, Michael and Solomos, J.. 2004. Black Politics and the Web of Joined up Governance: compromise, ethnic minority mobilisation and the Transitional Public Sphere. Social Movement Studies, 3(1), pp. 33-50. ISSN 14742837

Back, Les; Keith, Michael; Khan, Azra; Shukra, Kalbir and Solomos, J.. 2002. New Labour's White Heart: Politics, Multiculturalism and the Return of Assimilation. The Political Quarterly, 73(4), pp. 445-454. ISSN 00323179

Shukra, Kalbir; Back, Les; Khan, Azra; Keith, Michael and Solomos, John. 2002. ‘The Return of Assimilationism: Race, Multiculturalism and New Labour’. Sociological Research Online, 7(2),

Conference or Workshop Item

Back, Les. 2016. 'A View From Nearby: The Anthropology Gold Lecturer, 2016.'. In: Annual Gold lecture 2016. Goldsmiths, Univeristy of London, United Kingdom.


Gunaratnam, Yasmin; Back, Les; Psarras, Bill and Feinstein, Sarah. 2017. Every Minute Of Every Day [Blog/Website].


Back, Les and Stoneman, Paul. 2019. The Fellowship Inn Project Evaluation. Technical Report. Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London.

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