Les Back BSc PhD

Position held:

+44 (0)20 7919 7380

l.back (


Les Back talks about his research and what it means for young people to 'come of age' in the 21st Century:

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

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


Up until 2007 I was the Convenor of Postgraduate Research, and coordinated the Research seminars and Workshops and I also contribute the MA in Social Research.  I now teach a second year undergraduate option called Cultural Politics and Globalisation and make contributions to the core undergraduate courses acrossed the degree programme.

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.

Students supervised to completion and theses titles

I have supervised seventeen PhD candidates to completion, namely:

  • 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

Grants & awards

Awarding bodyValuePeriodPurpose
European Union €1,953,587 2008-2011 EU Margins Project explores patterns of social exclusion and inclusion within the European Union through the life stories of young adults from immigrant backgrounds in Oslo, Gothenburg, London, Genoa, Paris, Barcelona and Tallin.

Economic and Social Research Council PTA 035250017



Live sociology: practicing social research with new media (with Celia Lury)

Economic and Social Research Council Grant L215252046



Democratic Governance and Ethnic Minority Political Participation in Contemporary Britain (with Les Back, Michael Keith and Kalbir Shukra)

Economic and Social Research Council Grant R 00023 6301



'Finding A Way Home': Young people, Urban Space and Racial danger (with Michael Keith and Phil Cohen)

Economic and Social Research Council grant R000235639



The Cultures of Racism in Football Project (with John Solomos and Tim Crabbe)

Economic and Social Research Council grant R000234272



The Social Basis of Racist Action Among Young People in Outer City Areas (with Roger Hewitt)

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, New York U.S.A.



The Cultural Mechanisms of Racist Expression: a Study of Racism and Anti-Semitism in Graffiti, pamphlets, style and body symbolism (with John Solomos and Michael Keith)




Evaluation of the 'Let's Kick Racism Out of Football' Campaign 1995/6

Goldsmiths College Internal Research Fund

£2, 145


'Blue-eyed Soul': Black Music, White Muscicans and the Southern Dream of Freedom

Women's Employment in Business



Gender and Discrimination in the Manual Trades

The Monitoring Group



A Feasibility Study for a National Racial Harassment Helpline

Keynote lectures

8th September 2011, “Intellectual Life and The University of Commerce”,  Austere Cultures, Cultures of Austerity: Reactions to the Erosion of Critical Spaces, School of Cultural Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University

21st September 2010, “The Terms of Inclusions: Culture, Politics and ‘Community Cohesion’”, Creative Communities: Culture, Identity, Inclusion, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Surfer’s Paradise, Griffiths University, Australia

8th November 2010, “Young Lives on the Move: Borders, Scale and New Hierarchies of Belonging”,  Open Lecture Series, Dept of Sociology, Princeton, New Jersey

9th July 2010, “Young Lives and the New Hierarchies of Belonging,” Youth 2010 – Transitions, Identities, Cultures, University of Surrey

10th March 2010, “Understanding the Paradoxes of a Multicultural City”, Public Lecture Diversity and Learning DPU, Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Annual Public Lecture

10th March 2010, “Thinking Through Sound” Public Lecture Diversity and Learning DPU, Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Annual Public Lecture

24th June 2009, "Portrayal amd Betrayal: Bourdieu, Photography and Sociological Craft", Getting a Better Picture Workshop, NCRM, Southampton

4th June 2009, “Politics, Memory, Hope” Haunted Futures Conference, University of Lancaster, Lancaster

1st June, 2009 “Writing Cities: Inaugural Lecture,”  Writing Cities Conference, London School of Economics, London

23rd May, 2009 “London Finished?: developing an inventory of multiculture”, Urban Encounters: Rethinking Landscape, Tate Britain – presentation and participant in plenary discussion.  

18th May, 2009 “Contemporary English Racisms: Notes on Now,” Keynote Address: Contemporary English Racisms Symposium, University of Leeds

18th April, 2009 “Global Attentiveness and the Sociological Ear,” Theory Sub-plenary, British Sociological Association Annual Conference: The Challenge of Global Social Inquiry, University of Cardiff, Cardiff

3rd April, 2009 “The Death of Multiculturalism and the Moral Project of Community,” Race in the Modern World Conference, Goldsmiths, University of London

30th March, 2009 “Urban Life, Memory and Sensuous Scholarship”, Keynote Address, Living Cultures: Contemporary Ethnographies of Culture Conference, University of Leeds, Leeds. 

17th March, 2009 “The Art of Listening,” Centre for New Ethnicities, University of East London

4th March, 2009 “Obama and the Politics of Hope”, Working Lives Institute, London Metropolitan University.

20th February, 2009 “The Sociology of Hope”, Sociology Lecture, University of Umea, Umea, Sweden.

11th February, 2009 Sociology as a Listener’s Art, Sociology Seminar Series, University of Strathclyde

15th January, 2009 “The Craft of Scholarship”, FORMACS, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Eire

9th January, 2009 Keynote lecture:  “Hope’s Ethnographer,” Hope: A Workshop in Feminist Theory, Univeristy of Lancaster

12th December 2008  Keynote lecture:  “The Moral Projects of Community”,
Questioning the European 'Crisis of Multiculturalism': An international colloquium at the National University of Ireland Maynooth

14th November 2008 “The Ethnography of Hope”, Politics of Hope Seminar, Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy, Goldsmiths

8th November 2008 “War, memory and melancholia”, Noises of the Past Conference, Guildhall, Coventry

6th November 2008 “Sociology as a Listener’s Art”, The Fuller Memorial Lecture, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
24th October 2008 keynote lecture:  “Social Cohesion and the Death of Multiculturalism” Community Cohesion and Community Engagement: Promoting Solidarity in the Pursuit of Equalities and Social Justice Conference, Stephen Lawrence Centre, London

7th October 2008 “London Calling: Multiculture, Terror and racism’s nervous system” Social identities and social justice seminar, Dept of Education, Goldsmiths

11th September, 2008 Keynote lecture: “Social Research and Its Futures”, Vital Signs: Researching Real Life Conference, University of Manchester

5th September, 2008 ‘Two tone’s racial tonality”, Music an Politics Conference, University of Warwick

14th June, 2008 Keynote lecture: "Endz and Sides": Youth Gangs, Post Code Patriotism and Mapping Landscapes of Multiculture and racism, Bonds and Communities: young people and their social ties, NYRIS Conference, Lillehammer, Norway,

10th April, 2008 Keynote lecture: “Siren’s Cry: Terrorism and Cultural Politics”, Making Europe/ Making Europeans: The Ethnographic and the Everyday, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

Television and video output

19 May,  2014 Faculti short film with Les Back on 'The Art of Listening'.

14th September, 2011 ‘Från Backa till Brixton’ Swedish SVT hour documentary on urban unrest in London and Gothenberg interview.

31st August 2011 ‘Unemployment Special: Summer Riots’, Reprezent 107.3FM: The Voice of Young London panel discussion on London riots and the economic and social position of young Londoners

3rd July 2011 ‘Ghost Town: The Song that Defined an Era Turns 30’, The Independent, interviewed and featured.

18th January, 2011 ‘Did the New Cross Fire create Black British identity?’ BBC News UK interview with Alex Akwagyiram

28th November 2010 Audio Interview with Stuart Hall

23rd November, 2010 ‘Pointless’, Katja Reinhardt’s film on the impact of the points based immigration system on students WORLFbytes

16th October 2010 Points-based Immigration in Context: Research and Campaign strategies

8th September, 2010 featured on 'Here on Earth: radio without Borders', Wisconsin.  The programme focused on the art of listening.  A podcast of the programme here:\

2nd July, 2009 Appeared on Resonance FM 'Interesting Conversation' talking about The Art of Listening

13th January, 2009 Appeared on Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4 on tourism, empire and photography with Professor Mike Robinson.

2nd December, 2008 ‘Soul II Soul’ BBC Radio 4 , to be broadcast on 1.30pm  repeated Saturday 6th December Saturday 3.30pm

30th November, 2008 guest on 'Sunday Surgery debate on Nationality,' BBC Radio 1, 10-12.00pm

19th November , 2008 ‘Credit Crunch, Polish Migrants returning home,’ Finish Broadcasting Corporation TV, Nightly news. 

5th April, 2008‘The Are 2 Tone’, BBC Radio 4 10.30am – 11.00am (documentary about the racial politics of the Two Tone musical scene)

25th May, 2007 Interview for BBC News at 10 ‘30th Anniversary of the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen’

10th May 2005 Interview for BBC Radio 4 ‘Thinking Allowed’ with Laurie Taylor feature on 'Speaking of Remarkable Things, inaugural lecture.'

14th April 2004 Interview for BBC Radio 4 ‘Thinking Allowed’ with Laurie Taylor feature on The Auditory Cultures Reader

30th April, 2003 Interview for BBC Radio 4 ‘Thinking Allowed’ with Laurie Taylor feature on Out of Whiteness

26th April, 2002 interview for Radio 4 PM – The Plight of Asylum Seeker Children

Selected publications

Number of items: 27.


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 [Article]

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

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 [Article]

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 [Article]

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 [Article]

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 [Article]

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 [Article]

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 [Article]

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

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

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. [Article]

Back, Les. 2008. An ordinary virtue. New Jewish Thought, [Article]

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

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

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

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 [Article]

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 [Article]


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

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

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

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

Book Section

Henriques, Julian F.. 2003. Sonic dominance and reggae sound system sessions. In: Michael Bull and Les Back, eds. The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg, pp. 451-480. ISBN ISBN 1-85973-613-0 [Book Section]

Henriques, Julian F.. 2003. Sonic Dominance and the Reggae Sound System Session. In: M. Bull and Les Back, eds. The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg, pp. 451-480. ISBN 1859736130 [Book Section]

Edited Book

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

This list was generated on Sun Mar 29 10:57:05 2015 BST.

Content last modified: 20 May 2014

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