I am an ethnographer and public scholar with an interdisciplinary background in social psychology, linguistics, and philosophy, and tendency to wander off into anthropological, cultural and gender studies literatures as relevant to the study of human agency and everyday life.
I joined the Department of Sociology in January 2018, following faculty and researcher posts at the University of Sussex (2011-2017), Middlesex University (2010-2011), UCL & The Anna Freud Centre (2008-2010), Birkbeck College (2006-2007) and the London School of Economics (2002-2006). I hold a PhD and MSc in Social Psychology and a BA (Hons) in Linguistics (with Philosophy).
My research theorises human agency and participation in everyday life especially in the experiences of marginalised social groups. I am interested in the ways in which agency, or lack thereof, is lived and experienced in everyday life across cultures and historical periods. I am currently developing ethnographically and cross-culturally informed theory on the relationship between childhood and public life. The ERC funded Connectors Study (2014-2019) which I lead, has enabled me and my colleagues to think about the ways in which children encounter, experience and engage with public life across three different cultural contexts and at a time of precarious socio-economic and political conditions. We continue to write on a variety of topics expanding and experimenting with our understanding of the relationship between childhood and public life, and children’s agency therein, including looking at idioms, play, talk, imagination, memory, and the non-human. As well as creating ethnographically thick descriptions of the relationship between childhood and public life, the research aims to connect childhood with broader political imaginaries (e.g. prefigurative politics, publics, and commons).
You can read more about the study here.
Previous research has engaged critically with child, youth and family welfare, well-being, and social support. At the start of my career I worked for nine years as a contract researcher on interrelated topics of youth inclusion and youth work in London and the North West of England, adult and child mental health in White British and African Caribbean populations, Somali women’s experiences of FMG, Bangladeshi men and women’s experiences of growing old in East London, and London women and children’s experiences of post-domestic violence support. I have also supervised doctoral thesis on youth mentoring in London, experiences of adoption in India, agency in children’s learning in the primary school classroom, and Cypriot women’s experiences of living with breast cancer diagnosis. Across these topics my interest has been to understand people’s everyday lives and lived experiences behind policy and practice descriptions of their circumstances, to think about the ways such policy descriptions enable or inhibit liveable lives and the relationship between suffering and flourishing, and to offer suggestions for more biographical approaches to thinking about personal and social change.
Over the years I been involved in a number of methodological innovation projects. Many of these projects have been multimodal and engaged pieces of ethnographic research, including visual and mobile methods, as well as experiments in publics creating methodologies. I also have experience in transferring methods for mapping children’s and young people’s important relationships (ecomapping) from traditional pen and paper to the tablets using haptic technology (in collaboration with computer science colleagues).
I love working in interdisciplinary teams.
I would be very happy to hear from prospective doctoral students or postdoctoral researchers wanting to work in any of the above topic areas or methods.
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa; Sanders-McDonagh, Erin and Neville, Lucy. 2018. “Gimme shelter”? Complicating responses to family violence. In: Rachel Rosen and Katherine Twamley, eds. Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes? London: UCL Press. ISBN 978‑1‑78735‑064‑9
Aruldoss, Vinnarasan and Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2019. Tracing Indian Girls’ Embodied Orientations Towards Public Life. Gender, Place & Culture, ISSN 0966-369X
Varvantakis, Christos and Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2019. Metaphors we experiment with in multimodal ethnography. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 22(4), pp. 365-378. ISSN 1364-5579
Varvantakis, Christos; Dragonas, Thalia; Askouni, Nelly and Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2018. Grounding Childhood (Trans)National Identities in the Everyday. Children & Society, 33(1), pp. 68-81. ISSN 0951-0605
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa; Aruldoss, Vinnarasan and Varvantakis, Christos. 2018. Learning to listen: exploring the idioms of childhood. Sociological Research Online, ISSN 1360-7804
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa; Maglajlic, Reima; Zlotowitz, Sally and Varvantakis, Christos. 2016. The ‘refugee crisis’: social psychology, public engagement and social action. Social Psychology Review, 18(1), pp. 18-23. ISSN 1369-7862
Sanders-McDonagh, Erin; Neville, Lucy and Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2016. from pillar to post: understanding the victimisation of women and children who experience domestic violence in an age of austerity. Feminist Review, 112(1), pp. 60-76. ISSN 0141-7789
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa; Varvantakis, Christos and Aruldoss, Vinnarasan. 2016. (Im)possible conversations? activism, childhood and everyday life. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 4(1), pp. 252-265.
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2016. Review of S.Mark Pancer’s (2015) The Psychology of Citizenship and Civic Engagement, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Social Psychology Review, 18(1), pp. 46-48. ISSN 1369-7862
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2015. Children's Participation, Childhood Publics and Social Change: A Review. Children & Society, 29(2), pp. 157-167. ISSN 0951-0605
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2014. Towards a new theory of practice for community health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology, 19(1), pp. 126-136. ISSN 1359-1053
Frost, Nollaig and Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2013. The Contribution of Pluralistic Qualitative Approaches to Mixed Methods Evaluations. New Directions for Evaluation, 2013(138), pp. 75-84. ISSN 1097-6736
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2013. Exploring young people's and youth workers' experiences of spaces for ‘youth development’: creating cultures of participation. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(1), pp. 26-41. ISSN 1367-6261
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2011. Reflections on the enactment of children's participation rights through research: Between transactional and relational spaces. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(7), pp. 1196-1202. ISSN 0190-7409
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa. 2010. Stories as indicators of practical knowledge: Analysing project workers' talk from a study of participation in a youth inclusion programme. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 21(2), pp. 138-150. ISSN 1052-9284