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Dr Helen Holmes

Research Fellow

Helen joined the SCI in 2015 having been awarded a Hallsworth Fellowship within the School of Social Sciences.  Her project ‘Makers, make do and mend: a newly thrifty consumer?’ aims to develop an enduring, critical understanding of contemporary thrift through a sustained focus on lived everyday experience, temporality, materiality and practice.  This work will enhance and develop conceptualisations of consumption, particularly within wider political and cultural debates on austerity, overconsumption, sustainability and waste.  The project builds upon Helen’s previous research and publication portfolio on theories of practice, material culture and temporality, whilst also utilising her skills as a qualitative researcher interested in ethnographic methods.

Having completed a Geography BA at Durham University in 2002 (1st, Robyn Mills Award for Academic Excellence), Helen carved out a career in marketing working for Yell PLC and The Co-operative Bank. In 2005 she returned to academia and completed her MA at Sheffield University. Following this, she was offered an ESRC Quota Studentship award to begin a PhD.  Her thesis, 'Hair, Hairdressing and The Everyday Practices of Women's Haircare', used ethnographic methods, including 12 months working in a hair salon, to explore the ‘blindingly obvious’ substance of hair; reclaiming hair as a site of practice and the role of the hairdresser as a skilled craft worker.

Helen continued to develop her interest in practice through her subsequent employment in several science-led studies involving interdisciplinary collaborations between social science and science.  For four years Helen worked as the ‘embedded ethnographer’ on the EPSRC funded interdisciplinary project:  Solar Energy for Future Societies.  This role involved Helen devising a framework of reflexive evaluation to encourage and appraise interdisciplinary collaboration. This has now been published into a web based toolkit (other publications forthcoming).

In addition, Helen has worked on two short term projects with Durham University exploring the conduits of waste disposal.


Holmes, H. (forthcoming), ‘Self-time: The importance of temporal experience within practice’, Time & Society.

Holmes, H. (2015), ‘Transient craft: reclaiming the contemporary craft worker’, Work, Employment & Society, 29(3): 479-495.

Holmes, H., Buckley, A., Chiles, P., Gregson, N., Maywin, J., Krzywoszynska, A. and Watson, M. (2015), Interdisciplinary toolkit:  Getting the most from interdisciplinarity.  Available at:

Gregson, N., Crang, M., Fuller, S. and Holmes, H. (2015), ‘Moral economies of recycling: circular economies and resource recovery in the EU’, Economy & Society, 44 (2): 218:243.

Holmes, H. (2014), ‘Chameleon hair:  How hair’s materiality affects its fashionability’, Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty, 5 (1): 95-110.

Gregson, N., Crang, M., Laws, J., Fleetwood, T. and Holmes, H. (2013), ‘Moving up the waste hierarchy: Car boot sales, reuse exchange and the challenges of consumer culture to waste prevention’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 77: 97-107.

Holmes, H. (2011), ‘Hair & the Hairdresser’, in D. Southerton (ed), The encyclopedia of consumer culture, Washington: CQ Press.

Selected documents