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Dr Ryan Davey

Dr Ryan Davey


+44 (0)29 2087 0984
Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA


I am a Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. I currently teach Contemporary Inequalities, Social Theory, and Introduction to Sociology.

An interest in the lived realities of large-scale social transformation animates my work. I focus on household debt, class inequality, gender, power relations, and human subjectivity. My background is in social anthropology. I have carried out long-term ethnographic fieldwork on a housing estate in south-west England and participant observation with free debt advice providers. Through this I contribute to interdisciplinary conversations in sociology, anthropology, and critical policy studies.

My work also explores the normative implications of ethnographic research – in other words, using ethnography to consider how you would like things to change. This has led me to collaborate with economic justice campaigners, debt advisers, and artists, as well as produce press articles and podcasts.


Before coming to Cardiff University, I held an early career research fellowship in policy studies at the University of Bristol. I previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the ESRC-funded group project ‘An ethnography of advice’ at the London School of Economics (LSE). I obtained my PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge in 2016. I was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London; masters in anthropological research methods) and the University of Cambridge (bachelors in social anthropology).







I act as co-convenor on the second-year undergraduate modules, Contemporary Inequalities and Social Theory. I also contribute to the first-year undergraduate module Introduction to Sociology.

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

My research focuses on household debt, class inequality, power relations, and human subjectivity. It contributes to research in social anthropology, sociology and critical policy studies.

Going beyond debates about class-based identities in the United Kingdom, my doctoral project in anthropology argued that de-industrialisation and financialisation have transformed the foundations on which such identities are built. Through fourteen months’ ethnographic fieldwork on a housing estate in southern England, I found that many UK citizens today rely on borrowing and benefits to make ends meet. This makes them vulnerable to eviction or their benefits being stopped – a situation I described as ‘expropriability’. The state’s power to dispossess poorer citizens of their homes, possessions and sometimes children impinges on those people's ability to envisage better lives for themselves. I proposed that class oppression arises from inequalities in people’s relation to the means of legal coercion, and not just (as in classical Marxist theory) to the means of production.

Austerity’s effects on inequality were the focus of my postdoctoral research at the London School of Economics (LSE). My work on debt advice examined ‘financialised’ forms of social welfare that rely on, or encourage, financial speculation. More recently, my research fellowship at the University of Bristol and a collaboration with feminist political economists for the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Rebuilding Macroeconomics programme explored the cultural and material links between gender, class inequality, households and economic policy.

Areas of expertise