School of Health in Social Science

Dr Steph Grohmann Awarded Leverhulme Fellowship

Dr Steph Grohmann is a Research Fellow within the School for the Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health.

Steph has been awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, for her project titled "Ethical Capital: Virtue, Subjectivity and the Changing Face of Welfare".

The fellowship will last for 3 years and will draw on Steph's background in anthropology as well as in social work with homeless and precariously housed people. Steph is an ethnographer who has previously conducted immersive participant observation with homeless activists and squatters in England. Her monograph "The Ethics of Space", based on this research, will be published within the next few weeks on HAU Books, University of Chicago Press.  

For her new project, Steph will be conducting ethnographic research with people working in the third sector in Scotland and England, as well as with homelessness activists and people with lived experience.


I am very proud to have won this competitive Fellowship, which would not have been possible without the fantastic support of the HiSS Research Office, my manager Fiona Cuthill, and the many colleagues at Edinburgh who have provided advice and feedback during the application process. I am greatly looking forward to working with everyone over the next three years.

Steph GrohmannResearch Fellow


Dr Steph Grohmann

"'Ethical Capital' will look at what happens when ethical values become exchangeable commodities in the market for welfare provision, and what effect this has on marginalized 'service users'.

The focus of the project is on finding out how the transition from the welfare state to marketized 'service delivery' affects the way third sector workers think about, and present, the ethics of their work. For example, how do competitive tendering processes influence the way third sector organizations frame and present their values? How do these 'competitive values' impact the way organizations engage with service users? And in what ways do service users themselves have to present themselves as virtuous in order to receive help?

The guiding concept is the notion of 'ethical capital' which has recently been gaining traction within business studies. The idea is that organizations and individuals increasingly have to present themselves as ethical actors who possess certain values or virtues in order to be competitive in the market. Business scholars think of this as a positive development, as individual ethical choices are thought to make capitalist market relations 'more ethical' on the whole.

In contrast to this, I want to show that turning ethics into a competitive business asset does not only have upsides - and the downsides get all the more apparent the closer to the margins of society one looks".


Leverhulme is a very prestigious Fellowship and highly competitive, this is such a real triumph for Steph and us at Nursing Studies!

Aisha HollowayHead of Nursing