Dr John Kelly

Director of Postgraduate Research / Lecturer in Sociology of Sport


John is a sociologist whose research has focused on a range of topics including: ethnicity; national identity; class distinction; sectarianism; militarism; gender, social media and the body. He has published in a range of international journals and co-written and co-edited three major books on social theory, sectarianism and politics respectively.  His academic expertise is widely sought beyond academia and he has worked as an expert advisor or assessor for education departments in Europe (Croatia, Poland, Ireland). As an invited panel member, he has advised the Irish Consulate in Britain and the Scottish Executive Justice Committee on matters relating to Irish disapora identities and 'sectarianism'.  He has acted as an academic witness in a number of court cases relating to 'sectarianism' and/or Irish identities in Scotland. John is regularly invited to speak on local, national and international stages and his academic expertise has been sought by media organisations including The BBC, STV, The Guardian, The Independent, Korean Broadcasting Company and Yahoo.  John has reviewed articles for a number of international journals including Sociology and the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, and he has been a book proposal reviewer for Routledge. 


  • 1995-98: BA (Hons) Sport and Human Movement Studies, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
  • 2000-2002: MA Sport and Leisure Cultures, University of Brighton
  • 2003-2007: PhD Sociology of Sport, Loughborough University

Responsibilities & affiliations

John is a founding member and joint convenor of the Edinburgh Critical Studies in Sport (ECSS) research group within the Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences.  He is also a joint editor of the Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science. 


Undergraduate teaching

Course Leader and Primary Lecturer 

  • Sport and Society (year 1)
  • Sociology of Sport (year 3)
  • Sport, Media and Society (year 4)
  • Dissertation (year 4)

Lecturer and Project Supervisor

  • Placement (year 2)
  • Advanced Research Methods (year 3)
  • Dissertation (year 4)

Postgraduate teaching

Course Leader and Primary Lecturer 

  • Sport and the Media (MSc)

Lecturer and Project Supervisor

  • Dissertation (Masters)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am prepared to consider supervising research in the areas described in the research tab and/or related to my recent publications / research.  

Potential PhD students are encouraged to contact me directly if they wish to discuss a possible study.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Marianna Pavan   - A critical and comparative analysis of football and social integration among asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland and Italy. 
  • Junru Li - Investigating the relationship between sport, national identity and new media in China.
  • Chenqi Wang  - A critical analysis of physical activity, body image, social media and females in China.

Past PhD students supervised

  • Edward Hall          A sociological analysis of women's international rugby coaching
  • Sarah MacIsaac   The 'selfie' generation: bodily related culture among schoolchildren. 

Research summary

John's research interests are varied and include: militarism and sport; Irish diaspora and sport; social media and young people's perceptions of the body. He's primarily interested in the relationships between class, nation, ethnicity and sport. Additionally, John is researching how power manifests itself in sporting worlds - sport industries, sports media and research within sport. He has published sociological work on topics including: dance; football; rugby union; remembrance; masculinities in schools. He has utilised theoretical perspectives informed by Erving Goffman's symbolic interactionist approach and Pierre Bourdieu's conceptual model of habitus. His first book, Sport, Exercise and Social Theory (Routledge Press) was co-authored with Gyozo Molnar. His second book, Football, Bigotry and Scotland (Edinburgh University Press) was co-edited with John Flint.

Current and recent research

John recently co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics (with Alan Bairner and Jung Woo Lee) which is the largest and most up-to-date international collection of its kind. John is currently working on a number of projects on the following: power and positionality in sport research; remembrance and commemorations at sporting events; offence and sport; body image among young people; Irish diaspora and sport. 

Current research interests

Sociology of sport; Media and sport; Sociological theory; Civil-military relations