Marion Smith

Lectureship in Health and Society


I am a social scientist with teaching and research interests in the roles of language and communication in social life, especially in relation to health and healthcare.  I studied English Language and Literature at the University of Manchester before completing an MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. My PhD research also at Cambridge was on the sociology of language and pain.

I have held posts as a Research Fellow at the Universities of Sussex and Keele.  At Keele I worked in the School of Social Relations and in the Primary Care Research Centre as well as teaching for the Medical School.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2005, where I teach on health and society, research methods, and conduct postgraduate workshops.

I am currently on the editorial board of Sociological Review.

I have also worked for a number of years in academic publishing.

Undergraduate teaching

Programme Director: Health, Science and Society

Postgraduate teaching

ISSH PhD Programme Director

Research summary

 I am interested in how people express their pain experiences, the part expression plays in the cultural construction of pain, and how these expressions are understood by others, particularly healthcare professionals. I am in the process of developing further work on expressions of pain and emotion among people with learning disabilities.

My interest has a further focus on medically-unexplained pain, in conditions that strain the boundary between the medical and the social, and how these may be researched. I am completing a project on the so-called ‘minor disorders’ in desired pregnancy as instances of (sometimes extremely) painful experience that is borne with positive connotations and in the expectation of complete cessation with the birth of the child.

A second strand of research interest is in how children as receivers of cultural information express their understandings of justice and the morality of punishment; and how their language discloses significant features of current social sensibilities towards punishment. Recently, I have become interested in how emotion plays a key role in talk about wrong-doing and is negotiated in discussions of attitudes and behaviours.

Both these areas share the expression of complex issues in language, and relate to my doctoral interest in linguistic relativity.

View all 9 publications on Research Explorer