Professor Ellis Cashmore

Visiting Professor in Sociology

Ellis Cashmore

Ellis Cashmore is visiting professor of sociology at Aston. He was formerly a professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, which he joined in 1993. Before this, he was professor of sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida; and, before this, lecturer in sociology at the University of Hong Kong. Cashmore’s Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption is published by Bloomsbury. Among his other recent books are Beyond Black: Celebrity and race in Obama’s America, and Martin Scorsese’s America.His Celebrity/Culture is in its second edition.

Cashmore worked for five years in a variety of occupations before studying for his bachelor’s degree in sociology at Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic (now Northumbria University). In that period, he worked as a driver, hod-carrier, waiter, restaurant manager and many other occupations besides. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he moved to the University of Toronto, where he studied for his master’s, again in sociology. Returning to England, Cashmore pursued doctoral research at the London School of Economics and Political Science; his PhD thesis centred on the rastafari movement in England. This became the focus of his first book Rastaman, which was published in 1979 and has recently been republished by Routledge.

Cashmore’s first fulltime academic position was at Aston University, where he was a research fellow and, later, a senior research fellow, heading up a largescale project investigating racism in the West Midlands. The study was published in book form as The Logic of Racism. During this period, his main focus was race and ethnic relations, though he also wrote a textbook entitled Approaching Social Theory and a study of single parent families, Having To. He was contracted for six months to the Research Unit on Ethnic Relations (now based at Warwick University) to conduct research into racism among young people. The results of this were published in his book No Future.

In 1985, Cashmore accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Washington in Seattle and, shortly after his return, he was offered a position in Asia. Moving to theUniversity of Hong Kong’s Department of Sociology in 1986, Cashmore broadened his interests further and wrote the book United Kingdom? Race, class and gender since the war. He also began work on a project which was to become the sports science textMaking Sense of Sports.

In 1989, Cashmore moved to the USA to take up a professorial appointment at the University of Tampa. Working at distance with his colleague from Hong Kong, Eugene McLaughlin (now professor of criminology at Southampton University), Cashmore produced Out of Order? Policing black people, which addressed the vexed relationship between ethnic minorities and the police in Britain and the United States. He also conducted research with his colleague (then student) Amy Kornblau (now at Florida Atlantic University) into female bodybuilders. His continuing interest in ethnic relations was reflected in his research into Britain’s emerging “black bourgeoisie.”

His most significant book in this period was … and there was telev!s!ion, which mapped out the growth, significance and impact of television. The book was based on his observations and research in the USA, but has relevance for the United Kingdom too. The book signalled Cashmore’s widening interest in the media and the culture it has helped create.

His book The Black Culture Industry pulled together many of these interests: in this book, Cashmore analyzed how black culture has been created as a commodity that is bought and sold like any other type of merchandise.

Visit his blog at Ellis Cashmore | Professor of Sociology

Summary of interests: Sociology of contemporary culture, with specific reference to the interdependence of consumption, media and sport; changes in the form and matter of racism.

Cashmore’s research centres on consumption:  specifically how and what we consume, the conditions under which consumption has become a prominent – perhaps the prominent – social practice and the cultural implications of new, sometimes insidious forms of consumptive activity. These include engaging with media, sports and the entertainment industry. Cashmore’s central interest lies in the interdependence of culture, sport and consumerism and his research reflects this.

His recent title Beyond Black: Celebrity and Race in Obama’s America assesses the social and cultural impact of African American entertainers and politicians who have emerged over the past twenty years. The work extends his interest in celebrity culture, particularly the social conditions under which it emerged and developed. There is an html version of the full text available at http://bit.ly/-BeyondBlack.

Celebrity has become measurelessly important in contemporary culture: consumers are guided by people who resemble themselves but whom they do not know. Cashmore explores the fascination with celebrities and the effects of this fascination inCelebrity/Culture the second edition of which is published in a digital format as well as a traditional paper book.

The material prerequisites for the particular form of the good life offered by celebrity culture are feasible only as long as humans make themselves available to be treated as (or perhaps turned into) commodities, products than can be bought and sold on the marketplace. This has several important consequences in practically every sphere of contemporary culture. One is the reduction of everything to the same dimensions, another is the creation of a new apparatus of dependence and another is the installation of imperatives to upgrade consumer tastes and sensibilities into practically all facets of culture. Advertising is all pervasive.

The study of racism and ethnic relations occupied much of Cashmore’s empirical and theoretical research since the 1970s. He believes it is a subject that demands practical engagement as well as analysis. Even in the twenty-first century, racism remains a bedevilling problem for Britain, the USA and much of Europe. Cashmore has approached the subject in a number of ways, employing participant-observation, face-to-face interviews, focus groups, historical exposition, biography and online methods. Beyond Black is an exploration of how African American celebrities have affected the contours of race relations in the USA.

Sport has also featured prominently in Cashmore’s research portfolio. Sport’s reinvention of itself as a constituent of the entertainment industry and its migration to the centre of popular culture has occupied his attention. Cashmore’s focus has been both on the sometimes-labyrinthine connections between sport and the global media and on the ways in which sport excites thoughts and emotions in its consumers.

In practical terms, Cashmore’s recent empirical research involves the use of online methods to elicit qualitative responses. Online research typically involves survey checkbox styles and yields quantitative data. By contrast, Cashmore’s work with Jamie Cleland essays methods that incorporate elements of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Cashmore and Cleland have established a digital research platform and completed three projects (four journal articles thus far).  Subjects considered taboo (on gay footballers) or inaccessible by conventional methods (views on race and ethnicity) are approachable via online methods.

Cashmore’s next challenge is to align online methods with face-to-face interviews and focus groups. Sociological research must take account of people’s propensity to communicate in several different ways. His latest project investigates gambling habits; the questionnaire is at: www.topfan.co.uk

  • LK3012 Sport and Society
Room: NW920
Phone:  TBC
Email:  e.cashmore1@aston.ac.uk
Office Hours:  TBC