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Athletes, Health, and Vaccine Hesitancy: A Sociology of Post-Truth Body Politics S&T78

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Why are some ostensibly health-conscious groups rejecting the most important health intervention of the century? A great deal of speculation surrounds the views and experiences of groups who have not been vaccinated for Covid-19, often invoking claims of media disinformation, distrust of medical and governmental authority, and the prevalence of personal choice over public health. What is lacking amidst this conjecture is an empirically-grounded understanding of the discursive fields of knowledge that ‘vaccine hesitant’ groups draw from and contribute to, and how those are connected to wider social, political, and technological developments in the early twenty-first century. Given that the vaccination rollout in the United Kingdom has been largely heralded as a triumph of scientific and commercial ingenuity, the NHS and its volunteers, and the willingness of citizens to partake, sceptical and hesitant groups represent a noteworthy and concerning exception.

Focussing on one such group, this PhD study will explore how athletes encounter, perceive, and interpret information about the Covid-19 vaccine. Athletes are a curious demographic in relation to health, often made synonymous with outward signs of healthiness while pursuing physically compromising activities under stressful conditions. As many high-profile athletes in professional football, tennis, and rugby have expressed sceptical views of vaccination, and as professional athletes tend to occupy an age-group that is known to have taken up vaccination at lower rates than the broader UK population, they are an apposite group for sociological analysis. The PhD researcher will design a social scientific methodology to explore vaccine hesitancy among athletes, to be developed in conjunction with the supervisory committee, and will analyse the findings in the context of socially significant debates about ‘post-truth’ societies, the polarising politics of bodily control, and the relationship between new media, politics, and democracy.

Candidates with interests and/or experience in the sociology of sport, the sociology of science and technology, medical sociology, health humanities, and related fields in the social sciences and humanities, are encouraged to apply for this fully-funded PhD studentship. Interested candidates should contact Dr. Gavin Weedon with questions about the project and for guidance on preparing their application.

School strategic research priority

This project aligns with the University and the School of Science and Technology’s Health and Well-Being research theme through its focus on the perceptions and politics of bodily health and its relation to public health. The focus on athlete’s perceptions of health interventions in an ostensibly ‘post-truth’ society aligns this study with the Sport and Society Research Group within the SHAPE Research Centre.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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