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Ryan Davey

Dr Ryan Davey



School of Social Sciences

+44 29208 70984
Glamorgan Building, Room 2.08, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA


I am a Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. I convene the module Gender Relations and Society, co-convene Contemporary Inequalities, and also teach on the modules Live Theory (exploring anthropological research on violence and subjectivity) and Introduction to Social Science Research (on ethnography).

An interest in the lived realities of large-scale social transformation animates my work. I focus on household debt, class inequality, gender, power relations, and human subjectivity. My background is in social anthropology. I have carried out long-term ethnographic fieldwork on a housing estate in south-west England and participant observation with free debt advice providers. Through this I contribute to interdisciplinary conversations in sociology, anthropology, and critical policy studies.

My work also explores the normative implications of ethnographic research – in other words, using ethnography to consider how you would like things to change. This has led me to collaborate with economic justice campaigners, debt advisers, and artists, as well as produce press articles and podcasts.









Book sections



My research focuses on household debt, class inequality, power relations, and human subjectivity. It contributes to research in social anthropology, sociology and critical policy studies.

Going beyond debates about class-based identities in the United Kingdom, my doctoral project in anthropology argued that de-industrialisation and financialisation have transformed the foundations on which such identities are built. Through fourteen months’ ethnographic fieldwork on a housing estate in southern England, I found that many UK citizens today rely on borrowing and benefits to make ends meet. This makes them vulnerable to eviction or their benefits being stopped – a situation I described as ‘expropriability’. The state’s power to dispossess poorer citizens of their homes, possessions and sometimes children impinges on those people's ability to envisage better lives for themselves. I proposed that class oppression arises from inequalities in people’s relation to the means of legal coercion, and not just (as in classical Marxist theory) to the means of production.

Austerity’s effects on inequality were the focus of my postdoctoral research at the London School of Economics (LSE). My work on debt advice examined ‘financialised’ forms of social welfare that rely on, or encourage, financial speculation. More recently, my research fellowship at the University of Bristol and a collaboration with feminist political economists for the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Rebuilding Macroeconomics programme explored the cultural and material links between gender, class inequality, households and economic policy.

Public engagement


  • Financial Recovery from Covid-19: Opening the Black Box of the Household - click here
  • Austerity, Debt - What Alternatives? - click here
  • Wicked Problems in the World of Debt Advice - episode 12 of Camthropod: Cambridge Anthropology Podcast - click here

Articles and reports:

  • Debt advice in a time of austerity: is it time to talk about debt cancellation? Quarterly Account: the journal of the Institute of Money Advisers - click here
  • Can churches challenge class inequality? The case of debt advice. Theos Think Tank - click here
  • Debt collection and mental health: the evidence report. Royal College of Psychiatrists and Money Advice Trust - click here

Academic advisory:

  • I am a member of the academic advisory network for Debt Justice, formerly Jubilee Debt Campaign.


What I teach

I am part of the Sociology teaching team. I convene the module Gender Relations and Society and I co-convene the module Contemporary Inequalities. I also teach on the modules Live Theory, exploring anthropological research on violence and subjectivity, and Introduction to Social Science Research, looking at ethnography. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Office hours

I have regular office hours at 2-4pm every Tuesday during the teaching term (i.e. when lectures and seminars are running). During this time, I will be in my office and students can drop in to speak to me with any questions. This includes my personal tutees as well as students on modules that I teach on. 

My office is room 2.08 in the Glamorgan Building (north building). To find it, take the stairs or lift from the main lobby of the Glamorgan Building.

For personal tutees

Personal tutees may contact me with any questions or issues as follows:

  • Email me any time. I aim to respond within 2 working days; after that you are welcome to send me a reminder.
  • Visit my office during my office hours as above or email me to book a time to talk.


Before coming to Cardiff University, I held an early career research fellowship in policy studies at the University of Bristol. I previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the ESRC-funded group project ‘An ethnography of advice’ at the London School of Economics (LSE). I obtained my PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge in 2016. I was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London; masters in anthropological research methods) and the University of Cambridge (bachelors in social anthropology).


I am interested in supervising PhD projects in the areas of:

  • sexuality and capital accumulation
  • social reproduction
  • legal coercion (e.g. eviction, debt recovery, child removal) and subjectivity
  • class relations
  • debt and inequality
  • ethnography

Current PhD students

I co-supervise the following projects:

Rebecca Messenger - ‘Marginalised mothers and normative parenting culture: an ethnographic study of childrearing among mothers on a low income during the pandemic’.

Josip Toogood - ‘Against all odds: the gambling experiences of young men in the UK’.

Research themes


  • Debt
  • ethnography
  • Anthropology
  • Inequality