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portrait of Professor Jo Littler

Professor Jo Littler

Professor of Social Analysis and Cultural Politics

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Sociology

Contact Information


Visit Jo Littler

D609A, Rhind Building

Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



Jo Littler is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Gender and Sexualities Research Centre at City. Her research on culture, society, in/equality and power is wide-ranging, including work on meritocracy, neoliberal narratives, consumerism, social reproduction and cultural politics.

Her most recent book is The Care Manifesto (Verso, 2020) co-written with Andreas Chatzidakis, Jamie Hakim, Catherine Rottenberg and Lynne Segal ('The Care Collective'). Her book Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility (Routledge 2018) is now available open access. Previous books include Politics of Heritage: the legacies of 'race' (with Roshi Naidoo, 2005); Radical Consumption? Shopping for change in contemporary culture (2008); and Anti-consumerism and cultural studies (with Sam Binkley, 2011). She is currently working on a book of interviews with left feminist academics.

Jo is an editor of the European Journal of Cultural Studies, part of the editorial collective of Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, and is on the editorial advisory boards of Triple C, Communication, Culture and Critique, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change, New Formations and Cultural Studies. She has edited and co-edited a broad range of journal issues on subjects ranging from intergenerational feminisms and transnational celebrity to environmentalism and anti-consumerism, and most recently an issue on cultural populism with Marie Moran.

She is a regular speaker at a wide range of public events, which, besides academic conferences includes, for example, speaking at the APPG group on social mobility in parliament, at the national UCU conference, and to cultural practitioners at the Barbican and the Young Vic. She has written many articles for publications/organisations such as Open Democracy, Compass and The Guardian; her work has been profiled by international media outlets including ABC Australia and Il Manifesto. She has been an external examiner for many BA and MA degrees and has supervised and examined a wide range of PhDs in the UK, Germany and Australia.


Books (6)

  1. Collective, T.C. (2020). The Care Manifesto The Politics of Interdependence. Verso. ISBN 978-1-83976-096-9.
  2. Keller, J., Littler, J. and Winch, A. (2019). An Intergenerational Feminist Media Studies Conflicts and connectivities. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-34913-0.
  3. Littler, J. (2018). Against Meritocracy: culture, power and myths of mobility. London: Routledge.
  4. Binkley, S. and Littler, J. (2011). Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-66936-8.
  5. Littler, J. (2009). Radical Consumption: Shopping for change in contemporary culture. Open University Press.
  6. Littler, J. (2005). The Politics of Heritage: The Legacies of 'Race'. Routledge.

Chapters (26)

  1. Sandoval, M. and Littler, J. (2019). Creative hubs: a co-operative space? In Gill, R., Pratt, A. and Virani, T. (Eds.), Creative Hubs in Question (pp. 155–168). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-030-10652-2.
  2. Ehrstein, Y., Gill, R. and Littler, J. (2019). The affective life of neoliberalism: Constructing (un)reasonableness on mumsnet. Neoliberalism in Context: Governance, Subjectivity and Knowledge (pp. 195–213). ISBN 978-3-030-26016-3.
  3. Littler, J. and Williamson, M. (2018). Rich TV, Poor TV: Work, leisure and the construction of ‘deserved inequality’ in contemporary Britain. In Deery, J. and Press, A. (Eds.), Media and Class: TV, Film, and Digital Culture (pp. 146–160). UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-22979-2.
  4. Littler, J. (2017). More for the many, less for the few. In Perryman, M. (Ed.), The Corbyn Effect ISBN 978-1-912064-68-7.
  5. Littler, J. (2017). Desperate Success: Managing the mumpreneur. In Littler, J. (Ed.), Against Meritocracy Culture, power and myths of mobility Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-88954-5.
  6. Littler, J. (2017). Ideology. In Oullette, L. and Gray, J. (Eds.), Keywords for Media Studies (pp. 146–160). New York, USA: New York University Press. ISBN 978-1-4798-5961-0.
  7. Littler, J. (2017). Adrift or ashore? Desert Island Discs and celebrity culture. In Brown, J., Cook, N. and Cottrell, S. (Eds.), Defining the discographic self: Desert Island Discs in context Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-726617-5.
  8. Littler, J. (2016). ‘Consumer culture and cultural studies’. In Shaw, D., Chatzidakis, A. and Carrington, M. (Eds.), Ethics and Morality in Consumer Culture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-79023-0.
  9. Littler, J. (2016). On not being at CCCS. In Hilton, M. and Connell, K. (Eds.), Cultural Studies 50 years on Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-78348-393-8.
  10. Littler, J. (2016). Cultural studies and consumer culture. Ethics and Morality in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (pp. 233–247). ISBN 978-1-138-79023-0.
  11. Littler, J. (2016). Meritocracy as plutocracy: The marketising of ‘equality’ under neoliberalism. Neoliberal Culture (pp. 73–100). ISBN 978-1-910448-57-1.
  12. Littler, J. (2014). ‘Celebrity’. The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture (pp. 119–127). New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-64147-0.
  13. Littler, J. (2012). Good Housekeeping: Green products as consumer activism. In Banet-Weiser, S. and Mukherji, R. (Eds.), Commodity Activism NYU Press.
  14. Littler, J. (2012). Consumerism. Oxford Bibliographies Online Oxford University Press.
  15. Littler, J. (2011). What’s wrong with ethical consumption? In Lewis, T. and Potter, E. (Eds.), Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction Routledge.
  16. Littler, J. and Gilbert, J. (2009). Beyond Gesture, Beyond Pragmatism. What is Radical Politics Today? (pp. 127–135). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-23625-7.
  17. Littler, J. (2009). Gendering anti-consumerism: consumer whores and conservative consumption. In Soper, K., Thomas, L. and Ryle, M. (Eds.), The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently Palgrave Macmillan.
  18. Littler, J. and Couldry, N. (2008). The work of work: Reality TV and the negotiation of neoliberal labour in The Apprentice’. In Austin, T. and de Jong, W. (Eds.), The Documentary Reader Open University Press.
  19. Littler, J. (2008). Heritage and ‘Race’. In Graham, B. (Ed.), Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity Ashgate.
  20. Littler, J. (2007). Celebrity CEOs and the cultural economy of tabloid intimacy. In Holmes, S. and Redmond, S. (Eds.), Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader Sage.
  21. Littler, J. (2006). Festering Britain”: The 1951 Festival of Britain, national identity and the representation of the Commonwealth. In Ramamurthy, A. and Faulkner, S. (Eds.), Visual Culture and Decolonisation In Britain Ashgate.
  22. Littler, J. (2005). British heritage and the legacies of ‘race'. In Naidoo, R. and Littler, J. (Eds.), The Politics of Heritage: the legacies of ‘race’ Routledge.
  23. Littler, J. (2004). ‘White past, multicultural present: heritage and national stories'. In Brocklehurst, H. and Phillips, R. (Eds.), History, Identity and the Question of Britain Palgrae.
  24. Littler, J. (2000). Creative Accounting: Consumer culture, the ‘creative economy’ and the cultural policies of New Labour’. In Gilbert, J. and Bewes, T. (Eds.), Cultural Capitalism: Politics after New Labour (pp. 203–222). Lawrence & Wishart. ISBN 978-0-85315-917-9.
  25. Littler, J. (1999). The Influence of Advertising. Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture Routlege.
  26. Littler, J. ‘Neoliberal meritocracy, racialization and transnationalism’. In Pirker, E.U., Hericks, K. and Mbali, M. (Eds.), Forward, Upward, Onward? Narratives of Achievement in African and Afroeuropean Contexts (pp. 17–20). hhu books. ISBN 978-3-942412-02-5.

Journal articles (42)

  1. Moran, M. and Littler, J. (2020). Cultural populism in new populist times. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 23(6), pp. 857–873. doi:10.1177/1367549420960477.
  2. Ware, V. and Littler, J. (2020). Gender, race, class, ecology and peace. Soundings, 75(75), pp. 144–160. doi:10.3898/soun.75.09.2020.
  3. Chatzidakis, A., Hakim, J., Littler, J., Rottenberg, C. and Segal, L. (2020). From carewashing to radical care: the discursive explosions of care during Covid-19. Feminist Media Studies pp. 1–7. doi:10.1080/14680777.2020.1781435.
  4. Littler, J. (2020). 'Fortunes of feminism: act four’. Part of Fortunes of Feminism: A Roundtable on and with Nancy Fraser. Discussants: Jo Littler, Eric Fassin, Barbara Poggio, Nancy Fraser. Rassegna italiana di sociologia, (4), pp. 845–849. doi:10.1423/96119.
  5. Littler, J., Featherstone, D. and Davison, S. (2020). Re-empowering the local: new municipal alternatives. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, (74), pp. 4–9.
  6. Wainwright, H. (2020). Municipalism and feminism then and now. Soundings, 74(74), pp. 10–25. doi:10.3898/soun.74.01.2020.
  7. Littler, J. and Rottenberg, C. (2020). Feminist solidarities: Theoretical and practical complexities. Gender, Work and Organization. doi:10.1111/gwao.12514.
  8. Emejulu, A. and Littler, J. (2019). 'We do not have to be vicious, competitive, or managerial' Akwugo Emejulu in conversation with Jo Littler. Soundings, 73(73), pp. 73–86. doi:10.3898/soun.73.06.2019.
  9. Littler, J. (2019). Mothers behaving badly: chaotic hedonism and the crisis of neoliberal social reproduction. Cultural Studies pp. 1–22. doi:10.1080/09502386.2019.1633371.
  10. Littler, J. (2019). NORMCORE PLUTOCRATS in GOLD ELEVATORS. Cultural Politics, 15(1), pp. 15–28. doi:10.1215/17432197-7289458.
  11. Segal, L. and Littler, J. (2018). Democracy in the making. Soundings, 69(69), pp. 113–128. doi:10.3898/soun:69.07.2018.
  12. Littler, J. (2018). Young and old meritocracy: from radical critique to neoliberal tool. Renewal: A Journal of Social Democracy, 26(1).
  13. Brown, W. (2018). Where the fires are. Soundings, 68(68), pp. 14–25. doi:10.3898/136266218822845619.
  14. Hermes, J., Kooijman, J., Littler, J. and Wood, H. (2017). On the move: Twentieth anniversary editorial of the European Journal of Cultural Studies. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(6), pp. 595–605. doi:10.1177/1367549417733006.
  15. Goodman, M.K., Littler, J., Brockington, D. and Boykoff, M. (2016). Spectacular environmentalisms: media, knowledge and the framing of ecological politics. Environmental Communication, 10(6), pp. 677–688. doi:10.1080/17524032.2016.1219489.
  16. Littler, J. (2016). ‘Intangible roles: Theory, policy, practice and intangible cultural heritage’. Ethnologies, 36(1-2).
  17. Winch, A., Littler, J. and Keller, J. (2016). Why “intergenerational feminist media studies”? Feminist Media Studies, 16(4), pp. 557–572. doi:10.1080/14680777.2016.1193285.
  18. Littler, J. and Winch, A. (2016). Feminism and Childcare: A Roundtable with Sara de Benedictis, Gideon Burrows, Tracey Jensen, Jill Rutter and Victoria Showunmi. Studies in the Maternal, 8(1), pp. 2–2. doi:10.16995/sim.212.
  19. Littler, J. and Fraser, N. (2015). The fortunes of socialist feminism. Soundings, 58(58), pp. 21–33. doi:10.3898/136266215814379664.
  20. Littler, J. (2015). The new Victorians? Celebrity charity and the demise of the welfare state. Celebrity Studies, 6(4), pp. 471–485. doi:10.1080/19392397.2015.1087213.
  21. Littler, J., Power, N. and Precarious Worker's Brigade, (2014). 'Life after work’ roundtable with Nina Power and two members of the Precarious Worker’s Brigade, first published in Soundings 2014, reprinted by New Left Project 2014. Soundings, 56, pp. 67–80.
  22. Goodman, M.K. and Littler, J. (2013). Celebrity Ecologies: Introduction. Celebrity Studies, 4(3), pp. 269–275. doi:10.1080/19392397.2013.831623.
  23. Littler, J. and Rustin, S. (2013). Green Shoots?’ Interview with Natalie Bennett. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, 53, p. 33. doi:10.3898/136266213806045692.
  24. Littler, J. (2013). Meritocracy as plutocracy: the marketising of ‘equality’ within neoliberalism. New Formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics, 80-81, pp. 52–72.
  25. Littler, J. (2013). The rise of the ‘yummy mummy’: popular conservatism and the neoliberal maternal in contemporary British culture. Communication, Culture and Critique, 6(2), pp. 227–243. doi:10.1111/cccr.12010.
  26. Littler, J. (2011). Consuming Authenticity. Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 44(2), pp. 302–304. doi:10.1215/00295132-1261013.
  27. Littler, J. and Couldry, N. (2011). Work, Power and Performance: Analysing the 'reality' game of The Apprentice. Cultural Sociology, 5(2), pp. 263–279. doi:10.1177/1749975510378191.
  28. Littler, J. (2010). Book Review: Matthew Hilton, Prosperity For All: Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8014-7507-8 (pbk) $26.95, £16.95. Journal of Consumer Culture, 10(3), pp. 411–413. doi:10.1177/14695405100100030504.
  29. Cross, S. and Littler, J. (2010). CELEBRITY ANDSCHADENFREUDE. Cultural Studies, 24(3), pp. 395–417. doi:10.1080/09502381003750344.
  30. Littler, J. and Cross, S. (2010). Celebrity and Schadenfreude: The cultural economy of fame in
    Cultural Studies, 24(3), pp. 395–417.
  31. Bird, H., Boykoff, M., Goodman, M., Monbiot, G. and Littler, J. (2009). The media and climate change. Soundings, 43(43), pp. 47–64. doi:10.3898/136266209790424595.
  32. Littler, J., Monbiot, G., Boykoff, M., Goodman, M. and Bird, H. (2009). Mediating climate change: Roundtable. Soundings pp. 47–64.
  33. Littler, J. (2009). Image events and corporate ecologies: media stunts, guerrilla marketing and the problem of political interpretation. Enculturation.
  34. Littler, J. (2008). I feel your pain: Celebrity do-gooding, cosmopolitan caring and the globalised soul. Social Semiotics, 18(2), pp. 237–251.
  35. Littler, J. and Binkley, S. (2008). Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism: A Critical Encounter. Cultural Studies, 22(5), pp. 519–530.
  36. Littler, J. and Moor, L. (2008). Fourth worlds and neo-Fordism: American Apparel and the cultural economy of consumer anxiety. Cultural Studies, 22(5), pp. 700–723. doi:10.1080/09502380802245977.
  37. Haynes, J., Littler, J. and Greenwald, R. (2007). Documentary as political activism: An interview with Robert Greenwald. CINEASTE, 32(4), pp. 26–29.
  38. Littler, J. and Schor, J. (2006). Tackling turbo consumption’ An interview with Juliet Schor. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, 34, p. 45.
  39. Littler, J. (2005). Beyond the Boycott: anti-consumerism, cultural change and the limits of reflexivity. Cultural Studies, 19(2), pp. 227–252.
  40. Littler, J., Soper, K. and Barnett, C. (2005). A republic of consumers: Jo Littler in discussion with Clive Barnett and Kate Soper. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, 31, pp. 147–160.
  41. Littler, J. (2004). Making fame ordinary: intimacy, reflexivity and ‘keeping it real’. Mediactive, 2, pp. 8–25.
  42. Littler, J. (2004). Celebrity and “meritocracy”. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, 26, pp. 118–130.

Other Activities

Events/conferences (2)

  1. 50th Anniversary Conference. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (2014).
    Description: Invited speaker

Keynote lectures/speeches (11)

  1. 2020 Worldviews Lecture. Canada / Virtual (2020). The concept of meritocracy suggests that anyone can ascend the social and economic ladder if they work hard enough, regardless of their social position. This rather ambitious claim originated as a satirical take on social mobility in the 1950’s.

    And yet meritocracy is now embedded at the heart of our economic, social, cultural, and academic institutions in a way that obscures the role meritocracy plays in social exclusion.
    This year’s Worldviews lecture will attempt to make meritocracy satire again.
    The discussion will begin with a talk by Professor Jo Littler of City, University of London and author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility. Following her talk, a dynamic panel of experts and academics will join the conversation, further exploring the ways merit creates barriers in higher education and the labour market. The panelists will also address the ways class, race, gender, and immigration status intersect with merit. Recorded lecture at
  2. Keynote, CEPALS conference, ‘Critical work in critical times’. University of Manchester (2019).
  3. Keynote speaker, BSA education ‘Merit of Meritocracy? 60 years and counting’ event. BSA conference (2018).
  4. Celebrity Studies international conference. University of Amsterdam (2016). Keynote speaker
  5. Association for Cultural Studies Third Institute. University of the Free State, Bloemfontein South Africa (2015). Keynote speaker
  6. Missing the meritocratic dream. Popular Culture: Reading from Below, Skopje University, Macedonia (2015). Keynote lecture
  7. Popular Culture and World Politics post-conference symposium. The University of Lapland (2011). Keynote
  8. UCU National ‘Cradle to Grave’ conference, Manchester (2019) Keynote speaker.
  9. Nordic Celebrity Studies Network Conference, Roskilde University, Denmark (2018) Keynote.
  10. University of Leicester ‘Wealth and status in the age of Trump’ (2017) Keynote.
  11. Consumer culture and the commons, ERSC/Glasgow University (2017), Keynote.

Radio programmes (7)

  1. The Merits of Meritocracy. Philosophy Talk / KALW / Syndicated For centuries, the promise of the “American Dream” has been that as long as someone buckles down and works hard, she can achieve her goals. In other words, we’ve perpetuated the meritocratic notion that the more effort one puts in and the more ability one possesses, the more success one can attain. But is this really the case? Given the historical and societal disadvantages that certain groups of people face, it may appear that a strict meritocracy could not—and should not—exist. So, is a true meritocracy ever attainable? And if it really did exist and were in place, would it be fair? Josh and Ray level the playing field with Jo Littler from the City University of London, author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility.
  2. Building a caring economy. Weekly Economics Podcast, NEF Why is care often so overlooked when we think about the economy? And how would our lives change if we put care at the centre of our economic decisions?
    Ayeisha is joined by Jo Littler, Professor of Social Analysis and Cultural Politics at City, University of London, Marion Sharples, Project Manager and Researcher at the Women’s Budget Group, and NEF Senior Economist, Sarah Arnold.
  3. The Myth of Meritocracy. Weekly Economics Podcast, NEF Social mobility in the UK is stagnating. Class privilege is entrenched. Boris Johnson is the twentieth prime minister to go to Eton. What if the idea of Britain as a meritocracy is a myth?

    To answer this question, Ayeisha is joined by Jo Littler, a reader in sociology at City University of London and author of ​‘Against Meritocracy’, and Sam Friedman, associate sociology professor at LSE and author of ​‘The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays To Be Privileged’.
  4. The Deserving Rich? Culture, Power, Politics What do the members of today’s ruling elite think they are doing, and why? What stories do they tell themselves, and us, to justify their right to rule? Why has almost every senior politician since the 1980s promised to increase ‘social mobility’, and why have they failed? Aeron Davis, author of Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment and Jo Littler , author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobilitydiscuss this and other issues in the class culture of modern Britain with Jeremy Gilbert and a great group of attendees at the latest Culture, Power, Politics seminar.
  5. On meritocracy and the neoliberal era. Politics, Theory, Other 'Jo Littler joins me to discuss the history of meritocratic discourse, how the term meritocracy is deployed in the post-Black Lives Matter and MeToo era, and the explanation for the enduring unpopularity of Charles Windsor.'
  6. Jo Littler, "Against Meritocracy', interview by Dave O'Brien. New Books Network - Sociology, Politics, Theory How does the idea of ‘meritocracy’ serve to reinforce social inequality?

    In Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility (Routledge) Dr Jo Littler, Reader at City, University of London analyses the history of the term, the political project it has been associated with, and the cultural manifestations of its neo-liberal form. The book charts the early, critical and satirical, origins of the idea, mapping its co-option by right wing governments within a project of state transformation and the end of social democracy. Allied to the genealogy of the idea, and the politics of inequality to which it is attached, the book details various manifestations of meritocratic culture that serve to exclude and divide. Here there are rich case studies of inequality of class, gender and ethnicity, ranging from #Damonsplaining, through ‘mumpreneurs’ to normcore plutocrats. Ranging widely, but theoretically grounded, the book is essential reading for anyone wanting to know how our current discourses of fairness have ended up supporting growing social inequality.
  7. The List. ABC RN Australia

    "The Yummy Mummy is a call to arms for new mothers to embrace themselves as sexual creatures. Or is it? Dr Jo Littler at City University in London describes a growing anxiety behind this cultural phenomena. She says the rise of the Yummy Mummy has lead to a boost for neo-conservative values and increased pressure for women to consume."