Dr Mike Foden

Department of Geography

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Mike Foden
Profile picture of Mike Foden

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Dr Mike Foden
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

Mike Foden is a Research Fellow in the Department of Geography. His current research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, explores everyday household experiences of adopting vegan, vegetarian and reduced meat diets. His wider interests are in the interrelations between everyday life, grassroots action for change and sociotechnical transitions to more sustainable futures.

After graduating in Sociology from the University of Nottingham, Mike spent 10 years at Sheffield Hallam University, working in student support and research roles while completing an MSc and PhD. His doctoral research on Reclaiming Unwanted Things considered the processes through which marginal economic practices – in this case informal initiatives for salvaging and circulating goods that would otherwise go to waste – become normalised.

Following his PhD, Mike worked as a postdoctoral researcher, first in Geography at the University of Sheffield and then in the School of Social, Political and Global Studies at Keele University. He returned to the University of Sheffield in September 2020 to begin a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.

Research interests

My research overlaps a number of academic fields, especially the sociology and geographies of consumption, social movement studies, and feminist economic geography. It draws on intersecting currents of relational materialist social theory, primarily practice theory in dialogue with insights from actor-network, non-representational and new materialist thinking. My overarching research interests are in the part played by ordinary households and grassroots movements in bringing about or resisting societal transitions.

Empirically, I have explored these themes in relation to everyday food consumption; waste reclamation and reuse; and community-led initiatives for sourcing, distributing and/or conserving resources such as food and energy. My recent research activity includes the following:

  • Everyday transitions to reduced meat diets (Leverhulme Trust, 2020-23) – Research funded through my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship aims to increase understanding of the possibilities and challenges of achieving food transitions for sustainability, viewed from the perspective of everyday life in ordinary households. Its primary concern is to learn from the experiences of householders aiming to reduce their consumption of meat and other animal products, by accompanying participants in their daily food provisioning activities. At a conceptual level the study investigates the material and cultural processes by which some things and not others ‘become food’ in a given setting, and through which eating subjects are continually made and remade.
  • SafeConsume (EU Horizon 2020, 2017-22) – As part of a European-wide research and innovation project on domestic food safety, I was responsible for ethnographic research with UK households, observing their food provisioning activities from shopping and transport through to cooking and eating. Working with Professor Lydia Martens at Keele University, our analysis has focused on the daily work of making food safe to eat and how multiple priorities and anxieties are negotiated in the process.
  • Change Points – Following our previous work on Reshaping the Domestic Nexus, this ongoing collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and Bristol seeks to operationalise evidence and insights from relational social science (especially research informed by theories of practice) to better inform policy making in tackling unsustainable patterns of energy, food and water use.

Journal articles


Teaching interests

I currently teach qualitative research methods at undergraduate level and supervise master’s dissertations on the International Development programme.

I have previously taught postgraduate-level research methods (Sheffield Hallam University) and contributed to modules on globalisation and on political and economic geographies (Sheffield Hallam University, University of Nottingham).

Teaching activities
  • GEO21009 Analysing voice, image and text (UG)
  • GEO6805 Dissertation with placement (PGT)