Professor Sarah Waters

Professor Sarah Waters


I am a professor of French Studies, former Deputy Head of School (2015–2017) and Head of French (2011–2014) at the University of Leeds. I was Honorary Secretary of the Association of University Professors and Heads of French (AUPHF) until 2020 and I am a previous member of the editorial board of Modern & Contemporary France.

My recent research, funded by the Wellcome Trust and subsequently an AHRC research leaders fellowship has focused on work-related suicide and labour theory in France. This research was published as a monograph Suicide Voices. Labour Trauma in France by Liverpool University Press in 2020. I was awarded funding by Research England in 2021 to undertake a qualitative study of work-related suicide in the UK.

I graduated in French and Italian from University College Dublin and was awarded a scholarship from the Italian Cultural Institute to study at the University of Florence. Following this, I completed a MA in European Integration and a PhD in political economy at the University of Limerick. I was also lectrice at the Université de Mont-Saint Aignan before coming to Leeds as lecturer in French. In 2017, I was promoted to Professor in French Studies.

Selected publications


  • Suicide Voices. Testimonies of Trauma in the French Workplace (Liverpool University Press: 2020)
  • Between Republic and Market. Globalization and Identity in Contemporary France (Continuum: 2012)
  • Memories of 1968. International Perspectives (co-edited with Ingo Cornils) (Peter Lang: 2010)
  • Social Movements in France. Towards a New Citizenship (Palgrave/Macmillan: 2003)

Edited journal volumes

  • ‘Suicide and Self-Harm. New Research Developments’ special issue of Journal of Public Mental Health (forthcoming 2022). Co-edited with Julian Ashton
  • ‘Work in Crisis’ special issue of Modern & Contemporary France (26: 3) August 2018. Co-edited with Jeremy Lane
  • ‘Rethinking the Left in France’ special issue of Journal of Contemporary European Studies (Vol. 16, Issue, 1), Co-edited with Jim House, Brian Jenkins and Jeremy Leaman April 2008
  • ‘New Voices. Alternative Politics in France Today’ special issue of Modern and Contemporary France (Vol. 12, No, 1) February 2004. Co-edited with Joanne Drugan and Jim House


(Waters & Palmer) ‘Work-related suicide: a qualitative analysis of recent cases with recommendations for reform’ (University of Leeds / Research England, 2021)

Journal articles (selected)
  • ‘Dying at Work. Work-related suicide – how does the UK regulatory context measure up?’ Journal of Public Mental Health (forthcoming 2022)
  • ‘Réflechir à la portée du procès France Télécom au Royaume Uni’ Travailler No.46, pp. 103–121 (2021)
  • ‘Suicide au travail et restructuration de l’entreprise. Analyser les lettres de suicide’ Observatoire national du suicide Ministère de la Santé, 4ième rapport, 10 May 2020, pp. 61–68. Article featured in French newspaper Libération
  • ‘Liberalisation, surveillance and suicide in the French workplace’ Modern & Contemporary France 26 (3): pp. 275–290. August 2018
  • ‘Workplace Suicide and States of Denial: The France Télécom and Foxconn Cases Compared’ Communication, Capitalism and Critique (15 (1) 2017
  • ‘Suicide Voices. Testimonies of Trauma in the French Workplace’ Medical Humanities (Published online 9 September 2016)
  • ‘When Work Kills’ Journal of Public Mental Health (Co-authors: Prof Martin McKee, Dr Marina Karanikolos). 15 (4) 2016, pp. 229–234. Emerald award for best journal research article in 2016
  • ‘Disappearing Bodies: The workplace and documentary film in an era of pure money’ French Cultural Studies 2015 26(3), August 2015, pp. 289–301
  • ‘Suicide as Protest in the French Workplace’ Modern & Contemporary France, 23(4), May 2015, pp. 491–510
  • ‘A Capitalism that kills. Workplace suicides at France Télécom’ French Politics, Culture and Society  32 (3), Winter 2014, pp.121–141
  • ‘The 2008 Economic Crisis and the French Narrative of National Decline’ Modern & Contemporary France (Vol. 21, Issue 3) August 2013, pp. 335–354
  • ‘French Intellectuals and Globalisation. A War of Worlds’ French Cultural Studies (Vol. 22, no. 4) November 2011, pp. 303–320
  • ‘Globalisation, the Confédération paysanne and symbolic power’ French Politics, Culture and Society (Vol. 28, No. 2) Summer 2010, pp. 96–117

Book chapters

  • ‘French paysans and symbolic power’ in F. Royall and D. Chabanet Poor People’s Movements in Europe (Peter Lang: 2014)
  • ‘1968 in Memory and Place’ in Waters and Cornils eds. Memories of 1968. International Perspectives (Peter Lang:  2010)
  • ‘Social Movements and Social Exclusion in the New France’ in F. Royall ed. Contemporary French Cultures and Societies (Peter Lang: 2004) pp. 109–124

Media (2019–2021)

External research income (2016 onwards)

  • Research England (UKRI) (£17,000) ‘Suicide and work-related causality in the UK. A qualitative study’ November 2020–March 2021
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong. Internationalisation award for research visit to CUHK in April 2020
  • AHRC Leaders Fellowship (£208,000)’Neoliberal Globalisation and Suicide in the French Workplace’ 1 January 2017–30 June 2018
  • Wellcome Trust Seed Award (£46,000) ‘Suicide Voices. Trauma in the Globalised Workplace’ 1 January 2016–31 December 2016

Engagement and impact

Keynote lectures and invited seminars (2018 onwards)

  • 14 April 2021 Guest online seminar, Sheffield Hallam University
  • 28–30 July 2020 Keynote at Hazards international online conference (350 participants)
  • 19 May 2019 Guest lecture. Observatoire national du suicide, Paris ‘Reconnaissance légale du suicide lié au travail. Une perspective comparatiste de la France et de la Grande Bretagne’
  • 19 May 2018 University of Sheffield. Suicide, Crisis and Society conference. Plenary lecture: ‘Suicide, Crisis and Cognitive Labour in 21st century France’
  • 13 February 2018 Guest lecture. California State University, Long Beach ‘French Students and China in May 1968. Between Myth and Reality’

Research supervision

I offer research supervision in areas including the French workplace, theories of capitalism, social movement theory, protest and social conflict in contemporary France, new social movements. My PhD student Martin Goodman is publishing his thesis as a monograph with Peter Lang in 2021.


  • Currently on research leave

Research interests


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD French and Italian political economy
  • MA European Integration
  • BA French and Italian

Research groups and institutes

  • French
  • Conflict
  • Popular culture
  • French
  • Conflict
  • Popular culture
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>