Dr Sadiya Akram

Dr Sadiya Akram

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Associate Professor in Sociology

Contact details

School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Sadiya Akram is a specialist in the politics of race. Her research explores the varied ways in which racially marginalised groups mobilise. To date her research has explored race-rioting, the politics of the incarcerated, and Muslim women’s experience of racism. Central to Akram’s research is a conceptual critique of the core concepts relating to debates on racism, and she has published on unconscious bias, institutional racism in The Metropolitan Police, and decolonisation. She has also written about the implications of a long-standing neglect of racism in both the discipline and practice of British politics. 

A concern with concepts of agency underpins her work and she highlights the neglect of the unconscious and its potential to enhance insight into the effects of race. To this end, the work of Pierre Bourdieu is a focal point of her work as is the potential of critical realism to enhance socio-political critique. The latter are joint themes of her monograph – Bourdieu, Habitus and Field: A Critical Realist Approach (2023). In this book, Akram extends Bourdieu’s work in new directions, drawing out a Bourdieusian theory of institutions to transcend the impasse in debates on institutional racism.    

Akram’s current research focuses on institutional racism, exploring the potential insights and limitations of new institutionalist thought for enhancing understanding of institutional-level inequality.

Akram is interested in methodological developments and specifically in participatory approaches to research and creative and arts-based methods to strengthen inclusive participation in research with marginalised groups.


  • PhD on agency and the work of Pierre Bourdieu at the University of Birmingham 2011 
  • MA (Distinction) in Political Science Research Methods – University of Birmingham 2005 
  • BA (Distinction) in Sociology - University of Birmingham 2004 
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK 2018 


Sadiya joined the University of Birmingham as an Associate Professor in Sociology in January 2024 having previously held academic posts at HPP, Manchester Metropolitan University (2017-2023) and at SPIR, Queen Mary University (2015-2017). Prior to this, Sadiya was a post-doctoral research fellow at IGPA, The University of Canberra, Australia, where she worked on an Australian Research Council-funded project exploring alternative forms of political mobilisation in a cross-national study of Australia, Denmark and the UK (2013-2015). Sadiya began her academic career with a PhD in POLSIS at the University of Birmingham (2006-2011).   

Throughout her career, Sadiya has combined empirical research with conceptual analysis to help further the field of the politics of race in the UK and globally. 


Harmful Societies: Crime, Social Harm and Social Justice. (Semester Two).

Postgraduate supervision

Sadiya is interested in supervising students in the following areas:

  • Race and racism
  • British politics of race
  • Political mobilisation of marginalised groups
  • Concepts of Agency – particularly neglect of the unconscious
  • The work of Pierre Bourdieu

She is currently supervising:   

  • Sergio Bedoya Cortéz (external supervisor)

Supervised to completion:

  • Mohamed Hagi Mohamoud


Research interests 

  • Race and racism, particularly a critique of core concepts such as unconscious bias, institutional racism, decolonisation.
  • Political mobilisation of racially marginalised groups. To date Sadiya’s research has explored race-rioting, politics of the incarcerated, institutional racism in The Metropolitan Police, Muslim women’s experiences of racism and political mobilisation.
  • Agency and the unconscious  
  • Critical realism as an approach to socio-political critique
  • The work of Pierre Bourdieu, particularly his notion of habitus and institutions
  • The political theory of Hannah Arendt - a decolonial critique
  • Consociationalism – power sharing in divided societies    

Current projects 

  • What can New Institutionalism tell us about Institutional Racism?  A Case Study of The Metropolitan Police.
  • Consociationalism in Northern Ireland: A Politics of Smoothness? A Critical Race Theory Perspective

Other activities

Trustee of the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation  - a charity which supports disadvantaged Black British students into Higher Education at UK universities. 

External Examiner for Politics at the University of Sheffield. 

Associate Editor Sociological Research Online 

Editorial Advisory Board member British Politics 

Book Series Co-Editor – Routledge Studies in Democratic Crisis


Selected Publications 


Akram, S. 2023. Bourdieu, Habitus and Field: A Critical Realist Approach. London: Palgrave Macmillan 

Akram, S. 2019. Re-thinking Contemporary Political Participation: The Difference that Agency Makes. London: Routledge. 

Journal Articles 

Akram, S. (2023). Dear British Politics, Where is the Race and Racism? British Politics.

Akram, S. (2022). Police Ça Change? Cressida Dick, Institutional Racism and the Metropolitan Police. Political Quarterly. Vol. 93 (3)/ pp. 383-391. 

Akram, S. (2020) [with Pflaeger]. Early Career Researchers Experiences of Post-Maternity and Parental Leave Provision in UK Politics and International Studies Departments: Findings from a Head of Department and ECR Survey. Political Studies Review. Vol 19 (1). Pp. 58-74. 

Akram, S. (2018). Representative Bureaucracy and Unconscious Bias: Exploring the Unconscious Dimension of Active Representation. Public Administration.  Vol. 96 (1). Pp. 119-133. 

Akram, S. (2016). [with Emerson & Marsh]. (Re)Conceptualising the Third Face of Power: Insights from Bourdieu and Foucault. Journal of Political Power. Vol 8 (3) pp. 345-362. 

Akram, S.  (2015).  [with Hogan]. On Reflexivity and the Conduct of the Self in Everyday Life: Reflections on Bourdieu and Archer. British Journal of Sociology. Vol 66 (4) pp. 606-625. 

Akram, S, (2015). [with Marsh and Birkett]. The Structural Power of Business: Taking Structure, Agency and Ideas Seriously. Business and Politics. 

Akram, S. (2014). Recognising the 2011 UK Riots as Political Protest: A Theoretical Framework based on Agency, Habitus and the Pre-conscious. British Journal of Criminology, pp 375-392.

Akram, S. (2012). Fully Unconscious and Prone to Habit: The Characteristics of Agency in the Structure and Agency Dialectic. Journal for the Theory for Social Behaviour. Vol. 43 (1). pp.45-65.