Professor Celia Roberts

PhD, Gender and Women's Studies, University of Sydney
College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: +61 026125178

Areas of expertise

  • Sociology And Social Studies Of Science And Technology 160808
  • Sociological Methodology And Research Methods 160807
  • Other Studies In Human Society 1699

Research interests

I work in the area of Feminist Technoscience Studies, with particular focus on reproduction, sexuality, sex/ gender, embodiment and health.

I am the author or editor of five books: on sex hormones and embodiment, on genetic testing and reproductive technologies, on early onset puberty, health biosensing and Actor-Network Theory. These are listed below. I also have a long track-record in work on ageing and new technologies of care.

I am currently working on reproductive biosensing and self-tracking, and developing an international project on new formations of the menopause, working with sociologists, activists and artists in the UK.  I have a strong interest in feminist and queer theory and how they can help us understand how human and non-human bodies are changing in the current era of environmental disaster.

Another line of research concerns the rise of neuroscientifically-informed parenting practices and popular, therapeutic and biomedical accounts of the effects of early-life trauma throughout childhood and adult life. I have a long-standing interest in the intwinement of psychodynamic and other psychological accounts of subjectivity with neurological and other technoscientific accounts. 


My first academic work took place in the early 1990s at Macquarie University's National Centre for HIV Social Research. There I trained as a qualitative sex researcher and began my immersion in the sexual politics of health and illness.

I then undertook my PhD at the newly formed Department of Women's Studies at Sydney University, which became the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies during my candidature. This work was later revised and published as Messengers of Sex: Hormones, biomedicine and feminism (2007). After graduating, I worked at the National Breast Cancer Centre, undertaking qualitative work on specialist breast nursing and teaching women how to be technoscientifically-informed patient activists.

In 2000, I started to work with Raewyn Connell at the University of Sydney on a project on gender equity in the public sector, but then moved to Lancaster University in 2001 to work with Sarah Franklin on the then very contentious area of genetic testing of pre-implantation embryos (created through IVF processes). We undertook an ethnographic study of this technique in two leading British hospitals, which was later published as Born and Made: An ethnography of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (2006).

In 2003, I was made a permanent member of the Sociology Department at Lancaster University, and I worked there until 2018. In 2015, I published a new monograph, entitled Puberty in Crisis: The sociology of early sexual development. As Lancaster, I was actively involved in the Centre for Science Studies, the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, and the Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics. With Debra Ferreday, Imogen Tyler and Vicky Singleton, I was at various times Co-Director of the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies. During my time in the UK I worked on several large European-Commission funded projects, building a network of colleagues working in Science and Technology Studies in Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and France. My co-edited Companion to Actor-Network Theory and co-authored book, Living Data: Making sense of helath biosensing, are outputs of these collaborations.

In September 2018, I returned to Australia to take up a position in the School of Sociology. I am absolutely thrilled to be joining colleagues in the School and to be able to reconnect with scholars in Australia, including kylie valentine and Jackie Leach Scully at UNSW and Catherine Mills at Monash, with whom I am starting a new project on epigenetics, and ANU colleagues, Mary-Lou Rasmussen, Helen Keane, Catherine Waldby, Maria Hynes and many others with whom I am working on fertility and reproduction. In 2020, Mary-Lou Rasmussen and I will be starting a new project with colleagues in the College of Medicine on reproduction in times of climate crisis.





Researcher's projects

1. Smoke, air quality and pregnancy in ACT and Southeast NSW: a qualitative study (2020-21), Celia Roberts, Mary Lou Rasmussen, Rebecca Williamson, Paul Dugdale and Sotiris Vardoulakis. Funded by ANU Cross-Coillege grant

2. Mother and Child 2020,

3. Messengers of Stress: The cortisol chronicles (2015-2020)

4. The biosocial shaping of conservation and biodiversity in Australia’s capital (2019-). Adrian Manning, Gavin Smith, Adrian Mackenzie, Sujatha Ramen, Joan Leach and Celia Roberts. An interdisciplinary ANU Collaboration with the ACT Woodlands and Wetlands Trust and the ACT government

Available student projects

The biosocial shaping of conservation and biodiversity in Australia’s capital: two Phd studentships available.

Current student projects

I am currently co-supervising 2 PhD projects, having supervised 15 projects to completion to date.

Current students:

  1. Tate McAllister, ANU, researching the material practices of trans masculinity
  2. Jessie Liu, ANU, studying trade in infant formula between Australia and China


Past student projects

  1. Lin Wen-Yuan (2005) on the practices of kidney dialysis in Taiwan
  2. Kaori Sasaki (2006) on brain death in Japan
  3. Ranjini C.R. (2006) on health information technologies in rural India
  4. Anne Rudolph (2009) on sexually transmitted infections in lesbian young women
  5. Clare Hollowell (2010) on young women's conceptions of fun
  6. Shih, Li-Wen (2012) on pregnancy ultrasound in Taiwan
  7. Brigit McWade (2014) on arts and recovery in mental health
  8. Kate McNicholas-Smith (2015) on lesbians on TV
  9. Oscar Maldonado (2015) on the HPV vaccine in Colombia
  10. Rebecca Fish (2015) on learning disabled women living in secure accomodation in England
  11. Alison Hanbury (2016) on the HPV vaccine in England
  12. Joann Wilkinson (2017) on ovulation biosensing
  13. Theresa Atkinson (2020) on telecare for older people living at home
  14. Nicola Sugden (2020) on Donald Winnicott and child mental health
  15. Cron Cronshaw (2020) on parenting gender-fluid and trans children


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Updated:  20 September 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers