Dr Ellen Watts

Dr Ellen Watts

LSE Fellow in Qualitative Research Methodology

Department of Methodology

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Key Expertise
Political communication; cultural politics; media research methods

About me

"I’m interested in anything and everything that connects politics and popular culture. The Department of Methodology has been a great place to think and talk about expertise and authority. Who gets to be an expert, and what makes something authoritative?"
- Dr Ellen Watts discusses the prominent themes in her research as part of our 30th Anniversary celebrations. Read the full close-up with Methodology faculty.

Ellen Watts joined the Department of Methodology as an LSE Fellow in Qualitative Research Methodology in 2019. Prior to this she was a Teaching Fellow at Royal Holloway College, University of London, where she taught qualitative and quantitative methods in Politics and International Relations. She received her PhD in Politics from Royal Holloway in 2019.

Ellen has also worked as a research assistant on British Academy funded research on primary definers and the construction of think tanks’ authority, and as project manager working with the British Council on research evaluating global audience engagement with their cultural campaign #ShakespeareLives.

Research interests

Ellen is a political communication researcher, interested in all aspects of the relationship between politics and popular culture. Her work draws on ideas from politics, sociology, and media and cultural studies.

Ellen’s thesis explores questions around celebrity and political power, presenting a theoretical model for explaining how celebrities exchange their recognisability for political recognition. She is interested in how celebrities make claims to represent citizens, how these claims are contested and evaluated, and the consequences for citizens when celebrities claim to speak in their interests. She examines this process of claim-making and exchange through case studies in contrasting political contexts: a grassroots housing campaign, an election campaign, and online feminist activism.

Ellen is now interested in exploring ideas around representation, identity, and citizenship in various forms of political entertainment, including satire.

Ellen conducts mixed-method qualitative research, using a variety of media. She is particularly interested in the practical and ethical challenges of digital media research, and in questions over what texts allow us to know about people and power.

Selected Publications

Watts, E. and Chadwick, A. (2020, forthcoming). ‘“With and Between You All”: Celebrity Status, User-Audience Networks, and Representative Claims in Emma Watson’s Feminist Politics’ in Lind, R. A. (ed) Produsing Theory in a Digital World 3.0: The Intersection of Audiences and Production in Contemporary Theory. New York: Peter Lang.

Watts, E. (2019). Stormzy, status, and the serious business of social media spats. In Jackson, D., Thorsen, E., Lilleker, D., and Weidhase, N., (2019). Bournemouth University: The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community UK Election Analysis 2019: Media, Voters and the Campaign, (p. 128)

Watts, E. (2019). ‘Russell Brand’s a joke, right?’ Contrasting perceptions of Russell Brand’s legitimacy in grassroots and electoral politics. European Journal of Cultural Studieshttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1367549419861627

Chadwick, A., McDowell-Naylor, D., Smith, A. P. and Watts, E. (2018) ‘Authority Signaling: How Relational Interactions between Journalists and Politicians Create Primary Definers in U.K. Broadcast News' Journalism. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1464884918762848

Watts, E. (2017). Celebrities4Corbyn: continuity and change in Labour’s use of celebrities. In Thorsen, E., Jackson, D., and Lilleker, D., (2017). Bournemouth University: The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community UK Election Analysis 2017: Media, Voters and the Campaign (pp. 128-128) http://www.electionanalysis.uk/uk-election-analysis-2017/section-8-personality-politics-and-popular-culture/celebrities4corbyn-continuity-and-change-in-labours-use-of-celebrities/