• United Kingdom

  • 234 Citations
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Personal profile


My research activities have established innovative new lines of enquiry in a range of areas.

The most enduring subject of enquiry for me has been the development of the concept of intellectual disability. In 1996 I published the first article in any mainstream sociology journal on the 'principle of normalisation' – Normalisation and the psychology of 'mental retardation', Sociological Review. 44, 1, pp. 99-118. This paper advanced the novel argument that behavioural psychology in America drove its adoption and reformulation of normalisation.

I recently followed up this line of enquiry with another sociological study of Power, ideology and structure: The legacy of normalization for intellectual disability, 2018, Social Inclusion. 6, 2. This paper highlighted the ultimate uncontrolability of normalisation in the context of its persistent influence on current thinking.


This study provided the platform for another unique perspective on the development of the concept of 'idiocy' in the nineteenth-century. The resulting research monograph – Modernity and the Appearance of Idiocy: intellectual disability as a regime of truth, 2014, Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press – provided a counter both to essentialist views of intellectual disability and social constructionism.

"Such is the force of Simpson’s historical archaeology of intellectual disability…questioning the unquestionable, de-evidencing the self-evident, and consistently seeking for what is beyond the ‘enclosed space’ of what seemingly are the only options for what – politically, ethically, practically – can be done." (Chris Philo)


Most recently, I have produced a conceptual critique of intellectual disability and its place within psychiatry. Hitherto, no-one has attempted a systematic mapping of intellectual disability in the shifting nosology of psychiatry. The resulting critique questions the accuracy of other accounts that place emphasis on the naturalness of the distinction between mental illness and intellectual disability and whether psychiatry can maintain intellectual disability as a conceptual object and target for intervention.

'Idiocy and the conceptual economy of madness', Simpson, M. K., 2018, Intellectual disability: A conceptual history, 1200–1900. McDonagh, P., Goodey, C. F. & Stainton, T. (eds.). Manchester: Manchester University Press.


Currently, I have turned by attention to the role and function of disabled bodies in cinema. In addtion to two book chapters, I am currently writing a book on the subject to be published by Routledge as part of their Interdisciplinary Disability Studies series – expected publication 2021. Avoiding the more familiar approaches of 'negative imagery' and representation, the studies draw upon diverse theories including those of Lacan, Bataille, Žižek and semiotics to create a non-reductionist account of how bodies actually function in specific films.

Masculinity or Bust: Gender and Impairment in Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Simpson, M., 2017, Phallacies: Historical Intersections of Disability and Masculinity. Brian, K. M. & Trent, J. W. . J. (eds.). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Simpson, Murray (in press) ‘Disability, gender and innocence: Russ Meyer's Mudhoney and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and problems of signification in cinema’, in Ojrzyńska, Katarzyna and Wieczorek, Maciej (Eds.) Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture, Leiden: Brill.


In another exciting new development, I am co-editing with Dr Alison Wilde a new book series on Disability, Media, Culture, in partnership with Peter Lang publishers.

Globally today, television, film and the internet comprise the principal sources of cultural consumption and engagement. Despite this, these areas have not featured strongly in the cultural study of disability. This book series will provide the first specific outlet for international scholars of disability to present their work on these topics.

The series will build a body of work that brings together critical analysis of disability and impairments in media and culture. The series expands the work currently undertaken in literary studies on disability by using media and cultural theory to understand the place of disability and impairment in a range of media and cultural forms.

The series encourages the development of work on disabled people in the media, within the media industries and in the wider cultural sphere. Whilst film and television analysis will be central to this series, we also encourage work on disability in other media, including journalism, radio, the internet and gaming.



Currently, I teach the Formation of social work on the BA(Hons) programme in year one, and Understanding and applying research in year three.

The formation of social work highights for students the importance of understanding the social functions and possibilities of social work within the context of a historical sociology. As such, it reflects my wider interest in the historical formation of social contexts, concepts and practices.

Research interests

Following the completion of two doctoral students recently, I would like to encourage potential applicants interested in the following fields:

  • the critical study of intellectual disability, whether historical, sociological or conceptual;
  • more broadly, any such studies on disability;
  • the cultural study of disability, especially with reference to cinema and media – joint supervision with a colleague from the University's Film Studies team is a possibility here;
  • the philosophy of Social Work.

I am happy to have informal discussions with interested candidates.

If you wish to make contact to discuss topics not on this list based on theoretical approaches in social theory, then please also feel free to make contact. In the past, I have successfully supervised candidates to completion in areas as diverse as:

  • Social work, spirituality and postmodernity;
  • Community development in Pakistan;
  • Nursing and the Third Reich;
  • The development and application of Scottish mental health legislation;
  • Social work constructions of asylum seekers, and others.




Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Murray Simpson is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 1 Similar Profiles
Intellectual Disability Medicine & Life Sciences
disability Social Sciences
social work Social Sciences
asylum seeker Social Sciences
Disabled Persons Medicine & Life Sciences
normalization Social Sciences
Social Work Medicine & Life Sciences
Intelligence Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2012 2016

Research Output 1993 2018

Barbie®, biopolitics, and the body bizarre: Body modification in American Mary

Simpson, M., 28 Nov 2018.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Barbie Dolls

Idiocy and the conceptual economy of madness

Simpson, M. K., Jan 2018, Intellectual disability: A conceptual history, 1200–1900. McDonagh, P., Goodey, C. F. & Stainton, T. (eds.). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 17 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Intellectual Disability
1 Citation (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)

Power, Ideology and Structure: The Legacy of Normalization for Intellectual Disability

Simpson, M. K., 17 May 2018, In : Social Inclusion. 6, 2, p. 12-21 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Intellectual Disability
Personal Autonomy

The death drive: Crippled body(work) in David Cronenberg’s 'Crash'

Simpson, M., 4 May 2018.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Body Work
Death Drive
David Cronenberg

Activities 2013 2019

  • 4 Participation in workshop, seminar, course
  • 1 Editorial activity

Peter Lang (Publisher)

Murray Simpson (Editor), Alison Wilde (Editor)
2019 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Disability Studies: Precariousness & Austerity Seminar

Murray Simpson (Participant)
6 Jun 2017

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Learning disability and inclusion phobia - C.F. Goodey.

Murray Simpson (Organiser)
5 Sep 2016

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Rethinking Learning Disability Seminar 2

Murray K. Simpson (Organiser)
14 Jun 2013

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

Rethinking Learning Disability Seminar 3

Murray K. Simpson (Organiser)
19 Sep 2013

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course



How do social work professionals construct asylum seekers as objects of knowledge and targets for intervention

Author: Masocha, S., 2013

Supervisor: Simpson, M. (Supervisor), Fernandes, F. (Supervisor) & Jackson, S. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Working practices, problems and needs of the community development projects in Punjab Province, Pakistan

Author: Ranjha, A., Nov 2013

Supervisor: Simpson, M. (Supervisor) & Kelly, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy