Scientia Professor Alex Broom

My Expertise

Sociology of health and illness; qualitative research; social theory; experiences of illness, suffering, healing and survivorship; social inequalities and social justice; health services and healthcare delivery; health in developing countries; cancer, palliative and end-of-life care; death, dying and bereavement; antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases (social aspects); 

Field of Research (FoR)

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Alex Broom is Scientia Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Practical Justice Initiative, Centre for Social Research in Health, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney). He is recognised as an international leader in the sociology of health and illness. His current focus is on developing critical analyses of the social dynamics of cancer and palliative care and the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance across contexts...view more

Alex Broom is Scientia Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Practical Justice Initiative, Centre for Social Research in Health, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney). He is recognised as an international leader in the sociology of health and illness. His current focus is on developing critical analyses of the social dynamics of cancer and palliative care and the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance across contexts and cultures. Before joining UNSW he was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at The University of Queensland from 2011-15. 

He has published over 240 publications including 14 books, and his recent books include Dying: A Social Perspective on the End of Life (Routledge, 2015), Bodies and Suffering: Emotions and Relations of Care (Routledge 2017, with Ana Dragojlovic), and, Survivorship: A Sociology of Cancer in Everyday Life (Routledge, forthcoming).  

He is Associate Editor, Qualitative Health Research

His sociological work has been focused on empirically mapping and theorising cancer, chronicity, and the end of life, and has featured in high-profile journals such as The Sociological Review (20162017), The British Journal of Sociology (2018), Sociology (20072015), Social Science & Medicine (201020132017), Sociology of Health and Illness (2013, 2016), Subjectivity (2017), Qualitative Health Research (20092014, 20152017) and Critical Public Health (2017). These publications have largely focused on the phenomenology of illness, healing and survivorship, and the complexity of care (whether curative, supportive or palliative). 

Responding to the Western-centricity of much previous sociological work on cancer, he also initiated a program of research on cancer in South Asia in 2005, and has since led studies on experiences of cancer care in India (e.g. Social Science & Medicine2009Health2012Qualitative Health Research20132016Critical Public Health2018), Sri Lanka (e.g. Public Health, 2010), and Pakistan (e.g. Qualitative Health Research, 2007), revealing the complex interplay of illness and cultural norms, structural violence, and tradition healing practices.

He also leads leads a program of research on the social, cultural and political dynamics of antimicrobial resistance, exploring such things as the role of habit and norms (Social Science and Medicine2014), inter-professional relations (Social Science and Medicine2015), institutionalised praxis (Qualitative Health Research2016), defensive medicine (Qualitative Health Research2017), economic imperatives (e.g. Social Theory and Health, 2018) and core-periphery relations (e.g. Health and Place2017) as shaping the capacity of health services to respond to this emerging global health crisis. For example, his recent work on the mediation of infections/antibiotics across the professions utilised sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus (Social Science and Medicine2014), Anselm’s Strauss’s negotiated order (Social Science and Medicine2015), Stovel’s work on brokerage (Qualitative Health Research2016), and Marx’s work on commodity fetishism (Qualitative Health Research2017), to advance a critical sociology of infection management in practice and address the social dimensions of antimicrobial mis-use and antimicrobial resistance.

This program on the social, cultural and political underpinnings antimicrobial resistance has recently included a focus on economically poorer contexts, examining the nexus of development, vulnerability and resistance. With a primary focus on India (e.g. Critical Public Health, 2018), this work examines how the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance is deeply embedded in the enduring politics and problems of (uneven) development, inequality and social justice. 

Across all his projects Alex works regularly with a wide range of industry partners (e.g. hospitals, community organisations, professional organisations related to health and medicine) with a focus on improving people's experiences of illness and the delivery of healthcare. His program of research melds the conceptual richness of sociology with the value of applied, translational health research. He specialises in qualitative research (eg. Sociology, 2009) , but employs a wide range of research methods to gain a better understanding of complex and emerging social problems.

He is an investigator on over AU$9.5 million in competitive research grants, including 13 Australian Research Council (ARC) grants, and currently holds Honorary/Visiting Professorial positions: 

  • Visiting Professor, King's College London (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine) (2017-19)
  • Visiting Professor, The University of Vienna (Department of Political Science) (2018-19)
  • Honorary Professor The University of Queensland (UQ Social Science) (2015-2021) 

He is also a PLuS Alliance Fellow - a partnership between King’s College London, Arizona State University and UNSW - working across the areas of Global Health and Social Justice.

Specific Research Programs: 

Research Impacts

A key strength of Alex's research program is its real-world relevance. While a key aspect of his research program is the development of critical sociological understandings of health, illness and wellbeing, the priority is delivering such understandings to as wide as possible an audience, making sociology relevant to practitioners, patients, consumers, health service providers, community groups and policy makers. This has involved multidisciplinary linkages, translational outcomes and exposing a multitude of grassroots audiences to the power and importance of a critical sociological approach. He currently works closely with hospitals and community health organisations across Australia, the United Kingdom and India, among other countries, utilising close ties with key industry stakeholders to solve pressing health and illness issues. His most recent work has involved collaboration with the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service (Nambour), The Prince of Wales (Sydney), St Vincent's, the Mater Hospitals and Health Service (Brisbane), and Liverpool Hospital (Sydney). He welcomes new partnerships with health providers, community groups and those interested in better understanding and improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. 

In partnership with collaborating clinicians, he has consistently translated sociological research into practice-relevant formats and initiated policy change. Some recent examples include: guidance for nurses on how to manage conversations about futility (e.g. British Medical Journal Open, 2014), enabling more timely referral for palliative care by doctors (e.g. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 2012), models for managing bereavement for families (e.g. Palliative and Supportive Care, 2017), fostering workforce sustainability in oncology (e.g. Seminars in Oncology, 2018; PLoS One, 2016), as well as many other areas of healthcare and clinical practice. His recent publications on the social dimensions of the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance, for example, have had a considerable influence on perceptions of the utility surveillance and restriction in healthcare improvement vis-a-vis a focus on culture, practice and complexity (e.g. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2016; Journal of Hospital Infection 2016; American Journal of Infection Control 2017, 2018).

My Grants

Selected Research Grants (total funding > $9.5 million AU):

2019-23 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP190100745] Precision and the Person  [Broom, Wakefield, Kirby, Prainsack, Khasraw, Kenny] $470,650

2019-22 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP190100823] ‘Superbugs’ in India: Antimicrobial resistance, inequality and development [Doron, Broom] $400,000

2018-21 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP170100300] Navigating an Uncertain Antimicrobial Future: A Sociological Study [Broom, Kirby, Davis, Dodds, Broom, Post]  [ARC $318,473 and PO $100,000] Total = $418,437

2016-18 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP160100100] Cultural Biographies, Medical Knowledges: A sociological study [Broom, Kirby, Kokanovic; Adams; Lwin; Wyld; Koh; de Souza; Woodland] $210,000 [ARC contribution] + [$816,962 cash/in-kind partner contributions]

2015-17 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP150100414] The changing landscapes of survivorship: A sociological study of a life with cancer [Broom, Kirby, Yates, Oliffe, Seale] $359,700

2014-16 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [ LP140100020] Unintended consequences? A sociological study of how social relations influence decisions about antibiotics [Broom, Kirby, Adams, Broom, Looke] $172,112 [Total cash and in-kind $450,396] 

2014-16 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP140100238] The rise of complementary self-care: A national sociological study of women's strategies for coping and living with chronic illness [Adams, Broom, Davidson, Sibbritt] $350,000

2012-15 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP120200268] Pathways to and through palliative care: A sociological study of patient, carer and clinician experiences at the end of life. [Broom, Adams, Yates, Kirby, Good, Wootton, Hardy] $164,830 [Total cash and in-kind $591,411]

2011-15 Australian Research Council Future Fellowship [FT100100294] The changing landscapes of medical pluralism: a sociological analysis of patient experiences and decision making in Australia, India and Brazil. $656,448

2011-13 Australian Research Council Discovery Project [DP110104636] Navigating back pain care: a sociological study of women's illness pathways within and between intersecting social worlds. [Broom, Adams, Refshauge, Sibbritt] $391,622

2010-12 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP1094765] Therapeutic pluralism in pregnancy, labour and birthing: Decision-making, communication and interprofessional dynamics [Adams, Broom, Gallois and Sibbritt] $270,000

2009-10 AUSAID Australian Development Research Awards Masculinities and Violence in Indonesia and India [Nilan, Broom et al] $116,526

2008-11 National Health and Medical Research Council Complementary medicine use among mid-age women: a national mixed-methods study across the urban-rural divide [Adams et al, Broom] $450,777

My Qualifications

BA (hons), M.A., PhD

My Research Activities

Key Publications (Selected, Total publications >240):


Authored books (5)

Broom, A.(in press) Survivorship: A Sociology of Cancer in Everyday Life. Routledge: London & New York. 

Dragojlovic, A., & Broom, A.(2017) Bodies and Suffering: Emotions and Relations of Care. Routledge: London & New York. (172 pages)

Broom, A.(2015) Dying: A Social Perspective on the End of Life. Routledge: London & New York. (186 pages)

Broom, A.,& Tovey, P. (2008) Therapeutic Pluralism: Exploring the Experiences of Cancer Patients and Professionals. Routledge: London & New York. (169 pages)

Tovey, P., Chatwin, J., & Broom, A.(2007) Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Cancer Care: An International Analysis of Grassroots Integration. Routledge: London & New York. (192 pages)


Edited books (selected, career total 9)

Aggleton, P., Broom. A., & Moss, J. (in press) Practical Justice: Principles, Practice and Social Change. Routledge: London & New York. 

Doron, A. & Broom, A.(Eds) (2014) Gender and Masculinities: Histories, Texts and Practices in India and Sri Lanka. Routledge: London. (144 pages)

Broom, A.,& Adams, J. (Eds) (2012) Evidence-Based Healthcare in Context: Critical Social Science Perspectives. Routledge: London & New York. (216 pages) 

Doron, A., & Broom, A.(Eds) (2011) Health, Culture and Religion in South Asia: Critical Perspectives. Routledge: London & New York. (164 pages) 

Broom, A.,& Tovey, P. (Eds) (2009) Men’s Health: Body, Identity and Social Context. Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford. (232 pages)


Refereed Journal articles (selected, career total >190)

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Kirby, E., Lwin, Z. (2019 in press) The collective/affective practice of cancer survivorship. The British Journal of Sociology doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12616

Broom, A. Kirby, E., Kokonavic, R., Woodland, L., Wyld, D., de Souza, P., Koh, S. Lwin, Z,. (2019 in press) Individualising difference, negotiating culture: Intersections of biography and cancer care. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine

Broom, A., Gibson, A., Kirby, E., Davis, M., & Broom, J., (2018 in press) The private life of medicine: Accounting for antibiotics in the ‘for-profit’ setting. Social Theory & Health

Broom, A., Kenny, K, Kirby, E. (2018) On waiting, hauntings and surviving: Chronicling life with cancer through solicited diaries. The Sociological Review. Volume: 66 issue: 3, page(s): 682-699

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Kirby, E., George, N., Chittem, M. (2018 in press) Improvisation, therapeutic brokerage and antibiotic (mis)use in India. Critical Public Health doi: 10.1080/09581596.2018.151603

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Bowden, V., Muppavaram, N., & Chittem, M. (2018) Cultural ontologies of cancer in India. Critical Public Health, 28(1): 48-58.

Kokanovic, R., Stone, M., & Broom, A.(2018 in press) Care(less) encounters: early maternal distress and the haunted clinic. Subjectivity.

Trondsen, M., Tjora, A. Broom, A.,& Scambler, G. (2018) The symbolic affordances of a video-mediated gaze in emergency psychiatry. Social Science & Medicine, 197: 87-94.

Creighton, G., Oliffe, J., Ferlatte, O., Bottorff, J., Broom, A.,&Jenkins, E. (2018) Photovoice ethics: Critical reflections from men’s mental health research.Qualitative Health Research, 28(3): 446-455.

Broom, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E., Gibson, A., & Davis, M. (2017) Antibiotic optimisation in ‘the bush’: Local know-how and core-periphery relations. Health & Place, 48: 56-62.

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Gibson, A., Post, J., & Broom, J. (2017) Myth, manners, and medical ritual: Defensive medicine and the fetish of antibiotics.Qualitative Health Research, 27(13): 1994-2005.

Kenny, K., Broom, A.,Kirby, E.,Wyld, D., & Lwin, Z. (2017) Terminal anticipation: Entanglements of affect and temporality in living with advanced cancer. Subjectivity, 10(4): 374-392. 

Ridge, D., Broom, A.,Kokanovic, R., & Zeibland, S. (2017) Depression at work, authenticity in question: Experiencing, concealing and revealing. Health [Published online: 01/11/17] doi: 10.1177/136349317739437

Kenny, K., Broom, A.,Kirby, E., & Ridge, D. (2017) In one’s own time: Contesting the temporality and linearity of bereavement. Health. [Published online 10/8/17] doi: 10.1177/136345931772 4854

Broom, A.,Broom, J., Kirby, E., & Scambler, G. (2017) Nurses as antibiotic brokers: Institutionalised praxis in the hospital. Qualitative Health Research, 27(13): 1924-1935.

Kirby, E., Broom, A., Gibson, A., Broom, J., Yarwood, T., & Post, J. (2017) Medical authority, managerial power and political will. Health.[Published online 24/06/17] doi: 10.1177/1363459317715775 

MacArtney, J., Broom, A.,Kirby, E., Good, P., & Wootton, J. (2017) The liminal and the parallax: living and dying at the end of life. Qualitative Health Research, 27(5): 623-633.

Broom, A.,Kirby, E., Kenny, K., MacArtney, J., & Good, P. (2016) Moral ambivalence and informal care for the dying. The Sociological Review,64(4): 987-1004.

Broom, A.,Chittem, M., Bowden, V., & Muppavaram, N. (2016) Illness experiences, collective decisions, and the therapeutic encounter in Indian oncology. Qualitative Health Research, 27(7): 951-963.

Broom, A.,Broom, J., Kirby, E., & Scambler, G. (2015) The path of least resistance? Jurisdictions, responsibility and professional asymmetries in pharmacists' accounts of antibiotic decisions in hospitals. Social Science & Medicine, 146: 95-103. 

Ridge, D., Kokanovic, R., Broom, A., Kirkpatrick, S., Anderson, C., & Tanner, C. (2015) “My dirty little habit”: Patient constructions of antidepressant legitimacy. Social Science & Medicine, 146: 53-61.

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Good, P., Wootton, J., Yates, P., & Hardy, J. (2015) Negotiating futility, managing emotions: Nursing the transition to palliative care. Qualitative Health Research, 25(3): 299-309. 

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Adams, J., & Refshauge, K. (2015) On illegitimacy, suffering and recognition: A diary study of women living with chronic pain. Sociology, 49(4): 712-731.

MacArtney, J., Broom, A.,Kirby, E., Good, P., Wootton, J., & Adams, J. (2016) Locating care at the end of life: Burden, vulnerability, and the practical accomplishment of dying. Sociology of Health & Illness, 38(3): 479-92. 

MacArtney, J., Broom, A., Kirby, E., Good, P., Wootton, J., Yates, P., & Adams, J. (2015) On resilience and accep-tance in the transition to palliative care at the end of life. Health, 19(3): 263-279. 

Kirby, E., Broom, A.,Sibbritt, D., Refshauge, K., & Adams, J. (2015) Suffering, recognition and reframing: Healthcare choices and plural care pathways for women with chronic back pain. Current Sociology, 63(5): 652-668.

Broom, A., Broom, J., & Kirby, E. (2014) Cultures of resistance? A Bourdieusian analysis of doctors’ antibiotic prescribing. Social Science & Medicine, 110: 81-88. 

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Good, P., Wootton, J., & Adams, J. (2014) The troubles of telling: Managing communication about the end of life. Qualitative Health Research, 24(2): 151-162. [LP120200268, 2012-14] [FT100100294, 2010-13]

Meurk, C., Broom, A.,& Adams, J. (2014) Relative bodies of knowledge: Pluralism, dualism and maternal-foetal individuation. Social Theory & Health, 12(2): 159-178.

Broom, A., Meurk, C., Adams, J., & Sibbritt, D. (2014) Networks of knowledge or just old wives’ tales? A diary-based analysis of women’s self-care practices and everyday lay expertise. Health, 18(4): 335-51. 

Meurk, C., Broom, A., Adams, J., & Sibbritt, D. (2013) Rurality, mobility, identity: Women’s use of complementary and alternative medicine in rural Australia. Health & Place, 20: 75-80.

Meurk, C., Broom, A., Adams, J., & Sibbritt, D. (2013) Bodies of knowledge: Nature, holism and women’s plural health practices. Health,17(3): 300-317.

Broom, A., & Doron, A. (2013) Traditional medicines, collective negotiation, and representations of risk in Indian cancer care. Qualitative Health Research, 23(1): 54-65.

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Good, P., Wootton, J., & Adams, J. (2013) The art of letting go: Referral to palliative care and its discontents. Social Science & Medicine, 78(1): 9-16.

Broom, A., & Kirby, E. (2013) The end of life and the family: Hospice patients’ views on dying as relational. Sociology of Health & Illness, 35(4): 499-513.

Broom, A.(2012) On euthanasia, resistance and redemption: The moralities and politics of a hospice. Qualitative Health Research, 22(2): 226-237. 

Broom, A., & Doron, A. (2012) The rise of cancer in urban India: Cultural understandings, structural inequalities, and the emergence of the clinic. Health, 16(3): 250-266. [

Broom, A., & Cavenagh, J. (2011) On the meanings and experiences of living and dying in a hospice. Health,15(1): 96-111.

Broom, A., & Adams, J. (2010) The reconfiguration of expertise in oncology: The practice of prediction and articulation of indeterminacy in medical consultations. Qualitative Health Research, 20(10): 1433-1445.

Broom, A.,& Cavenagh, J. (2010) Moralities, masculinities and caring for the dying: An exploration of experiences of living and dying in a hospice. Social Science & Medicine, 71(5): 869-876.

Broom, A., Wijewardena, K., Sibbritt, D., Adams, J., & Nayar, K. (2010) The use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Sri Lankan cancer care. Public Health, 124(4): 232-237.

Broom, A., Cheshire, L., & Emmison, M. (2009) Qualitative researchers' understandings of their practice and the implications for data archiving and sharing. Sociology, 43(6): 1163-1180. 

Broom, A.,Doron, A., & Tovey, P. (2009) The inequalities of medical pluralism: Hierarchies of health, the politics of tradition and the economies of care in Indian oncology. Social Science & Medicine 69: 698-706.

Broom, A.(2009) Intuition, subjectivity and le bricoleur. Qualitative Health Research, 19(8): 1050-1059.

Broom, A., & Adams, J. (2009) Oncology clinicians’ accounts of discussing complementary and alternative medicine with their patients. Health,13(3): 317-336.

Broom, A., Adams, J., & Tovey, P. (2009) Evidence-based healthcare in practice: A study of clinical resistance, professional deskilling & inter-specialty differentiation in oncology. Social Science & Medicine, 68: 192-200.

Broom, A.,& Tovey, P. (2008) Exploring the temporal dimension in cancer patients’ experiences of non-biomedical therapeutics. Qualitative Health Research,18(12): 1650-1661.

Broom, A.& Tovey, P. (2007) The dialectical tension between individuation and depersonalisation in cancer patients’ mediation of complementary, alternative and biomedical cancer treatments. Sociology,41: 1021-39.

Tovey, P., & Broom, A.(2007) Cancer patients’ negotiation of therapeutic options in Pakistan. Qualitative Health Research, 17(5): 652-662.

Broom, A., & Tovey, P. (2007) Therapeutic Pluralism? Evidence, power and legitimacy in UK cancer services. Sociology of Health & Illness, 29(3): 551-569.

Tovey, P., & Broom, A.(2007) Oncologists’ and specialist cancer nurses’ approaches to complementary and alternative medicine use and their impact on patient action. Social Science & Medicine, 64(12): 2550-2564.

Broom, A.(2005) Medical specialists’ accounts of the impact of the Internet on the doctor/patient relationship. Health, 9(3): 319-338.

Broom, A.(2005) Virtually He@lthy: The impact of Internet use on disease experience and the doctor/patient relationship. Qualitative Health Research, 15(3): 325-345.

My Engagement

Additional Current Positions

Visiting Professor, King's College London (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine)
Visiting Professor, University of Vienna (Department of Political Science)
Honorary Professor, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 2015-present
Honorary Professor, UQ Medicine The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 2013-present

Current editorial positions

Associate Editor, Qualitative Health Research.
2014 - present Editorial Board, Digital Health
2015 - present Editorial Board, Health Sociology Review
2007 - present Editorial Board, Complementary Therapies in Medicine

My Teaching

Current HDR supervision:
Stefanie Plage (PhD candidate)
Kristen Overton (PhD Candidate)
Nathan MacArthur (PhD Candidate)
Stephanie Raymond (PhD Candidate)
David Coombs (PhD Candidate)
Kathryn Lim (PhD Candidate)

Recent HDR completions:
Dr Stephen O'Brien
Dr Amie Steel
Dr Natasha Graville
Dr Anita Niehues
Dr Glenda Jessop
Dr Vanessa Jessop
Anne-Marie Snider 

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+61 2 9385 2829


The Australian Sociological Association Public Lecture 2014 - The Global Antibiotic Crisis
The Australian Sociological Association Public Lecture 2014 - Expert Panel on Antimicrobial Resistance
Apocalypse now? The global antibiotic crisis. A public lecture by Alex Broom
Expert panel discusses antibiotic crisis and the resistance