Mental Health

Talking cleanliness in health and agriculture

Project Duration

May 2006 - October 2008


Economic and Social Research Council



Project Staff

  • Brigitte Nerlich 1
  • Paul Crawford 1
  • Ronald Carter 1
  • Brian Brown 2

Staff Institutions

  1. The University of Nottingham
  2. De Montfort University


This project is based on interdisciplinary collaboration between sociology and applied linguistics and uses a novel combination of methods: corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis and critical metaphor analysis. Its aim is to investigate the narratives and discourses around cleanliness in two sectors: general and mental health hospitals (dealing with the threat of MRSA) and poultry farms (dealing with the threat of avian flu) and to compare them with policy and media discourses. 

The in-depth study of the language of cleanliness and hygiene in different local contexts allows the mapping of the linguistic topography of cleanliness and the identification of fault lines along which different understandings interact and might come into conflict. Based on the findings derived from two case studies, we will develop a number of recommendations to improve communication across two sectors of public and encourage sustainable good practice in and across these sectors.



Outcomes and Findings

All outputs submitted to ESRC archive and can be found at:

Return to projects listing


Brown, B., Crawford, P., Nerlich, B. & Koteyko, N. (2008) The habitus of hygiene: Discourses of cleanliness and infection control in nursing work. Social Science and Medicine 67: 1047-1055. 

Crawford, P. & Brown, B. (2008) Soft authority: Ecologies of infection management in the working lives of modern matrons and infection control staff. Sociology of Health & Illness 30 (5): 756-771. 

Crawford, P., Brown, B., Nerlich, B. & Koteyko, N. (2008) The moral careers of microbes and the rise of the matrons: An analysis of UK national press coverage of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) 1995-2006. Health, Risk & Society 10 (4): 331-347. 

Koteyko, N., Brown, B. & Crawford, P. (2008) The dead parrot and the dying swan: The role of metaphor scenarios in UK press coverage of avian flu in the UK in 2005-2006. Metaphor and Symbol 23 (4): 242-261. 

Koteyko, N., Nerlich, B., Crawford, P., & Wright, N. (2008) 'Not rocket science' or 'no silver bullet'? Media and government discourses about MRSA and cleanliness. Applied Linguistics 29: 223-243.

Contact for further information

Paul Crawford




World-class research at the University of Nottingham

University Park
+44 (0) 115 951 5151

Athena Swan Silver Award