Courtney Sommer



College: College of Social Sciences and International Studies
Discipline: Sociology and Philosophy
Department: Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology

Courtney Sommer (she/they) is a second year PhD student in the department of Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology. She lives in Totnes and spends as much time as possible swimming in the river. 

Courtney's research explores the ongoing legacy of Evidence-Based Medicine, focussing specifically on evidence-based guidance around depression developed by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Courtney uses Institutional Ethnography (as developed by Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith) to explore the depression guideline, looking at how EBM’s discursive legacies are woven into institutional processes and practices. 

Courtney is a long-time Exeter student, originally moving to Devon in 2013 to study her Bachelor of Laws (LLB - 1st Class Honours), where she became interested in issues surrounding legal personhood and feminist legal studies. Her dissertation explored the legal (non)recognition of intersex personhood. It was legal deference to medicine that led Courtney to the sociology of medicine. Courtney was the highest achieving Law student in her cohort of nearly 300 students. Over the next few years she completed two Masters degrees - one in Science and Technology Studies and the other in Sociolgy and Philosophy of Science (graduating both with Distinction). Both theses explored broad themes around medical knowledgemaking, pharmaceuticalisation, biochemical selfhood, and depression as a diagnostic category.

My PhD is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council - while the ESRC provide a stipend that allows me to do research, they have no influence or input on the substance of my work. 

Outside of their academic work, Courtney is founder and director of a user-led organisation ( supporting people with experience of self-harm. Courtney is also advisor to various mental health charities and has worked with multiple NHS trusts to help guide their work around youth mental health, suicide intervention, and self-harm. You can follow Courtney on Twitter @CourtneySommer_