Dr Bruce Macfarlane Zarnovich Cohen

BSc (Hons) (Teesside), MSc (Huddersfield), PhD (Bradford)

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Associate Professor


  • Associate Professor
  • Sociology Convener

Bruce studied sociology in the north of England in the 1990s, and worked as a post-doctorate researcher at both the Humboldt University in Berlin and the University of South Australia in Adelaide in the early 2000s, before becoming a full-time academic in Sociology at the University of Auckland in 2008. With thirty years social research experience, he has undertaken empirical work on topics such as mental health user meanings of illness, community-based youth music projects, police perceptions of drug users, alternatives to psychiatric hospitalisation, migrant labour markets, female perceptions of crime and safety, and the criminalisation of ‘legal highs’. He has published over 40 academic books, articles, and chapters to date.     

Cohen, B. M. Z. (ed.) (2018) Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health


  • “An essential tool for all students, researchers, and clinicians” (Professor Allan Horwitz, Rutgers University)
  • “A provocative and enlightening volume” (Professor Andrew Scull, University of California)

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016) Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness


  • “The best book yet linking mental health to the central characteristics of capitalist society” (Professor Howard Waitzkin, University of New Mexico)
  • “Strident and bold” (Anthropology and Medicine)
  • “A fine, fiery piece of public sociology” (New Zealand Sociology)
  • “Highly readable, strongly argued and patently provocative” (Psychosis)

Cohen, B. M. Z. (ed.) (2012) Being Cultural


  • “A lively and accessible introduction to the key theoretical traditions and topics of current concern” (Professor Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney)
  • “Essential reading for students of the subject” (Dr Paul Hodkinson, University of Surrey)
  • “Accessible and engaging” (Professor Graham Murdock, Loughborough University)

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2008, 2015) Mental Health User Narratives: New Perspectives on Illness and Recovery


  • “A must read for all involved in mental health” (Professor John Read, University of Liverpool)
  • “An engaging critical study of the development and treatments of mental illnesses, which successfully demonstrates both the importance and relevance of social scientific approaches to the study of this area of medicine” (Medical Sociology Online)

Research | Current

Research interests

  • Critical theories of psychiatry, mental illness, and professional power 
  • Popular culture and cultural studies
  • Drugs, crime, and social deviance

Current research

Culture and Society: A Critical Introduction (textbook for Palgrave Macmillan)

The Politics of Mental Health and Illness (book series for Palgrave Macmillan) 

Selling Mental Health (monograph for Palgrave Macmillan)

Recent publications

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2022) ‘Psychiatric Expansion and the Rise of Workplace Mental Health Initiatives’, in Harbusch, M. (ed.) Troubled Persons Industries: The Expansion of Psychiatric Categories beyond Psychiatry (pp. 129-145). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2021) ‘Mental Health and Crime: A Critical Review’, in Stanley, E., Bradley, T. and Monod de Froideville, S. (eds) The Aotearoa Handbook of Criminology (pp. 288-297). Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2021) ‘The Healer and The Psychiatrist’, New Zealand Sociology, 36(1): 121-125.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2021) ‘A Postcolonial Critique of Mental Health: Empire and Psychiatric Expansionism’, in Moodley, R. and Lee, E. (Eds) Routledge International Handbook of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Mental Health. Abingdon: Routledge, 32-42.

Cohen, B. M. Z. and Hartmann, R. (2021) ‘The “Feminisation” of Psychiatric Discourse: A Marxist Analysis of Women’s Roles in Neoliberal Society’, Journal of Sociologyhttps://doi.org/10.1177/14407833211043570

Teaching | Current

SOCIOL 105 Cultural Studies and Society

Postgraduate supervision

I expect doctoral students in sociology to investigate their chosen topic in a systematic, challenging and critical manner drawing on relevant social theory.

Postgraduate study, especially a doctoral programme of study, can be highly challenging at the same time as being rewarding. My philosophy on supervision is simple: I am here for guidance, advice and signposting; generally making sure the student has as smooth a ride as possible in completing their work to a high standard. In return, I expect students to be autonomous and highly motivated. They need to be prepared to put in the hours, complete work on time, and demonstrate a high level of analytical and critical thinking in their writing.

Current supervisions

  • Nasyitah Aziz, 'Bipolar Disorder in Singapore' (Masters)

  • Oliver Birch, 'A Case Study Investigating How Opiate Substitution Treatment Services May Extend Neoliberal Discourses into Addressing ‘Problematic Opiate Use’' (PhD)

  • Frea Anderson, 'Deconstructing Penal Reform: The Case Against Carceral Humanism and Carceral Feminism' (PhD)

  • Natalie Cowley, 'Understanding Depression: Personal and Social Interpretations' (PhD)

  • Benjamin Hemmings, 'Medical Discourse Production in Online Health Support Spaces' (PhD; Australian National University, expert supervisory panel)

  • Lennox Johnson, 'Critical Realism and the Network Model of Mental Disorders' (Masters)

  • Gayle Jones, 'Personality Disorders and the Death Penalty' (Masters) 

  • Nicky Kanade, 'The Role of Contemporary Technology in Understanding Addiction and Recovery' (PhD)

  • Virgina Lambert, 'Breaking the Biocentric Vision of Man as Human in Psy Analyses of Trauma' (PhD)

  • Roberto McLeay, 'Governing Emotions in School' (PhD)

  • Kimberly Prosa, 'Structural Socio-Economic Inequality and Physical Disconnection as a Factor of Anxiety, Depression and Overall Adverse Mental Health' (PhD)

  • Sam Vella, 'Mental Health as a Problem of Liberal Political Economy in New Zealand' (PhD)

  • Paul Ware, 'Systems Under Stress: A National-Level Comparative Analysis of the Effects of Social Cohesion on Population Health Outcomes During the COVID-19 Pandemic' (PhD)

Completed supervisions

  • Nasyitah Aziz, 'Culture and Mental Health' (Dissertation)

  • Meredith Bean, 'The Internet Industry of Love: Lived Experiences of Online Daters in New Zealand' (PhD)
  • Ryan Choy, 'Technologies of Inclusion in New Zealand Mental Health Initiatives' (Masters)
  • Zak Devey, 'Happiness and Aotearoa’s Youth: a Happicratic Analysis' (Dissertation)

  • Cushla Donaldson, 'A Marxist Analysis of the Reproduction of Islamophobia in Aotearoa Through Soft Discriminatory Material on Facebook' (Dissertation) ​
  • Stephen Farnsworth, ‘The Sociology of Mental Health’ (Masters)
  • Callum Fitzpatrick, ‘Methamphetamine and Moral Panics: An Analysis of the Portrayal of Methamphetamine in the New Zealand News Media' (Masters)
  • Benjamin Gilmore, ‘Under the Influence: Alcohol, Narratives and Male Identity in New Zealand’ (Masters)
  • Saphron Hastie, ‘Neoburlesque in New Media’ (Dissertation)
  • Doug Hoey, ‘The Sociology of Computing’ (PhD)
  • Bertalan Magyar, 'A Mixed Methodological Interrogation of the Undergraduate Student Experience, Socialisation, and Fields of Study in 21st Century New Zealand' (PhD)
  • Justin Peters, ‘Mental Disorder or Social Deviance? A Sociological Investigation of Oppositional Defiant Disorder’ (Masters)
  • Angela Rapson, 'An Ethnographic Account of the Lived Experiences of Caregivers and Residents in a New Zealand Rest Home' (Masters)
  • Aimee Simpson, ‘A Fat Chance in Health: Examining the Relationship Between ‘Obesity’ Discourses, Fatness and Conceptions of Health’ (PhD)
  • Aimee Simpson, 'Governing Obese Bodies: Examining Post-Bariatric Surgery Narratives' (Masters)
  • Aimee Simpson, 'Of Monsters and Men: A Sociological Analysis of how ‘Monsters’ are Constructed within Western Media' (Dissertation)
  • Sari Ter Huurne, 'An Evaluation of New Zealand’s Like Minds Like Mine Program to Counter the Stigma And Discrimination Associated With Mental Illness' (Masters)
  • Alice Tregunna, ‘Women Godfathers of Organised Crime: As Presented by Twenty-Three Auto/Biographies' (PhD)


Research Fellow awards

Australian Research Council International Research Fellowship (2005)

European Union (Framework 5) Marie Curie Research Fellowship (2000)

Areas of expertise

For a full list of my publications and downloads please see auckland.academia.edu/BruceCohen

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Professional membership

European Sociological Association

International Sociological Association

Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.


Contact details

Alternative contact

Email: b.cohen@auckland.ac.nz

Office hours

Fridays, 3-5pm

Primary office location

58 SYMONDS ST - Bldg 435
Level 6, Room 604
New Zealand

Social links

Web links