Social Sciences


Karen started her academic career as a mature student at the University of Essex in 1989. She gained a 1st class honours degree in Sociology in 1992, then completed her PhD in July 1996, also at Essex. Supervised by Professor Roger Goodman, this is when she acquired her love of social anthropology. Her first job was at Essex University, as Assistant Academic Advisor to the ESRC/ONS review of social classifications – designing the NS-SEC. After that, she worked at the University of Aberdeen for eight years and was able to use some of that time to return to her interests in British emigration and ethnography. Karen came to Loughborough University on 1st April 2007, becoming a Professor of Sociology in 2011 and Head of Department in 2014. You can see Karen’s Inaugural Lecture here.

Awards and recognition include

International Advisory Board Member, NCCR-Onthemove. which aims to enhance the understanding of contemporary migration patterns and to establish an innovative and competitive field of research on migration and mobility in Switzerland.

International Advisory Board member, Glarus: Global Labour in Rural Societies (GLARUS) project. Funded by the Norwegian Research Council, 2017 – 2021. Based in Norway, the project aims to explore how contemporary global flows of low-skilled and manual labour transform the social fabric of non-urban regions in Western society.

International Advisory Board member, The Construction of Europe in foreign residents’ media in the South of Spain and Portugal. Funded by Spanish Government and hosted by the University of Malaga.

Visiting Academic: City University, Hong Kong (2009, 2011, and 2014), University of Tromso, Norway (2013), University of Basel, Switzerland (2010).

Member of the British Sociological Association Council and BSA Publications Director (2010-13).

Member of the ESRC Peer Review College, 2012 -

Member of Advisory Board, National Centre for Research Methods biannual Research Methods Festival 2011-2012.

Independent assessor for James Martin 21st Century School (Oxford Martin School) External Review. Nov 2011

Member of International Assessment Board for IRCHSS Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme, 2010- 11

Expert Adviser (2009 – 2011) International Migration of Retirees in Spain and Latin America (MIRES) funded by Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.

Member of the Sociology panel for the ESRC Major and Minor Recognition Exercises 2005 and 2007.

Member of the editorial board of Sociology (2006-9).

External Examiner at universities in the UK and Hong Kong.

Keynotes and invited lectures in numerous countries.

Co-founder of Loughborough’s Qualitative Digital Research Lab.

Current Project:  Lifestyle Migration in East Asia funded by the ESRC 2012 to 2014.

Karen’s research interests fall into three broad themes: migration, social class, and ethnographic methods.  Karen has spent many years living amongst and learning from British people who move abroad in search of a better way of life. Sociologically this has informed an interest in a broad range of themes, including: ethnicity, identity and community; nations and nationalism; home and belonging; social exclusion; the informal economy; tourism-related migration; and friends and networks. The ESRC has funded this research three times and the findings have been published in a selection of books and papers broadly related to migration. The research has also generated considerable media interest and has featured on BBC’s Real Story, Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, and mainstream newspaper articles in the UK and Spain. 

Karen has recently pioneered the use of practice stories for migration research.

Karen teaches modules on the sociology of tourism, ethnographic methods, digital media, and on the relationship between sociology and the world outside academia. Karen is happy to supervise research students in the fields of Intra-European migration, children and migration, retirement migration, tourism, community, friends and networks, alternative ways of living and utopias, expatriates, social class and stratification, the housing market and social well-being.

Karen has a long history of teaching qualitative, especially ethnographic, research methods, including over ten years at the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis and Collection; and the Swiss Summer School on Methods in the Social Sciences, in Lugano.  

Current PhD Students

Pauline Van-Romondt-Vis, looking at how practices and approaches from the arts are being used within qualitative social scientific research methodology

Sheetal Vyas, ‘Invisible Minorities: A Study of South Asian Elders, Vulnerability, Risk and Harm’

Tom Scott-Arthur, ‘Understanding deprivation, locality and obesity: Exploring the views of lay people, GPs and local public health professionals in a deprived neighborhood’

Gaby Wolferink, ‘Does Volunteering Build Stronger Communities - An ethnographic exploration in South Yorkshire's former mining communities’

Gennaro Errichiello, ‘South Asian migrants in the Arab Gulf countries. Field research within the Pakistani community in Dubai’

Julie Buczkiewicz, Pupils’ perceptions of citizenship education and good citizenship

2012 International Migration and Social Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award, 2013

2011 Ethnographic Methods. 2nd Ed. London: Routledge

2009 Key Concepts in Ethnography. London: Sage

2009  Lifestyle Migration. Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences, Farnham: Ashgate (with M. Benson)

2000 The British on the Costa del Sol. London: Routledge 

2010 A Bourdieusian Analysis of Class and Migration: habitus and the individualising process. Sociology, 44(1) (with C. Oliver) Available online

2010. No Place Called Home: The Causes and Social Consequences of the UK Housing ‘Bubble’ British Journal of Sociology, 61(2): pp231-255 (with J. Bone) Available online

2009 Migration and the search for a better way of life: a critical exploration of lifestyle migration, The Sociological Review 57(4): 608-625 (With M. Benson) Available online

2007, ‘Intra-European Migration and the mobility-enclosure dialectic’, Sociology, 41(2):277-293 Available online