Centre for Research in Communication and Culture

About us

Dr Karen Lumsden PhD in Sociology, MRes, MA (Hons) and PGCE from the University of Aberdeen

Photo of Dr Karen Lumsden

Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Karen joined the Department of Social Sciences in 2013. She previously held posts at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Abertay Dundee. She has a PhD in Sociology, PGCE in Higher Education, Masters in Social Research, and MA in Sociology, all from the University of Aberdeen.

Karen is a sociologist of policing and an ethnographer. Her recent work has focused on frontline responses to domestic violence, migrants’ experiences of hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote, the reporting of online abuse and hate, police-academic partnerships, constructions and understandings of evidence-based policing, and police professionalization.

She also publishes and teaches on qualitative research methods, including reflexivity and ethnography. She is particularly interested in the use of qualitative and ethnographic methods for applied settings and in the context of evidence-based policing.

As a result of her work she has been invited to speak at a range of events including for example at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam; Vrije Universiteit Brussel; University of Southern Denmark; University of Cambridge; Canterbury Christ Church University; Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) Annual International Conference; N8 Policing Research Partnership Workshop; British Sociological Association events; and the ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training Centre, University of Glasgow.

Karen is a member of the British Sociological Association and the British Society of Criminology, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and is on the Editorial Boards of Sociology and Sociological Research Online. She leads the Policing Research Group at Loughborough University, sits on the Strategic Board of the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC), and leads the EMPAC Victims, Witnesses and Public Protection Network. She is also lead academic of a mini-centre for doctoral training at Loughborough University on Policing for the Future: Socio-Technical Resilience and Innovation.

Karen was awarded a Vice Chancellor’s University Fellowship for the 2016-17 academic year.

Karen is an ethnographer and a sociologist of policing with particular interest in the areas of victims, youth, social media and online abuse.

Boy Racers and Policing the Roads

Karen’s early doctoral work was an ethnographic study of boy racers in Aberdeen, Scotland. The research shed light on the common misconceptions concerning car modification cultures which are labelled deviant, risky and dangerous and whose rituals have helped fuel the myth of the boy racer. It also explored the policing and governance of risky and anti-social driving behaviours and urban space via the use of anti-social behaviour legislation. A monograph of this work (Boy Racer Culture: Youth, Masculinity and Deviance) was published by Routledge.

Policing and Victims

Karen leads the EMPAC Victims, Witnesses & Public Protection Network as part of a HEFCE/COP ‘Policing Knowledge Fund’. Ongoing work here includes projects on: frontline responses to domestic violence; migrants’ experiences of hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote; the reporting of online abuse and hate; and an evaluation of police link officers and video relay technologies for deaf/hard of hearing communities. She is also conducting an ethnography of a police control room and dispatch.

Karen has published on police-academic partnerships, police officer and staff constructions and understandings of evidence-based policing, and police professionalization. She is particularly interested in the co-production of research, the politics and construction of ‘evidence-based policing’ and the (de-)legitimization of various forms of knowledge, methodologies and theories for informing policing policy and practice.

Social Media and Online Abuse

Current research also focuses on abuse and harassment on social media (i.e. trolling, ‘(f)raping’, and misogyny) and explores this through the lens of gender and feminist theory. As a result of this work Karen has been invited to various events including: ‘Women – Media, Sexism and Online Abuse’, organised by the Muslim Women’s Network UK and the Government Equalities Office, and #NotAskingForIt: Rape, Discourse and Media at Middlesex University. She is currently co-editing a book with Dr Emily Harmer (University of Liverpool) on Online Othering: Exploring Violence and Discrimination on the Web (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2019).

Ethnography and Reflexivity

The final strand of work focuses on ethnography and reflexivity in social research, drawing on Karen’s experiences researching boy racers and policing. This includes the publication of Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless (Palgrave Macmillan), and a forthcoming monograph Reflexivity: Theory, Method and Practice (Routledge). Karen also teaches qualitative and ethnographic methods to police and practitioners and is interested in the practice and application of ethnography in the context of evidence-based policing.


  • 2015-17: Co-investigator – College of Policing / HEFCE Policing Knowledge Fund for the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC). Awarded: £862,620.
  • 2015-17: Co-investigator – ESRC Non-Standard FEC Grant, Loughborough University Advanced Training Courses in Social Sciences, ‘Methodological Advances in Applied Ethnography’, with John Downey (PI) and other Loughborough academics. Awarded: £28,999.
  • 2015-17: Co-Investigator – West Midlands Police evaluation of their early prevention and intervention delivery plan, with Helen Trivedi and Georgia Hyde-Dryden (CCFR). Awarded: £38,000.
  • 2014-15: Principal Investigator – Enterprise Project Grant funded via a Higher Education Innovation Fund. This involved the development of partnerships with police forces for research, knowledge transfer and CPD. Awarded: £117,179.
  • 2018-19: Co-investigator – Enterprise Project Grant funded via a Higher Education Innovation Fund. ‘Active Citizenship and Migration: Development of Good Practice Guidelines on the Benefits of Involving Community Perspectives on Roma Migration and Integration Post-Brexit’ with Cristian Tileaga (PI) and Jo Aldridge (Co-I). Awarded: £36,567.

Karen is currently the Subject Champion for the BSc Sociology and BSc Sociology with Criminology Programmes.

She teaches on the following undergraduate modules:

  • Sociological Imagination (1st year)
  • Foundations in Social Sciences (1st year)
  • Introduction to Sociology Part B: Global and Social Change (1st year)
  • Surveillance Society (2nd year)
  • Dissertation Supervisor (3rd year)

Karen also teaches the MSc module:  Methodological Advances in Applied Ethnography.

Karen is interested in queries from prospective PhD students in areas including: policing, victims, social media and online hate, youth culture, car culture and mobilities. She is also particularly interested in supervising ethnographic studies.

Completed PhD students:

  • Herminder Kaur – The use of the internet by teenagers with a physical disability. Completed in 2017.
  • John Whittle - Social networking, friendship and education. Completed in 2017.
  • Austin Li – China’s skateboarding youth culture as an emerging culture industry. Completed in 2018.

Current PhD students:

  • Sian Lewis – Commuter Sex Crimes.


  • Lumsden, K. and Harmer, E. (eds) (forthcoming 2019) Online Othering: Exploring Violence and Discrimination on the Web. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lumsden, K. (forthcoming 2018) Reflexivity: Theory, Method and Practice. London: Routledge.
  • Lumsden, K. and Winter, A. (eds) (2014) Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmilllan. Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2013) Boy Racer Culture: Youth, Masculinity and Deviance, London: Routledge. Click here.

Journal Articles

  • Lumsden, K. (2017) ‘It’s a Profession, It Isn’t a Job: Police Officers’ Views of the Professionalisation of Policing in England.’ Sociological Research Online. iFirst, doi https://doi.org/10.1177/1360780417724062
  • Lumsden, K. and Black, A. (2017) ‘Austerity Policing, Emotional Labour and the Boundaries of Police Work: An Ethnography of a Police Force Control Room in England.’ British Journal of Criminology. iFirst, doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azx045
  • Kaur, H., Saukko, P. and Lumsden, K. (2017) ‘Unravelling the Rhythms of Moving in and out of the Internet: A Study Based on Video Diaries of Teenagers with Physical Disabilities.’ Mobilities. iFirst, doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2017.1355349
  • Lumsden, K. and Morgan, H.M. (2017) ‘Media Framing of Trolling and Online Abuse: Silencing Strategies, Symbolic Violence and Victim Blaming.’ Feminist Media Studies. iFirst doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2017.1316755
  • Lumsden, K. and Goode, J. (2017) ‘Public Criminology, Reflexivity and the Enterprise University: Experiences of Research, Knowledge Transfer Work and Co-option with Police Forces’. Theoretical Criminology. iFirst. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1177/1362480616689299
  • Lumsden, K. (2016) 'Police Officer and Civilian Staff Receptivity to Research and Evidence-Based Policing in England: Providing a Contextual Understanding through Qualitative Interviews'. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. iFirst doi: http://doi.org/10.1093/police/paw036
  • Lumsden, K. and Goode, J.E. (2016) 'Policing Research and the Rise of the Evidence-Base: Police Officer and Staff Understandings of Research, its Implementation and "What Works"', Sociology. iFirst: doi: http://doi.org/10.1177/0038038516664684
  • Goode, J.E. and Lumsden, K. (2016) ‘The McDonaldisation of Police-Academic Partnerships: Organisational and Cultural Barriers Encountered in Moving from Research on Police to Research with Police’, Policing and Society. iFirst: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10439463.2016.1147039 
  • Lumsden, K. (2015) '(Re)civilizing the Young Driver: Technization and Emotive Automobility', Mobilities 10(1): 36-54. http://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2013.823716
  • Lumsden, K. (2014) ‘Anti-social Behaviour Legislation and the Policing of Boy Racers: Dispersal Orders and Seizure of Vehicles’, Policing: a Journal of Policy and Practice 8(2): 135-143. http://doi.org/10.1093/police/pau005
  • Lumsden, K. (2013) 'Survival of the Fastest: Ethical Dilemmas in Research with "Boy Racers"', YOUNG: Nordic Journal of Youth Research 21(3): 273-88. Special issue on the ethics of youth research: Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2013) ‘You Are What You Research: Researcher Partisanship and the Sociology of the Underdog’, Qualitative Research 13(1): 3-18.Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2013) 'Policing the Roads: Traffic Cops, Boy Racers and Antisocial Behaviour Legislation', Policing and Society 23(2): 204-21 Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2010) ‘Gendered Performances in a Male-Dominated Subculture: “Girl Racers”, Car Modification and the Quest for Masculinity’, Sociological Research Online 15(3). Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2009) ‘“Don’t Ask a Woman to Do Another Woman’s Job”: Gendered Interactions and the Emotional Ethnographer’, Sociology 43(3): 497-513. Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2009) ‘“Do We Look Like Boy Racers?” The Role of the Folk Devil in Contemporary Moral Panics’, Sociological Research Online 14(1). Click here.


  • Lumsden, K. (forthcoming 2019) ‘Police Officer and Staff Wellbeing and the Management of Emotions: An Ethnographic Study of Frontline Policing in a Force Control Room.’ In: J.L.M. McDaniel, K. Ross and K. Pease (eds) Policing and Mental Health, London: Routledge, Chapter 11.
  • Lumsden, K. (forthcoming 2019) ‘“I want to kill you in front of your children’ is not a threat. It's an expression of a desire, not of an intent”: Discourses of Trolling and Gendered Violence on a Reddit Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) forum.’ In: K. Lumsden and E. Harmer (eds) Online Othering: Exploring Violence and Discrimination on the Web. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 4
  • Lumsden, K, Hadlington, L. and Black A. (forthcoming 2019) ‘“Why don’t you just block them?” Police Responses to Reports of Online Harassment and their Construction of the Ideal Victim.’ In: K. Lumsden and E. Harmer (eds) Online Othering: Exploring Violence and Discrimination on the Web. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 15.
  • Lumsden, K. and Morgan, H. M. (2017) ‘Cyber-Trolling as Symbolic Violence: Deconstructing Gendered Abuse Online’. In N. Lombard (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence, London: Routledge, Chapter 12.
  • Lumsden, K. (2016) ‘The Shifting Legitimacy of Knowledge Across Academic and Police/Practitioner Settings: Highlighting the Risks and Limits of Reflexivity’. In S. Armstrong et al. (eds) Reflexivity and Criminal Justice: Intersections of Policy, Practice and Research, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 191-213.
  • Lumsden, K. (2016) 'Boy Racer Culture and Class Conflict: Urban Regeneration, Social Exclusion and the Rights of the Road'. In M. De Backer, L. Melgaco, G. Varna and F. Menichelli (eds) Order and Conflict in Public Space, London: Routledge Chapter 14.
  • Lumsden, K. (2014) ‘You Are What You Research: Researcher Partisanship and the Sociology of the Underdog’. In S. Hillyard (ed.) Approaches to Fieldwork, London: Sage. (Reprint of 2013 Qualitative Research article).
  • Lumsden, K. (2014) ‘‘You Are What You Research: Bias and Partisanship in An Ethnography of Boy Racers’. In K. Lumsden and A. Winter (eds) Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lumsden, K. and Winter, A. (2014) ‘Reflexivity in Criminological Research’. In K. Lumsden and A. Winter (eds) Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lumsden, K. (2014) ‘Use of Ethnography as a Method in the Context of Adopting a Reflexive Approach: a Study of Boy Racers’. SAGE Cases in Methodology, London: Sage: Click here.
  • Lumsden, K. (2014) ‘Speeding and Joy Riding’ in R. Atkinson (ed.) Shades of Deviance: A Primer on Crime, Deviance and Social Harm, London: Routledge, Chapter 18. Click here.