Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Staff

Professor Karen O'Reilly BA Essex, PhD Essex

Photo of Professor Karen O'Reilly

Karen is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University and a freelance qualitative research trainer. 

She is presently working with Dr Michaela Benson, on the project BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union funded by the UK in a Changing EU. This innovative sociological study questions what Brexit means for Britons resident in other European Union member states. Working closely with Britons living across the EU27, employing diverse ‘live’ methods, it keeps a finger on the pulse of how they experience Brexit and its impacts on their lives as it unfolds. The project produces policy reports, podcasts and newsletters, as well as academic outputs.

Karen is currently an active member on the International Advisory Board of The 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.

Karen was also on the International Advisory Board for the first phase of NCCR-Onthemove programme, 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.

She is also an International Adviser for a project in Andalucia: Proyecto Nacional de I+D “Medios de Comunicación y construcción europea:  estudio sociocomunicativo de los residentes comunitarios en el sur de España y de Portugal”. Ref.CSO2015-65837-R

Although Karen’s first job, at Essex University, was as Assistant Academic Advisor to the ESRC/ONS review of social classifications – designing the NS-SEC, Karen has spent most of her career 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 and international migration; and friends and networks. 

The ESRC has funded her research several times and the findings have been published in a selection of books and papers broadly related to migration.

Her research has 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 is author of: Lifestyle Migration and Colonial Traces in Panama and Malaysia (2018);  International Migration and Social Theory (2012); Ethnographic Methods (2012); Key Concepts in Ethnography (2009); Lifestyle Migration (edited volume, 2009); and The British on the Costa del Sol (2000).

Karen provides research methods training for the SRA as well as privately and has pioneered the use of practice stories for migration research.

Current Project: BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union funded by the ESRC

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 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 twenty years at the Swiss Summer School on Methods in the Social Sciences, in Lugano.  

Recent postgraduate research 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'