Karen is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University and a freelance qualitative research trainer.
Karen is currently working on a research project with Dr Sam Scott, University of Gloucestershire, called ‘Picking for Britain’, examining the experiences of agricultural employers and British harvest workers during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond https://www.glos.ac.uk/academic-schools/natural-and-social-sciences/Pages/picking-for-britain.aspx
Karen’s most recent research with Dr Michaela Benson, is available here 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 questioned what Brexit means for Britons resident in other European Union member states. The project produced 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.
She is also a member of the Standing Review Board of the Research Grants Council and University Grants Committee, Hong Kong (2021- 2022)
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 mainstream television and news media 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'
- Benson, M. and O’Reilly, K. 2018. Lifestyle Migration and Colonial Traces in Malaysia and Panama, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
- O’Reilly. K. 2012 International Migration and Social Theory, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles Award 2013)
- Benson, M and O’Reilly, K. Eds. 2009. Lifestyle Migration. Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences, Ashgate.
- O’Reilly, K. 2012. Ethnographic Methods. 2nd ed. London: Routledge
- O’Reilly, K. 2000. The British on the Costa del Sol. London: Routledge
- Stones, R. Botterill, K, Lee, M. and O’Reilly, K. One World Is Not Enough: The Structured Phenomenology of Lifestyle Migrants in East Asia, British Journal of Sociology, (DOI) - 10.1111/1468-4446.12357, Published ‘early view’ 26th Feb 2018.
- O’Reilly, K. (2017). The British on the Costa Del Sol Twenty Years On: A story of liquids and sediments. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 7(3), 139–147.
- 2015. From lifestyle migration to lifestyle in migration: Categories, concepts and ways of thinking, Migration Studies 2015; doi: 10.1093/migration/mnv015 (with M.Benson), 4(1): 20-37