Professor Karen O'Reilly

Karen O'Reilly

Research Affiliate

Karen O’Reilly is Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University, where she teaches social research methods, the sociology of tourism and migration, and social class and inequality. Karen began her academic career as a mature student at the University of Essex in 1989. She completed her PhD in 1996, also at Essex, under the supervision of Professor Roger Goodman. This is when she acquired her love of social anthropology 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 is author of:  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). She is currently writing a book on elite migration to Panama and Malaysia (with Michaela Benson), as well as a third edition of Ethnographic Methods. Karen has recently pioneered the use of practice stories for migration research.

Awards and recognition include:

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 – 2016. 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. 

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