The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Dr Kate O'Brien
Lecturer in Criminology
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
- 01227 827320
- Young people, crime and public space
I am particularly interested in gendered aspects here and my work in this area has been concerned mostly with girls and young women. I favour ethnographic methods of research because they allow me to develop critical and cultural understandings of how gender is performed and enacted within street contexts. My PhD research was based on an ethnographic study of a British neighbourhood known for its drug dealing activity and I focused on how young residents, especially young women, engage with street culture and interact with drug supply at the local level. The findings of this study are presented in my book, Gender, Drugs and Streetlife, London: Routledge published later this year.
My other main area of interest is with the cultures and politics of British nightlife. I have conducted research into the role of door supervisors in licensed venues as part of a recent ESRC funded project. This was a national study that included interviews with women working in this occupation and also involved me working as a 'bouncer' in the north of England. I value ethnography as a method because it can enable an embodied and emotional understanding of crime and transgression. I have written about this feature of ethnography in, 'Inside Doorwork: Gendering the Security Gaze', in Ryan-Flood and Gill (eds.) (2009) Silence and Secrecy in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections, London: Routledge.
- Public criminology and radio documentary
Since 2010 I have been involved in radio documentary making. I am interested in the value of radio documentary as a vehicle to engage non-academics in sociological and criminological debates. I am currently working on a radio programme (and an accompanying publication) that will focus on Novel Psychoactive Substances, or legal highs. This programme will take an historical perspective and examine the role of the press in misrepresenting the dangers of recreational drugs. To date, my radio work in this area has been for BBC Radio 4. My most recent programme was about the influence of the Spanish island of Ibiza on British youth culture, Ibiza: Britain’s Balaeric Soul (BBC Radio 4, 2011). This project involved me interviewing DJ's including Alfredo, Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong. I was the researcher and presenter on this programme.
Alongside my radio work I am currently working on two academic papers. One based on the research I conducted as part of the BBC Radio 4 Ibiza programme:
- O’Brien, K (in progress) Ibiza: A journey through British Youth Culture
The other is based on a paper I gave at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, October, 2012, Gender, Sexuality Gender and Sexualities: Re-visioning Drug and Alcohol Research:
- O’Brien, K (in progress) Gendering Street Culture: girls, young women and ‘street femininity’
I co-convene an annual one-day ethnography workshop with Professor Shane Blackman that is now in it’s third year. This annual workshop is for postgraduate students involved in ethnographic research in criminology and sociology. The aim is to provide research students with an informal and supportive environment to exchange methodological experiences and theoretical ideas and to share emergent research findings. I am currently working with Shane Blackman on book proposal for an edited collection of work that will focus on this methodological area and showcase research findings of early career scholars.
- O'Brien (2013, forthcoming) Gender, Drugs and Streetlife London: Routledge
- Stevens A, Coulton, S, O’Brien, K and Tonkin, J (2013) ‘RisKit: The participatory development and observational evaluation of a multi-component programme for adolescent risk behaviour reduction’ in Drugs Education Prevention and Policy (accepted for publication January, 2013)
- O’Brien, K (2009) 'Inside Doorwork: Gendering the Security Gaze', in Ryan-Flood and Gill (eds.) Silence and Secrecy in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections, London: Routledge
- O'Brien, K, Hobbs, D and Westmarland, L (2008) ‘Negotiating Violence and Gender: Security and the Night Time Economy in the UK ', in S. Gendrot and P. Spierenburg (eds.) Collection on Historical and Contemporary Violence in Europe New York: Springer.
- Hobbs, D, O'Brien, K., and Westmarland, L. (2007) ‘Connecting the Gendered Door: Women, Violence and Doorwork', British Journal of Sociology Volume 58, Issue 1 p21-38
- O’Brien (2010) The Times Higher, January, 2010, Deuchar, Ross, ‘Gangs, Marginalised Youth and Social Capital’, Trentham Books, London
- O’Brien (2004) British Journal of Sociology, Volume 5, Issue 4, 596-594, Jackson, Phil, ‘Inside Clubbing: Sensual Experiments in the Art of Being Human’ Oxford: Berg
- Fuller. D, O’Brien K and Hope, R (2005) Exploring Solutions to Graffiti in Newcastle upon Tyne. (University of Northumbria)
- Pain, R, Francis, P, Fuller, I and O’Brien, K. (2002) ‘The Impact of Crime and Disorder on Excluded and Vulnerable Young People: Developing a Model for Local Consultation’. (Police Research Series Paper 152) Home Office, London.
- O’Brien. K. (2001) Young people and drugs: Needs Assessment for the Drug Action Team (Newcastle Drug Action Team, Newcastle City Council)
- O’Brien. K. (2001) Living on the Edge: High Risk Drug Takers in Newcastle upon Tyne (Newcastle Drug Action Team, Newcastle City Council)
- O’Brien, K. (2001) Connexions: The involvement of the Voluntary Sector (Newcastle City Council)
- 2010 (December) Departmental seminar series, Willem Pompe Institute, Utrecht University, Netherlands, Paper presented: The political economy of British Nightlife
- 2010 (July) Cultural Criminology Seminar (recent developments in British Cultural Criminology), Willem Pompe Institute, Utrecht University, Netherlands Paper presented: Beyond the velvet Rope: Policing the Nighttime dross.
- 2006 (April) Fifth Seminar on the Study of Interpersonal Violence. Universite, Paris Sorbonne Paper presented: ‘Negotiating violence: Women, security and the Night-time Economy in Britain
- 2005 (May) Fourth Seminar on the Study of Interpersonal Violence, Erasmus University, Rotterdam Paper presented: Women, security and the Night-time Economy
- 2010 (June) ‘Mapping Dangerous Spaces’, British Library, Euston Road, London Paper presented: ‘Criminalising Play Space: Young people and Drinking Dens’
- 2010 (May) Department of Social Policy, University of Lincoln, School of Social Policy Paper presented: ‘Women, violence and British Nightlife: An ethnographic perspective’
- 2009 (October) Gender, Emotions and Fieldwork, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Glasgow Paper presented: ‘Female Bouncers and British Nightlife: Engaging the field’
- 2009 (July) London School of Economics, Asia Research Centre Discussant, ‘Organized crime, gangs and young people in Mumbai’.
- 2009 (October) SSPSSR, seminar series, University of Kent ‘Gendering the Security Paper presented: Gaze: Female Bouncers, Disorderly Women and British Nightlife’
- 2009 (September) Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Glasgow Paper presented: ‘Gendering the Security Gaze: Female Bouncers, Disorderly Women and British Nightlife’
- 2009 (March) The Centre for Criminal Justice Studies seminar series, School of Law, University of Leeds Paper presented: ‘Inside Doorwork: Gendering private security’,
- 2008 (November) LSE, Department of Social Policy Research Seminar Series Paper presented: ‘Emotions and fieldwork’: Researching the policing of British nightlife
- 2008 (February) LSE, Gender Institute seminar series Paper presented: British nightlife and nightclub security: the role of female bouncers
- 2008 (January) Department of Sociology seminar series, University of Essex Paper presented: British nightlife and private security policing: the role of female bouncers
- 2007 (March) 62nd Alcohol Problems Research Symposium’, Kendal Paper presented: ‘Negotiating violence and gender: Female Bouncers and the night time economy in the UK’
- 2007 (January) LSE, Department of Social Policy Research Seminar Series Paper presented: ‘Regulating the Market: A Neighbourhhood Study of Young People’s Access to Drugs’
- 2006 (November) Annual Conference, Department of Sociology, University of Surry Paper presented: 'Negotiating Violence and Gender: Researching security and the Night Time Economy in the UK',
- 2006 (July) ‘Contested Bodies of Childhood and Youth’, Department of Geography, University of Durham. Paper presented: ‘Bucket smoking as gendered performativity: Young people and drug taking in a neighbourhood context’,
I currently convene the postgraduate module Youth, Crime and Place. This module provides a cultural and spatial understanding of young people’s relationship with crime and transgression in both local and global contexts.
I also contribute lectures on several postgraduate modules, including Qualitative Methods, Research Methods in Criminology and Crime and Crime Prevention.Undergraduate
I currently convene two undergraduate criminology modules in the School:
- Youth and Crime The aim of this third year module is to provide students with a sociological and criminological understanding of young people and their relationship with crime and criminal justice. The module engages with cutting edge topics as a way of engaging students with theory and to encourage critical thinking. Topics covered in this module include gangs and territoriality, nightlife and alcohol, graffiti and criminal damage, drugs and club cultures, as well as a critical examination of the youth justice system in England and Wales.
- Crime, Culture, Control The aim of this first year module is to introduce students to cultural criminology. The module provides students with an introduction to thinking about the cultural contours of crime and crime control. Topics covered include violence and video gaming, TV reality shows and crime, and understanding ‘cop culture’ through the ‘WIRE’.
I also contribute lectures on the following undergraduate criminology and sociology modules: Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice; Criminal Justice in Modern Britain; Introduction to Criminology; Sociology of Crime and Deviance; Research methods; Social Problems and the Social Policy.
I can offer PhD and Masters supervision in the following areas: nightlife; alcohol and drug cultures; Ibiza and club cultures; drug markets; gender and street crime; young women, offending and youth justice; neighbourhoods and crime; feminist research; ethnography; participatory action research; public criminology.Ethnography workshop for postgraduate students
Are you a postgraduate student involved in ethnographic research in criminology, sociology, cultural studies? Kate co-convenes a one-day annual ethnography workshop with Professor Shane Blackman aimed at PhD and Masters students doing fieldwork. This free workshop provides research students with an informal and supportive environment to exchange methodological experiences and theoretical ideas and to share emergent research findings. The workshop is now in its third year and attracts about 30 students, mainly from the UK but also from other Europe countries. To date, workshops have focused on ethnographies of intoxication in 2011, and ethnographies of young people, crime and deviance in 2012. Kate and Shane are currently planning the 2013 workshop, which will focus on ethnographies of crime, gender and sexuality.
Please email Kate if you would like to find out more about 2013 workshop.
I am currently external examiner at the University of Teesside for the MSc Programme in Contemporary Issues in Drug Use.External moderator/ degree validation:
I have served as external moderator for new degree programmes at the Universities of Teesside (for their BA in Childhood and Youth); Edinburgh Herriot Watt (BA in Criminology); and the University of Coventry (BA in Criminology Criminology; BA Criminology and Law; and BA Criminology and Psychology)PhD internal examiner:
SSPSSR (2011); (2013)Referee
I have peer reviewed journal articles for academic journals including ‘Sociology’, ‘The British Journal of Sociology’, ‘Ethnography’, ‘Social Policy and Society’, ‘Journal of Youth Studies’, the ‘Annals of Leisure and Research Review’.
I have also peer-reviewed funding proposals for the ESRC and the Social Sciences, and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
I have reviewed manuscripts for Routledge and Willan
- BBC Radio 4 Ibiza: Britain’s Balaeric Soul. Researcher and presenter. Broadcast August, 2011. This programme examined the role of the Spanish Island of Ibiza on British youth culture and the politics of British nightlife. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b013r76j/Ibiza_Britains_Balearic_Soul/
- BBC Radio 4 It’s My Story: Ladies on The Door. Broadcast May, 2010 the programme focused on the rise of the ‘female bouncer’ in the UK. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sjcv2
- BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour (January 2008) to comment on women, violence and public safety. (February 2006) to debate women’s participation in alcohol related violence in Britain.
- BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed (Summer Ethnography Season) Female Bouncers. Broadcast June, 2005. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/rams/thinkingallowed_20050831.ram
- BBC Radio Kent (I am a regular contributor on news programmes)
I have been cited as an expert in the area of women, alcohol and the nighttime economy in the printed media, including in the Sunday Times, The Observer, The Independent, The Daily Mail and in the Women’s magazine, Cosmopolitan.