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Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Dr Kate O'Brien

Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 46843
Room number: 30 Old Elvet, Room 103

(email at kate.o'

Current Post

I am Programme Director of the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice and Inside-Out facilitator. I completed the instructor training in 2014 and went on to co-facilitate the first Inside-Out programme in Europe, at HMP Durham. Since 2016 I have convened the postgraduate level Inside-Out module, 'Prisons, Crime and Criminal Justice', at HMP Low Newton women's prison. In 2017-18 I am convening the Inside-Out programme at HMP Frankland. This year I am also convening the postgraduate module, 'Theories of Crime and Criminal Justice. 

Research Profile

My research focuses on drugs, gender and crime and I have a keen interest in ethnographic methods. I am a member of both the transgressive leisure and communities and social justice research groups in SASS. I have conducted ethnographic research into drug taking by young people focusing on neighbourhood disadvantage and gender dynamics- the focus of my PhD. I have also conducted an ethnographic study of alcohol-related violence and the role of female door supervisors in licensed venues (ESRC RES-000-23-0384). I am currently working on two projects; the first on young people’s use of new psychoactive substances (NPS). I secured ESRC funding as a co-applicant on a two-year seminar series focusing on ‘New Drugs’, which concluded in 2016. The second project focuses on young people and new tobacco landscapes with Fiona Measham and Gavin Turnbull.

I am currently writing academic articles with colleagues in SASS that focus on prison education and the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Programme. 

Editorial Work

I have an editor for YOUNG: Nordic Journal of Youth Research Sage, since 2014 and have been a guest editor for International Journal of Drug Policy and Drugs Education, Prevention and Policy


  • BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour appearances (Shisha smoking amongst British Asian young women, 2015; women and violence 2012; women’s participation in alcohol related violence in the UK, 2010)
  • Inside-Out Prison Exchange launch- various international, national and local TV radio and printed news outputs (including The Times, BBC Radio Tees, and ITV Tyne Tees news) in October, 2014 when the programme was launched at HMP Durham.
  • BBC Radio 4 Ibiza: Britain’s Balaeric Soul. Researcher and presenter. August, 2011. This programme examined the role of the Spanish Island of Ibiza on British youth culture and the politics of British nightlife.
  • 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
  • BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed (Summer Ethnography Season) Female Bouncers. Broadcast June, 2006
  • I have contributed on features about Ibiza and club cultures, women 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

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Authored book

Chapter in book

Show all publications