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Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Professor Maggie O'Neill

Contact Professor Maggie O'Neill (email at maggie.o'


I joined Durham University in February 2010 and bring extensive experience of working in inter-disciplinary contexts with expertise in critical and cultural criminology. 

Research activity and outcomes include the development of social and feminist theory; a focus upon innovative biographical, cultural and participatory research methodologies; and the production of praxis - knowledge which addresses and intervenes in public policy. My research activity has been instrumental in moving forward debates, dialogue and scholarship in three substantive areas: prostitution and the commercial sex industry (since 1990); forced migration and the asylum-migration nexus (since 1999); innovative participatory, biographical, performative and visual methodologies (since 1990). I welcome applications from PhD students in any of these areas.

I co-direct the Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities and Chair an ESA research network on European Biographies. Together with Prof. Tony Spybey I edited Sociology, the journal of the BSA, between 1999 and 2001. I was Principal of Ustinov College at Durham 2012-2014 and am a member of the steering group for the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, an affilliate of the Centre for Medical Humanities and a fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute. I also co-chair the Crime, Deviance and Culture Research Group in SASS and am a founder member of the Race, Crime and Justice regional network.

The external organisations I have worked with include: Durham Constabulary, Durham prison, SERIF (founder member), UK Network of Sex Work Projects, I am an ugly mugs champion, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Global Network (also on the board of Directors), Regional Refugee Forum North East, The Refugee Council, Open Clasp Theatre Company, Charnwood Arts, City Arts, Nottingham, Soft Touch Arts Leicester, B Arts Staffordshire, Exiled Writers Ink!, various local authorities and the Feminist and Women's Studies Association.


  • Searching for Asylum with Prof. Janice Haaken (2013)
  •  ‘New Arrivals:Diver(City) young people from newly arrived communities across Leicester talking about their experiences’ with Soft Touch arts co-operative (2003)
  • Not all the Time...but mostly... with Sara Giddens, Patricia Breatnach, Darren Bourne and Tony Judge (1998) 0-905-488-59-8


Selected Publications

Journal Article

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • O'Neill, M. (2015). Body and Image-Space: walking, transition and belonging. In Crossing Borders: Transition and Nostalgia in Contemporary Art. Turner, M. & Remes, O. Artouch Publications.
  • Craig, G. & O'Neill, M. (2013). It's time to move on from ‘race’? The official ‘invisibilisation’ of minority ethnic disadvantage. In Social Policy Review 25: Analysis and debate in social policy, 2013. Ramia, G., Farnsworth, K. & Irving, Z. Bristol: Policy Press. 25: 93-112.
  • O’Neill, M. & Stenning, P. (2013). Walking biographies and innovations in visual and participatory methods: Community, Politics and Resistance in Downtown East Side Vancouver. In The Medialization of Auto/Biographies:Different Forms and their Communicative Contexts. Heinz,C. & Hornung, G. UVK.
  • O'Neill, M. (2013). Women, Art, Migration and Diaspora: the turn to art in the social sciences and the ‘new’ sociology of art? In Diasporic Futures. Meskimmon et al Manchester University Press.
  • O'Neill, M. (2012). Ethnomimesis and participatory art. In Advances in Visual Methods. Pink, S. Sage.
  • O'Neill, M. (2012). Making Connections: art, affect and emotional agency. In Moving Subjects, Moving Objects: Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions. Svasek, M. Berghahn.
  • O'Neill, M. (2011). Ethnomimesis and participatory art. In Advances in Visual Methodology. Pink, S. Sage.
  • O'Neill, M. (2011). Making Connections: art, affect and emotional agency. In (forthcoming) Moving Subjects, Moving Objects: Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions. Svasek, M Oxford: Berghahn.
  • O'Neill, M. & Campbell, R. (2010). Desistence from Sex Work: Feminist Cultural Criminology and Intersectionality: The Complexities of Moving in and Out of Sex Work. In Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality. Taylor, Y., Hines, S. & Casey, M. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • O'Neill, M. (2009). Community Safety, Rights, Redistribution and Recognition: towards a Coordinated Prostitution Strategy? In Regulating Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Policy Reform and the UK. Phoenix, J. UK Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Scoular, J. & O'Neill, M. (2008). Legal Incursions into Supply/Demand, Criminalising & Responsibilising the Buyers and Sellers of Sex. In Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution. Munro, V. & Della Giusta, M. London: Ashgate.
  • O'Neill, M. (2008). Sex, violence and work services to sex workers and public policy reform. In Sex and Crime. Letherby, G., Birch, P., Cain, M. & Williams, K. Devon: Willan Press.

Edited book

Edited Journal

  • Cohen, L., Arnold, J. & O’Neill, M. (2011). Career and Migration. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 78 (3).
  • Pearce, L. & O’Neill, M. (2011). The Arts of Migration. Crossings: Migration and Culture, 2
  • Pink, S., Hubbard, P., O’Neill, M. & Radley, A. (2010). Walking, Ethnography And Art. Visual Studies Journal, 25 (1).

Show all publications

Indicators of Esteem

  • Advisory board member to a number of ESRC research projects including 'post trafficking in Nepal'; 'the regulation of lap dancing' and ‘Migrant Mothers’ as well as a Big Lottery funded project with the UK Disabled People's Council.:
  • Board Member - Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Global Network.:
  • Chair of the European Sociological Association research network 'Biographical Perspectives on European Societies'.
  • Editorial Board Member of The Sociological Review:
  • Keynotes at various national and international conferences and symposia:

Research Interests

  • Cultural and critical criminology
  • Innovative methodologies - biographical, arts based, visual, performative, and participatory methodologies
  • Race, Crime and Justice
  • Asylum, migration and diaspora
  • Sex work, communities affected by prostitution, and young people at risk or involvement in sex work
  • Social justice and cultural citizenship
  • Critical theory, feminist theory, western Marxism and the Frankfurt School - especially work of Adorno and Benjamin

Research Groups

Research Projects

Teaching Areas

  • Computer Based Applications in Social Research (MA)
  • Contemporary Criminological Theory (Year 2)
  • Crime Deviance and Society (Year1)
  • Qualitative Research Methods (MA)
  • Researching the Social (Year 2)

Selected Grants

  • 2013: Artist in Residence - Mr Richard W Hardwick (£14970.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Social sciences: Migration, Forced Migration including asylum,refugees,undocumented migrants, unaccompanied young people, destitution and social justice. Prostitution, the commercial sex industry and sex work. Participatory action research and arts based methodologies.