Karen O’Reilly

Staff details

Department Sociology
Email k.o’reilly (
Karen O’Reilly

Karen is Professorial Research Fellow, working with Dr Michaela Benson, on the project 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 questions what Brexit means for Britons resident in other European Union member states. Working closely with Britons living across the EU27, employing diverse ‘live’ methods, it keeps a finger on the pulse of how they experience Brexit and its impacts on their lives as it unfolds.

Karen is also Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University and a freelance qualitative research trainer. Although her 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 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. 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 has recently completed a book on elite migration to Panama and Malaysia (with Michaela Benson), and is working in a third edition of Ethnographic Methods. Karen has recently pioneered the use of practice stories for migration research.

In addition to her ongoing research and providing qualitative and ethnographic research methods training, Karen is currently an active member of three International Advisory Boards.

NCCR-Onthemove. which aims to enhance the understanding of contemporary migration patterns and to establish an innovative and competitive field of research on migration and mobility in Switzerland.

GLARUS: 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. 

The Construction of Europe in foreign residents’ media in the South of Spain and Portugal. Funded by Spanish Government and hosted by the University of Malaga.



Britain in Europe/The British in Spain. Exploring Britain’s changing relationship to the other
O'Reilly, Karen. 2002. Britain in Europe/The British in Spain. Exploring Britain’s changing relationship to the other. Nations and Nationalism, 8(2), pp. 179-193. ISSN 1354-5078