Professor Maggie O'Neill

Professor Maggie O'Neill

Professor Maggie O'Neill

Welcome to my home page. 
Here you will find information about my research, teaching, training and arts based activities.  
If you want to get in touch, email me at:

I am Professor in Sociology at University College Cork, Head of the Department of Sociology & Criminology  and a member of the Centre for the Study of the Moral Foundations of Economy and Society.  Before joining UCC I was Chair in Sociology & Criminology in the Department of Sociology at the University of York, and Professor in Criminology at the University of Durham and Principal of Ustinov College. I describe myself as an inter-disciplinary scholar. My PhD in Sociology explored the transformative possibilities for conducting feminist participatory action research with sex workers and was awarded in 1996. The majority of the empirical research I have conducted uses participatory action research, ethnographic and biographical methods and participatory arts. I have a long history of working with artists and community groups to conduct arts based research-working together to create change; social justice is at the core of my work.

A member of the British Sociological Association  and the  European Sociological Association for many years, a former Vice Chair and Chair of Research Network 3 'Biographical Perspectives  on European Societies'. A member of the Sociological Association of Ireland.

Research activity

My Research activity includes the development of  critical theory; a focus upon innovative biographical, cultural and participatory research methodologies, ie., walking as a biographical research methods; and the production of praxis - knowledge which addresses and intervenes in public policy. My research leadership has been instrumental in moving forward debates, dialogue and scholarship in three substantive areas: prostitution and the commercial sex industry (since 1989); forced migration and the asylum-migration nexus (since 1999) including a focus on race, crime and justice; innovative participatory, biographical, performative and visual methodologies (since 1990).

Before conducting ethnographic and participatory research with sex workers in 1989 I was immersed in a PhD on Adorno's Aesthetics of Modernism especially the transformative possibilities of art as well as feminist aesthetics. To this end I studied the Frankfurt School and Adorno and Benjamin's work alongside research on feminist aesthetics. The research was published in 1999 as Adorno, Culture and Feminism by Sage Publications. Since this time I have been engaged in examining the transformative potential of art and the inter-section of art and social research [arts based research - and I call this ethno-mimesis] in the fields of cultural criminology, cultural sociology and biographical sociology.


I have taught at both new and old Universities Nottingham Trent University, Staffordshire University and Loughborough University in Sociology, Criminology, Women's Studies and Cultural Studies and enjoy working very much with undergraduates and postgraduates. 

Durham University

At Durham I  co-founded the Sex Work Research Hub  with Dr Rosie Campbell and was co-Chair wth Rosie and Prof. Teela Sanders until my move to UCC. I also co-directed the Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexuality, I was a member of the steering group for the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, the Leverhulme Doctoral Training centre, a member of  the Centre for Arts and Visual Culture, an affilliate of the Human Rights Centre, the Centre for Medical Humanities, the Trans Humanities Centre and a fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute. I was also the Academic Rep for CARA. The Council for At Risk Academics.

In 2010 I co-founded, with Bankole Cole and Gary Craig, the Race, Crime and Justice regional network -a network of all five regional Universities. In October 2014 we launched the regional Race Equality Forum in collaboration with voluntary and staturoy sector organisation across the North East region. 

York University

At York I founded and Co-Chair the University of York Migration Network with Simon Parker, am a member of the Centre for Women's Studies and co-founded the University of York Crime Network.

I was also Programme Director for the BA Criminology and the BA Sociology and Criminology. 

Awarded (with Simon Parker) an ESRC Impact Grant/ IAA Fellowship to work with Counterpoints Arts as Research Fellows between December 2016 and December 2017.  The fellowship was shared jointly between Counterpoints Co-Directors Áine O’Brien and Almir Koldzic. Migration, the Arts and Culture: new methodologies for practice, research and learning fulfilled three key aims: building, developing and maximising research; developing practice and impact on migration; promoting the arts and culture in migration research.

We organised a series of learning laboratories aimed at the widest possible audiences, ie., students, researchers, artists, practitioners and community group; ran conferences; collaborated with Counterpoints Arts, the Open University in association with Stance Podcast at the Tate 'Who Are We?' ART, MIGRATION AND THE PRODUCTION OF DEMOCRACY in May 2018,  organising a workshop with artists and the curator, Varvara Shavrova, of The Sea is the Limit; contributed to the ‘Platforma Festival’ 2017; the York Festival of Ideas; and the development of the UoY Migration Network.

University College Cork

I am a member and board member of the Centre for the Study of the Moral Foundations of Economy and Society

Professor in Sociology. Head of the Department of Sociology & Criminology.

Member of Athena Swan Working Group on Recruitment and Promotions; Academic Council and Collehge Council.

Member of Undergraduate Committee, Postgraduate Committee, Student Experience Committee. Chair Dept Staff Meetings and Budget & Strategy/Senior Management Meeting. 

Teaching: Level 1. Key Issues in Sociology; Level 2. Sociology of Crime and Deviance; Social Research Methods; Level 3. Gender and Crime.  

MA Sociology: Feminist Epistemologies; Social Research Methods (8 hrs). MA Women's Studies: sessions on participatory action research and ethographic research.


Research funding has been received from the AHRB, AHRC, ESRC, NCRM, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Council, Home Office, Government Office East Midlands, Ministry of Justice, Leicester Education Authority, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Arts Council, Arts Council East Midlands, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, A Way Out and Barnardos as well as  Walsall South Health Action Zone.

Arts Based Research

Arts based research conducted with communities includes the following. Safety Soapbox was created with residents of Walsall and Walsall Community Arts and Walsall Youth Arts.  Outcomes from two  AHRC funded research projects on migration were highlighted by the AHRC as examples of good practice around impact. Some of this work can be seen on line at: and and in a showreel of images taken from the Diasporas, Migration and Identities Final Showcase Event held at Tate Britain on 10 February 2010

Participatory research on 'Community Politics and Resistance in downtown eastside Vancouver' is documented by AHA Media at: and: This short film documents the exhibition that emerged out of this work, curated by members of the community who worked with me as community co-researchers. 

An outcome of research with asylum seeking women and film maker Prof Jan Haaken from Portland State University can be found on YouTube. The participatory arts project examined women, well-being and community in Teeside.

This short film explains a little about the history of conducting arts based research.

In 2016 I had the pleasure of conducting participatory action research, or peer research, with A Way Out in Stockton  in collaboration with Alison Jobe, University of Durham, Kelly Stockdale, York St John University and Barnardo's in Middlesbrough,  to explore the hidden lives of sex workers in Teesside. This involves training sex workers, former sex workers and project workers in participatory action research methods to conduct the research, conduct the analysis and write the report. The report can be found here.

Walking Methods

A Leverhulme Trust Fellowship was awarded 2015-2016 and the walks I conducted as part of the fellowship can be found here:
Further research projects based around walking as a research and pedagogical tool include:  A research/practice project with HMP Durham Library, writer in residence Sheila Mulhern and Dr Ivan Hill, funded by the Arts Council  that developed a crime and punishment walk in Durham 
A crime and punishment walk was later developed  in York with colleagues Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce,  Dr David Honeywell, and postgraduate researcher  Matt Coward and undergraduate Harriet Crowder. Funding was provided  by the University of York Teaching Committee, the Dept of Sociology and the University Crime Network.

Current Research Includes:

N8 Policing Vulnerability Project  A Review of West Yorkshire Police's Sex Work Liaison Officer Role. Kate Brown (PI York) Sharon Grace (Co-I York)  Alison Jobe  (Co-I  Durham) and Maggie O'Neill (Co-I Cork, UCC).

NHIR: The East London Project examines how removing police enforcement practices against sex work could affect sex workers’ safety, health and access to services in East London:

ESRC/NCRM: Participatory  Arts and Social Action Research addresses the UK social science community's need to gain a better understanding of how participatory action research approaches engage marginalised groups in research as co-producers of knowledge. It combines walking methods and participatory theatre:

More on-line rsources and our toolkit can be found here: