top of page


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.

Research leadership has been instrumental in moving forward debates, dialogue and scholarship in three substantive areas: sexwork 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; and inspired by walking artists developed, with Brian Roberts,  the walking interview as biographical method (WIBM). 




Walking Methods: Research on the Move

Maggie O'Neill and Brian Roberts (2019)


At York I founded and Co-Chaired the University of York Migration Network with Simon Parker, was a member of the Centre for Women's Studies and co-founded the University of York Crime Network. I am member of the advisory board of Cultivate the feminist journal of the Centre for Women's Studies at York.

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.



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, was a member of the steering group for the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, the Leverhulme Doctoral Training centrea member of the Centre for Arts and Visual Culture, an affiliate 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 statutory sector organisation across the North East region. 



I have taught at both former polytechnics and Russell Group Universities, beginning my career at Nottingham Trent University, then Staffordshire University and Loughborough University before moving to Durham University and then briefly at York University before moving to University College Cork.  My teaching encompasses Sociology, Criminology, Women's Studies and Cultural Studiess. I enjoy working very much with undergraduates, postgraduates and postdoctoral students. 



At UCC I am Professor in Sociology & Criminology in the Department of Sociology & Criminology. Director of ISS21 and UCC Futures: Collective Social Futures. A member of the Centre for Economy, Society and Culture.


Member of the University Quality Committee, Department Budget & Strategy/Senior Management Meeting. Chair of ISS21 and Collective Social Futures Executive Management Board. 

Teaching: Level 2. Social Theory; The Walking Classroom: Walking the Anthropocene. Level 3. Gender and Crime.  

MA Sociology: Im/Mobilities; Feminist Epistemologies; Social Research Methods. MA Women's Studies: sessions on participatory action research and ethnographic research. 


CPD: Gender Matters: women in the criminal justice system.




Research funding has been received from the  IRC, 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 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 issues of well-being and community with women seeking asylum 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.
A research collaboration with feminist theatre company Open Clasp is a highlight of my career  and feminist participatory arts and action research. In a collaboration with Nicole Westmarland and Kate Butterworth (Durham University), funded by the AHRC  and Durham PCC  we commissioned  Open Clasp to train frontline officers in better responding to sexual and domestic violence. Open Clasp produced RattleSnake and the theatre based training coincided with the change in law in 2015 making coercive control a crime. Currently supporting the production of Two Camps and I supported Sugar with a walkshop in 2017 and a talk on feminist participatory methodologies and walking, with Clare Qualmann in 2022. Open Clasp brought Rattlesnake to UCC in 2019 delivering two workshops on Coercive Control and theatre based methods in training. We are currently collaborating on a continuing professional development module on understanding and addressing issues experienced by women in the criminal justice system.



Inspired by the work of walking artists, especially Misha Myers (Deakin University),  Clare Qualmann (University of East London) and Dee Heddon (University of Glasgow). I  introduced walking into my research and practice in 2006/7 after meeting Misha Myers at a conference and hearing her speak about her pioneering work 'Way from Home.' 
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, 'Ghosts of our Future'  was funded by the Arts Council  and we developed a Crime and Punishment walk in Durham  
A Crime and Justice 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. 
A Feminist walk in Newcastle in collaboration with Holly Argent of Women Artists of the North East Library and artist Petra Szeman, commissioned by the Sociological Review for the Undisciplining Sociology Conference in 2018. 
A Feminist Walk in Cork was developed in collaboration with MA Women's Studies Studens and BA Sociology students for the Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning's Valuing Ireland’s Teaching & Learning (VIT&L) Week. An artists drawn map is in progress by artist Maia Thomas. 

IRC New Foundations participatory arts for advocacy, activism and transformational justice with young people living in Direct Provision. A collaboration with Cork Migrant Centre and colleagues Amin Sharifi Isaloo, Jools Gilson, Jacqui O’Riordan, Mike Fitzgibbon, Fionn Woodhouse (Schools of Society Politics and Ethics, Film Theatre and Music, Applied Social Studies and Cork University Business School), Egle Gusciute (University College Dublin) and Chriszine Backhouse (Munster Technical University).

UKRI  Walking Publics/Walking Arts with Dee Heddon (PI) Harry Wilson, Glasgow University, Morag Rose, University of Liverpool, Clare Qualmann, University of East London and Maggie O'Neill, UCC. 

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).

AHRC Participatory Arts based Methods For Civic Engagement In Migrant Support Organizations, in collaboration with Umut Erel , Open University (PI), Tracey Reynolds , University of Greenwich, Erene Kaptani, University of Greenwich, and Maggie O'Neill, 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.



bottom of page