Our research is based upon a long history of critical, creative and praxis oriented research on society, economy and culture.  Key strengths are: social, cultural and psychoanalytic theories; creative, biographical and participatory methodologies; gender and feminisms; ecology and sustainability, welfare, work and organisations; and migration, asylum and belonging.

[History of the centre here – origins of funding, connection with POI Ethics Initiative etc.]

An annual summer school has taken place since 2013 -19 for five days in May, at Blackwater Castle, Ireland. The Summer School brought together 50 scholars for an intensive and convivial residential course dealing with theories, concepts and methods of inquiry. Post-graduate students from across disciplines  in sociology, anthropology, politics, geography and history on the one hand, and organisation studies, management, marketing, finance and economics on the other  came together  in convivial ways to dialogue and learn from each other.

The Summer school has been re-invented since 2020 and will take place in May 2022 in Cork city.

Research Clusters / Themes

  • The social pathologies of contemporary civilization
  • Innovative/Creative/Participatory Methodologies-walking, performative, and arts-based methods
  • Biographical Research
  • Sociological, Cultural & Psycho-social Theory  
  • Gender and Feminisms
  • Ecology and Sustainability
  • Welfare/Work/Governmentality
  • Migration and Belonging

The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization

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This project explores the nature of contemporary malaises, diseases, illnesses and syndromes in their relation to cultural pathologies of the social body and disorders of the collective esprit de corps of contemporary society.

Anders Petersen (Aalborg University, DK), Bert van den Berg (Erasmus University, NL) and Kieran Keohane (UCC) lead this project.

The central research hypothesis is that contemporary epidemics, such as depression, are to be understood in the light of individual and collective experiences of profound social changes and cultural shifts in our civilization and of the social hegemonization of the biomedical – psychiatric diagnostic culture. Multi-disciplinary in approach the project addresses questions of how these conditions are manifest at the level of individual bodies and minds, as well as the ‘bodies politic’. A central focus is on the emergence of a new kind subject.

We live in so-called ‘neo-liberal’ times in which we experience an intense, marketed pressure to ‘be oneself’, as well as an extreme difficulty to ‘be a self’; a ‘liberated’ ‘self-forming’ subject: hyper-individuated, ahistorical, acritical, amoral, and amnesiac; but also a vulnerable, suffering subject in need of care.

Innovative/Creative/Participatory Methodologies-walking, performative, and arts-based methods


Funded by the AHRC ‘ Participatory Arts based Methods For Civic Engagement In Migrant Support Organizations’ PI Umut Erel (Open University), CI Tracey Reynolds (University of Greenwich) and Maggie O’Neill (University College Cork) AH/T004045/1. In this follow on project to the ESRC ‘Participatory Arts and Social Action Research’ and also the AHRC networking grant on Migrant Mothers Caring for the Future: Creative Interventions into Citizenship, we collaborated with Creating Ground ), Praxis Community Projects (, Regional Refugee Forum North East ( and The Magpie Project ( to train staff and volunteers in using participatory arts based methods for civic engagement.


Walking Publics/Walking Arts is a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council exploring the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic in the UK. Walking Publics/Walking Arts is led by Professor Dee Heddon at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Professor Maggie O’Neill (University College Cork), Dr. Morag Rose (University of Liverpool), Clare Qualmann (University of East London) and Dr. Harry Wilson (University of Glasgow).


Irish Journal of Sociology Special Issue on Walking Methodologies: Sociological Research on the Move ( forthcoming 2022).

Biographical Research

Biographical research is rooted in a long and diverse genealogy from a focus upon a single life story rooted in Chicago Sociology and the publication of the Polish Peasant in Europe and America,  to encompass autobiography, narrative, biographical narrative interview method (BNIM), archival and multimedia and arts based and performative  research in  the disciplines and fields of Sociology, Cultural Studies, Psycho-societal studies and Feminist Studies. Biographical methods  are concerned with the interpretive storytelling of lives and experiences which help us to gain insights into the workings of contemporary society and the relationship between biographical, personal, cultural and collective social issues .

Centre members  have a long history of involvement with Research Network 3 of the European Sociological Association as Chair and members of the board of the network as well as co-founding  the SAI Biographic and Narrative Life Course Research network in 2019.  Both networks have members from across Europe, the US and Canada, hold regular conferences and workshops to engage critically and creatively with biographical research methods.


Advances in Biographical Research. Book Series Editors: Maggie O’Neill, Lyudmila Nurse, Lynn Froggett.

Nurse, L. O’Neill, M. and Moran, L. (forthcoming) Biographical Research and the New Social Architecture.

Lisa to add the new journal info

PhDs in this area-  Vitalis, Swara  although both could also go under Migration –

Gender and Feminisms

Carmen and Maggie to add text.

Ecology and Sustainability

Ger and Tracey’s research projects and names of  relevant PHD students


Tom and Ray to populate

Migration and Belonging


Participatory arts for advocacy, activism and transformational justice with young people living in Direct Provision

University College Cork and Cork Migrant Centre

Maggie O’Neill, Jools Gilson, Fionnuala O’Connell, Naomi Masheti, Amin Sharifi Isaloo, Jaqui O’Riordan, Mike Fitzgibbon, Fionn Woodhouse, and Chrizsine Backhouse (MTU).

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and challenged all aspects of society. The crisis has been particularly severe for young asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, as social isolation and marginalisation associated with being an asylum seeker have been further exacerbated by the crisis. Working in partnership with Cork Migrant Centre this project aims to forge greater links between academia, advocacy, and activism by focussing on the needs and voices of young people. Using participatory action research through the medium of theatre and walking methods the project explores the ways in which young people negotiate their experiences in Direct Provision while constructing and creating a sense of belonging to their communities.


Below you will find older research which is no longer actively pursued by SECRC, but which we archive here for posterity.

Commemoration: Contexts & Concepts

This project dealt with the theme of rituals of commemoration and memory. Examined from our present position at the ‘end of history’, this period of centenaries offers an opportunity to reflect on how our society has been shaped by the past, and how our means of commemorating the past shapes our society.

This project was led by Dr John O’Brien (WIT) and Dr Lorcan Byrne (UCC).

Rituals and practices of commemoration are important as they are a source of ethics, shape collective identity and foster solidarity, create traditions, give meaning through providing a sense of where we have come from and where we are going, they articulate the material interests of group members and facilitate collective action, they represent a way of processing traumatic events of the past, and are potentially a means of defusing conflict through dealing with shame and anger over past actions. Such rituals and practices are particularly important in the context of our current age of permanent presentness and permanent change (Bauman 1999), based on an anomic, post-traditional culture, driven by the expansion of mediated experiences and rapid change, in which ethical memory has become clouded.

Contact [no longer active]: [email protected]

Ethnographic & Human Centred Research

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“…as flies in a jar of honey, trapped in a single paradigm of thought from which we are finding it difficult to escape.  We perceive the need for new thinking that will source new policies that address the human challenges of social inclusion, poverty elimination, gender equality, public health, and security in its widest sense…”                        

– President Michael D. Higgins, New York University address 28/9/2015

Dr. James Cuffe and Dr. Jill O’Mahony set up the EHCR to provide research and training for industry under the rubric of the moral economy. The Ethnographic & Human Centred Research Group works on developing and aiding ethical relationships between consumers and business. This type of applied anthropology articulates concerns that economic forces can override moral behaviour which is conducive, indeed necessary, to establishing a thriving, flourishing society. Moral economies are sustained by central anthropological concepts such as sacrifice (R. Girard) and reciprocity (M. Mauss). Projects undertaken by this research group explicate the anthropological foundations of a moral economy in commercial settings. To date our projects have included providing CPD training for the insurance sector, investigating the relationship between the agricultural community and the Irish state, investigating marine communities and economic flexibility, and, funding PhD research through scholarships.

Ethnography for business

Ethnography places the human at the Centre of its research and placing the human at the Centre means socially informed policies and culturally relevant products for consumers.  Anthropologists and ethnographers are employed by large multinational corporations as consultants and researchers for this reason, they are tasked with establishing relationships between ‘big data’ and lived experience. Going behind quantitative data industries that value the customer experience (User Experience – UX design & research) seek trained specialists to go to the ‘field’ (‘deep-diving’ in American marketing parlance) to provide interpretative insights based on human behaviours. These specialists, trained in qualitative research methods, seek out the social dimension and cultural contexts of human behaviour in relation to a given subject or product or behaviour.

Ethics for business

Economics is a driving force for both government policy and market research, numbers carry weight, however the failure to account for the reception of final products and policies can result in spectacular failures. The mishandling of the introduction of water charges in Ireland is a good example. Economically – goes the argument  – the introduction of these charges is necessary. The social argument was never adequately made and therefore the social dimensions not well understood by the wider public. This led to a loss of the trust and good-will resulting in clear political consequences. By bringing the need to integrate social science perspectives into sharp relief, this research group will solicit and market itself as a consultancy to conduct social and culturally important  research. This will include an engagement with both state and commercial sectors, but will also incorporate the running of training courses for industry and academics alike, in best practice ethnographic research. The research group will further support members in continuous up-skilling where appropriate by attending training courses and sharing expertise in seminars.

This research group within the Centre was led by Dr. James Cuffe and Dr. Jill O’Mahony.