School of Sociology and Social Policy

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Karen Lumsden

Assistant Professor in Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences



Karen joined the School of Sociology and Social Policy in August 2019. She was previously Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Leicester, UK.

She is a sociologist and criminologist and has held a number of academic posts including Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Loughborough University, and posts at the University of Abertay Dundee and the University of Aberdeen. Karen has a PhD in Sociology, PGCE in Higher Education Learning & Teaching, Masters in Social Research and MA (Hons.) Sociology, all from the University of Aberdeen.

Karen is a member of the British Society of Criminology and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She was the Chair of the Editorial Board of Sociological Research Online until 2020 and was also on the Editorial Board of Sociology until 2021. She delivers training courses in qualitative methods including online research methods, qualitative interviewing, ethnography, focus groups, storytelling and narratives, narrative analysis and participatory action research for the Social Research Association.

She founded and directed the Policing Research Group at Loughborough University, co-founded the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) in 2014 and was on their Strategic Board until 2018. She also led their Victims, Witnesses and Public Protection Network programme of work from 2016-18.

Karen is currently External Examiner for the BA Sociology and Social Policy programmes at the University of Leeds, was an external assessor for Middlesex University's BA Sociology and BA Sociology and Criminology programmes, and was an External Examiner for the BA in Policing at the University of Derby. She is also an external reviewer of outputs for REF2021 in Sociology and Social Policy.

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-0546-8775

Teaching Summary

Undergraduate teaching

In the 2020-2021 academic year Karen is mainly teaching on:

  • Contemporary Theories of Crime, Justice and Society (2nd year core).
  • Cyber Crime (3rd year elective). Module convenor.
  • Policing (2nd year elective). Co-module convenor.

Karen is also on the School Research Ethics Committee.

She was previously the School's Academic Standards Officer and Postgraduate Exams Officer.

PhD supervision

Karen is currently co-supervising (with Dr Elisabetta Zontini) Johanna Simola whose PhD focuses on media representations of EU migrants in reports on Brexit.

Karen is available for PhD supervision on projects in criminology and/or sociology.

She supervised four doctoral students to completion at Loughborough University on topics including: sexual harassment on the London Underground, skateboarding and the culture industry in China, physically disabled teenagers' use of the internet, and friendship on Facebook.

Areas of expertise and interest include: policing, surveillance, victims and victimisation, Brexit, migration and hate crime, cyber-crime, trolling, online abuse and digital media, 'online othering', mobilities, automobility and car culture, youth culture, subcultures, bereavement, qualitative and ethnographic studies and reflexivity.

Research Summary

Karen is currently Principal Investigator of a 13 month Leverhulme Trust funded British Academy small grant project: 'Breaking Bad News: A Qualitative Study of Frontline Police Work with the… read more

Recent Publications

  • LUMSDEN, K., 2021. Becoming and Unbecoming an Academic: A Performative Autoethnography of Struggles Against Imposter Syndrome From Early to Mid-Career in the Neoliberal University. In: ADDISON, M., BREEZE, M. and TAYLOR, Y., eds., The Palgrave Handbook of Imposter Syndrome in Higher Education Palgrave Macmillan. (In Press.)
  • LEWIS, S., SAUKKO, P. and LUMSDEN, K., 2021. Rhythms, Sociabilities and Transience of Sexual Harassment in Public Transport: A Mobilities Perspective on Women’s Experiences Gender, Place and Culture. 28(2), 277-298
  • LUMSDEN, K., 2021. How to Adapt Conventional Methodologies to an Online Format: Focus Groups. In: SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online Sage. (In Press.)
  • LUMSDEN, K., 2021. How to Conduct Asynchronous Interviews. In: SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online (In Press.)

Current Research

Karen is currently Principal Investigator of a 13 month Leverhulme Trust funded British Academy small grant project: 'Breaking Bad News: A Qualitative Study of Frontline Police Work with the Bereaved'.

Her research expertise spans three areas:

1. Sociology of policing

Previous research in policing also includes studies of: police force control rooms, emotional labour in policing, frontline responses to domestic violence, police support for the d/Deaf community, EU migrants' experiences of hate crime in relation to Brexit, the reporting of online abuse and hate, police-academic partnerships, constructions and understandings of evidence-based policing (including the use of qualitative research in evidence-based contexts), and police professionalisation. Recent publications include an article on risk and 'precautionary policing' in Policing & Society and emotional labour in police force control room work published in The British Journal of Criminology.

2. Online abuse and trolling

Karen's current research also explores online abuse, trolling and harassment, including the use of digital tools and digital media in domestic abuse and stalking incidents. Karen has co-published research on trolling in Feminist Media Studies and as a chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence. She is also co-editor (with Emily Harmer) of Online Othering: Exploring Violence and Discrimination on the Web (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). In this book the editors coin and develop the concept of 'online othering' as a means of analysing and conceptualising various forms of online abuse and harrassment, experiences of these behaviours, and the response. Karen is currently completing a project analysing constructions of trolling and gendered violence on Men's Rights Activist forums on Reddit.

3. Qualitative research methods: reflexivity and ethnography

Karen also publishes on and teaches qualitative methods including narratives, interviewing, data analysis, reflexivity and ethnography. She is particularly interested in the use of qualitative methods in applied settings and in the context of evidence-based policing, and has written extensively on reflexivity in qualitative research, drawing on her own experiences of conducting research in various contexts. Books include the edited collection, Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and a recent monograph:Reflexivity: Theory, Method and Practice (Routledge, 2019).

Past Research

Karen's doctoral research was an ethnography of boy racers in Aberdeen, Scotland, and the social reaction to their behaviour. The research shed light on the common misconceptions concerning car modification (sub)cultures, which are labelled as deviant, risky and dangerous and whose rituals have helped fuel the myth of the boy racer. It also explored roads policing and the utilisation of antisocial behaviour powers (including dispersal orders, ASBOS, and seizure of vehicles) to control and regulate young motorists.

A monograph of this research, Boy Racer Culture: Youth, Masculinity and Deviance, was published by Routledge (in 2013) and findings were published in journals including Mobilities, Sociology, Sociological Research Online and Policing & Society. Karen has also discussed her research on BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed (in 2009 and 2013), BBC Radio Scotland (in 2008 and 2014), and BBC Radio Cornwall (in 2014). Her research has also featured in local and national press including in The Times, The Mail on Sunday, Aberdeen's Press & Journal and Evening Express.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

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