Dr Karen O'Brien
Senior Lecturer Socio-Legal Studies
A26 - R.C. Mills Building
The University of Sydney
Karen is interested in how people across the world transcend life’s hardships by appealing to the law for justice. Her research explores socio-legal concerns in varying geographical and temporal contexts. It explores legal sources that are rich in personal narrative and it draws on a range of theoretical and methodological approaches that aim to secure an original voice. Her research examines manuscripts and legal records from a variety of legal institutions such as courts, quarter sessions and assizes and takes into account such legal sources as testimony and petitions in people’s attempts to achieve justice.
- Transnational Indigenous social and legal justice;
- Transnational Indigenous rights in law, policy and practice;
- Sociology of race
- The philosophical, legal and cultural foundations of Indigenous rights
- Early modern social, legal and gender contexts
- Indigenous political activism
- Mechanisms of social control
Teaching and supervision
Project Title: Vessels of Culture, Identity and Knowledge: Continuance and Revival of Aboriginal Tied-Bark Canoe Making in South East Australian Indigenous Communities
Project Title: Self-identity and intergenerational transmission of culture within the Italian diaspora: A comparative study across three countries
Project Title: The Influence of Media on Rape Culture
Project Title: The Fallibility of Clericalism: Constructing Relations of Power in Catholic Theological Discourses.
Project Title: The survival paradox: Can a culture survive political transgressions? A study in cultural transition, democracy and the failure of ideas in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Project Title: LGBT South Asians, their Narratives and Multiple Relations:
A Personal Communities Approach
Project Title: Policy and Indigenous Activism at James Price Point
Project Title: What is the relationship between the increasing empowerment of women in 21st century Australia and the nature, and prevalence, of family violence offences within this context?
Master of Education by Research Thesis completed
Yarning with Minjungbal women: testimonial narratives of trans generational trauma and healing explored through relationships with country and culture, community and family.
- Member of Indigenous Studies Research Network
- Member of International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA)
Awards and honours
2013 Visiting Professor Beijing University of International Business and Economics
The Murray Macgregor Memorial Fellowship, St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, North Wales
Scholar-in-Residence, Melbourne University, 2001-2002
2015 Invited expert speaker on Indigenous visual concepts to students and faculty members of the social sciences of Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, USA at Sydney University.
2014 Invited expert panelist at the University of Sydney Media Briefing of international journalists representing the Foreign Correspondents Association on the Recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and the political and historical context of Indigenous Australian identity and political rights within the context of Indigenous Australian constitutional rights.
- Redesigning Indigenous Discourse Formation, Decolonising Cultural Production and Asserting Power Through Film; O'Brien K; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences/Research Support Scheme (FRSS).
- Investigating Indigenous Testimony, Petition, Treaty and Activism; O'Brien K; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences/Research Support Scheme (FRSS).
- Law and Society; Beem B, Crofts T, Hendrischke H, Howard-Wagner D, Humphrey M, Lambourne W, Lee M, Macdonald G, Martin G, O'Brien K, O'Malley P, Park S, Piper N, Scott Bray R, Van Krieken R, Winter B; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences/FASS Collaborative Research Scheme.