About Dr Karen O'Brien

Karen’s research explores colonising and decolonising histories, researching and writing Indigenous histories and experiences, Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous critical theory, concepts of gender and identity formation in Indigenous contexts.

Dr Karen O’Brien is interested in research that explores fresh approaches to researching and writing Indigenous histories and experiences. She is currently involved in research of Indigenous knowledges, drawing on Indigenous critical theory and exploring concepts of gender and identity formation in Indigenous contexts. Her research takes an approach that advocates a critical awareness of the ways in which Indigenous history has been written and one which might positively influence its research in the future. It examines the debates about representation and synthesising Indigenous histories within a broader historical context and explores some ways in which Indigenous knowledge may be incorporated within the academy. Karen’s research explores historical sources that are rich in personal narrative and life stories such as biography, testimonial studies and oral histories and it draws on a range of theoretical and methodological approaches that aim to secure an authentic historical voice.   Her previous research examines manuscripts of legal records from a variety of courts, quarter sessions and assizes.  In addition to her research in colonising and decolonising histories, she is interested in researching oral culture, social, economic and gender contexts and in examining criminal complaints and exploring how gendered ideas were disseminated in society from primary source materials diaries, casebooks and papers of those involved in crime with the aim of reconstituting past communities across varying geographical, cultural and temporal domains.

Selected publications


‘Academic Language, Power and the Impact of Western Knowledge Production on Indigenous Education’ Australian Journal of Indigenous Education (December, 2008)

Female Verbal Crime in Early Modern England, (Saarbrücken, 2009)

Images of Political Transgression in the European Social Novel
, (Saarbrücken, 2010), ISBN 978-3-8383-2896-6

White Magic and the Cunning Folk: Charms and Blessings in Northwest England, (Liverpool, 2002), ISBN 978187256867