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Dr Rachael Dobson

  • Overview



    My work is informed by the central principle to work across theory, policy and practice, for the purposes of social and racial justice. This maps on to my experiences across academic, teaching and practice fields.

    As an academic I have held lectureships at the University of Leeds, Kingston University and now Birkbeck, University of London. I have been awarded visiting fellowships at the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney.

    My teaching experiences reflect my research, cutting across criminology, socio-legal studies, critical social policy, critical policy studies, sociology, housing studies and urban studies. I have developed programmes for policy-makers, practitioners and adult learners at access, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. My teaching practice is consistently recognised through University prizes for supervision and personal tutoring.

    At Birkbeck I contribute to core criminology provision and convene two modules: Influencing Public Policy (PGT) and The Criminalisation of Welfare (UG). Across these modules students are introduced to critical and cultural approaches to governance, and the regulation and construction of social problems and ‘problem people’ through policy, legislation and institutional practices.

    I have over a decade’s experience of editorial, learned society, committee and administrative activity. I am a member of the editorial collective for international peer-reviewed and high-impact journal Critical Social Policy. I have been twice elected to the Social Policy Association, most recently as Honorary Secretary. I am member of the Social Policy Association, White Spaces Network, British Sociological Association Psychosocial Studies Group, British Criminological Society Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network, and Homeless Link. In my current academic role in the Department of Criminology, I convene the Criminology Research Group and work as Admissions Officer. I am also the Criminology Careers and Internships Coordinator, where I convene the Criminology Careers Events Series.

    Prior to academic life I worked as a local government homelessness practitioner. I still work as a consultant, facilitator and trainer with practitioners operating at the intersections of homelessness and adult social care policy and practice. I am experienced in delivering ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoPs), which bring together practitioners with different priorities, to think and learn about a shared social problem in order to improve outcomes for the users of services. Sessions involve practitioners who work across statutory and non-statutory sectors, and front-line and strategic roles.

  • Research


    Research overview

    My research contributes to critical and cultural approaches to governance through focus on policy processes, social welfare institutions, human agency and resistance. I am especially interested to understand potential for social change through exploration of less conscious and everyday social practices and actions.

    Empirically, I explore these foci through responses to vulnerable adults with ‘complex needs’, including legislation, models of support and everyday practices. This has primarily involved research into housing and homelessness sectors. More generally I am interested in professional identities and practices in lower status, under-professionalised, materially fragmented and ‘dirty work’ sectors, across social welfare and criminal justice fields.

    I have developed an interdisciplinary intellectual project on the theme of ‘practice ontologies’, with two strands: interventions and social regulation, and practice languages and ‘sector speaks’. Taken together, this work investigates the role of practitioners and practice languages in the ‘making-of’ policy, legislation and institutions. Drawing on critical governance scholarship, informed by poststructural, psychosocial, critical feminist and critical race theory, I apply a spatial, temporal and affective analysis to the construction and constituting of governance phenomena at the level of the local-state.

    More recently I have theorised ‘new markets of vulnerability’. This reviews global models of support as they relate to adults with ‘complex needs’. Beyond tracking contemporary developments (e.g., new legislation, trauma- and psychologically-informed interventions), I argue that evolving policy-practice actors, institutional/professional constellations and technologies provide one way to understand processes of neoliberalisation.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Teaching modules

    • Understanding Crime (CertHE) (FFCN014S4)
    • Influencing Public Policy (LACN013S7)
    • MPhil/PhD Research Methods (LALA228Z7)
  • Publications



    Book Section