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Robin Smith

Dr Robin Smith

Reader in Sociology

School of Social Sciences

Available for postgraduate supervision


I am Reader in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences where I teach ethnography, urban sociology, interactionist theory, qualitative research methods, and ethnomethodology. 

I am currently UK PI on the ESRC funded, ORA7 international project "Visions of Policing". Working with colleagues in Canada, Germany, and France, this project investigates how visual technologies produce emergent forms of police oversight and accountability in public and legalistic contexts, as well as their use in police training to accomplish understandings of 'reasonable officer conduct'.  

More generally, my research is heavily influenced by the work of Harold Garfinkel and Harvey Sacks and has included: an ethnography of urban outreach work with the street homeless; a study of social scientific reasoning and coding procedures; and studies of mobile interaction and spatial categorisation practices in cycling, walking, and running. In my spare time, I am pursuing some of the above interests via an ongoing ethnomethodological ethnography of the work of Mountain Rescue. And I am, like many others, trying to work out ways to describe scenes and activities featuring (social) robots and "AI"/automated systems. 

I'm always happy to talk about any of the above stuff, and more, and am available to supervise doctoral research in any substantive area which includes ethnography, video studies, and EMCA. 

Current positions:
Director of Undergraduate Studies and Chair of UG Exam Board
Founding Convenor of Cardiff Ethnography Ethnomethodology, Interaction and Talk (CEEIT) research group
Co-convener of the Cardiff Ethnography, Cultural and Interpretive Analysis Research Group.
Faculty member and academic lead for Wales of the EMCA Doctoral Network
Editorial Board member of Discourse, Context, and Media
Editorial Board member of Qualitative Research

















Adrannau llyfrau






I am a founding convenor of the Cardiff Ethnography Ethnomethodology Interaction and Talk (CEEIT) research group where we meet regularly to try and work out some "preposterous problems". 

I am currently UK PI on the £1.7m ORA7 international project "Visions of Policing". Working with colleagues in Canada, Germany, and France, the UK ESRC project investigates how visual technologies produce emergent forms of police oversight and accountability in public, social media, and legalistic contexts, as well as their use in police training to accomplish understandings of 'reasonable officer conduct'. The project will run until 2025. (ES/X010775/1)

In my spare time, I am conducting an unfunded study of the work of a Mountain Rescue team. Having joined the Central Beacons MRT in 2017, I am working on producing an ethnomethodological description of their worksite specific practices. 

I have conducted a range of unfunded studies - using both self-produced video data and social media materials - on interaction and mobility in public space. These studies have formed the basis of a number of publications, and ground an abiding interest in the organisation of urban public settings.      

I was previously a research associate on the ESRC funded WISERD project "Urban Patrols" (2010-2014). The project was ethnographic in character and focus and described the mobility-practices of a variety of "footwork" including council cleansing crews, Police Community Support Officers, and, primarily, outreach workers task with providing 'first aid' (of various kind) to the street homeless, wheresoever they encounted them.   

Key words: interactionism; ethnomethodology; conversation analysis; membership categorisation analysis; mobilities, public space; reasoning; perception; methodography


I am currently Director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of Social Sciences. 

I teach on a range of undergraduate modules including Introduction to Sociology (Y1), Key Ideas (Y1), and Introduction to Social Science Research Methods (Y1), Ethnography and Everyday Life (Y2), the Sociology of Stigma (Y3), Sociology on the Move (Y3), Live Theory (Y3), Sociology of Disasters (Y3). I convene a course on Ethnomethodology (Y3). I also teach PGT students a little about EMCA as part of the MSc Social Science Research Methods.

Outside of Cardiff I contribute to NCRM courses on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis and Membership Categorisation Analysis (check NCRM website for details).   


Reader in Sociology, Cardiff School of Social Sciences

2017-2022 Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Cardiff School of Social Sciences
2012-17 Lecturer in Sociology, Cardiff School of Social Sciences
2009-12 Research Assistant (Wales Institute of Social Economic Research and Data, Cardiff University)

2015   Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning (Cardiff University)
2010   PhD Sociology (Cardiff University, ESRC 1+3 Quota Award Studentship)
2005   MSc Social Science Research Methods (Cardiff University)
2004   BSc/Econ (Hons.) Sociology and Criminology (Cardiff University)

Other positions and affiliations
Visiting Fellowship, "GenZ Project", Oulu University, Spring 2023
Exceptional Visiting Fellow, CeMoRe, Lancaster University, Spring 2016
Visiting Scholar, City University New York, Graduate Centre
Visting Lecturer, Beijing Normal Univeristy
Fellow of Higher Education Academy.

Honours and awards

My book (co-edited with Richard Fitzgerald and William Housley), On Sacks: Methods, Materials, and Inspirations was nominated for the 2021 ASA EMCA Section Distinguished Book Award.  

An article (co-authored with Tom Hall), 'Care and repair and the politics of urban kindness' nominated for the 2015 SAGE Prize for Excellence and/or Innovation.

Nominated for Enriching Student Life Awards "Most uplifting member of staff" 2013/4; 2014/5; 2018/19; 2022/23; and "Outstanding Doctoral Supervisor" 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21, 2022/23. 

Professional memberships


  • British Sociological Association
  • International Sociological Association
  • American Sociological Association
  • Higher Education Academy


  • MOBSIN (Mobilities and Social Interaction; Aalborg, Cardiff, Helsinki, Linkoping, Paris Telecom, and Oulu universities)
  • IIEMCA (International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis)
  • Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe)
  • ANNSoR (Anglo-Nordic Network; founding member)
  • Public Space Research Group (City University, New York)


I am interested in supervising doctoral projects concerned with:

- Interaction(s) in public space
- Mobility practices and mobile scenes
- Ethnography of urban settings/groups
- Studies of everyday and institutional talk

Current PhD supervision 
Fiona Long (ESRC): everyday interaction, rituals and barriers in homeless hostels
Verena Stein (ESRC): MBSR, mindfulness, interaction, embodiment

Past projects

Jonathan Ablitt (ESRC): urban patrol, repair, waste, urban parks
Zoe John (ESRC): MMA, embodiment, gender, power
Matthew Howell (ESRC): institutional cultures and homeless hostels
Joseph Williams (ESRC): homelessness and politics of care provision in New York  
Mark Berry (Dawes Scholarship): organised crime and drug dealing in "Red City"


  • ethnography
  • ethnomethodology
  • mobilities
  • membership categorisation analysis
  • Public space

External profiles