Professor Sarah Neal
BA, MA, PhD
Department of Sociological Studies
Professor of Sociology
+44 114 222 6424
Full contact details
Department of Sociological Studies
Sarah joined the Department of Sociological Studies in 2016, having previously worked at Middlesex University, the Open University and the University of Surrey.
Sarah’s research focuses on the following areas and their intersections: quotidian social life in urban and rural environments; ethnicity, multiculture, migration and superdiversity; community, belonging and place; education, citizenship and school worlds; the politics of Brexit and identity; leisure practices, inequalities and urban and rural greenspace and qualitative research methods.
Sarah has been the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on a range of research projects and received funding from The Leverhulme Trust the Economic and Social Research Council and has worked with Natural England.
Sarah was Co-Editor (with Karim Murji, Sophie Watson, Kath Woodward, and Andrew King) of Sociology 2013-17 and is Co-Editor (with Karim Murji) of Current Sociology. She is a member of the Editorial Board of Ethnic and Racial Studies and Journal of Intercultural Studies.
Sarah was a member of the REF2021 Sociology sub-panel.
She has been a panel member for the Danish Independent Research Council and for the Irish Research Council.
- Research interests
Sarah’s research is in the following areas:
- Everyday social life in urban and rural environments
- Ethnicity, multiculture, migration and superdiversity
- Community, belonging and place
- Urban and rural greenspace
- Education, citizenship and school worlds
- The politics of Brexit
- Leisure practices and social ex/inclusion
- Qualitative research methods.
Current and past research projects
Just Turn Up: informal sport and social participation in the superdiverse city October 2022-September 2024 Principal Investigator with Clare Rishbeth (Co-I) University of Sheffield, Bonnie Pang (Co-I) University of Bath and Keith Parry (Co-I) Bournemouth University.
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/W008343/1
Engaging with nature - understanding the barriers and how to overcome them for a range of groups: evidence briefings Jan 2022-June 2022 Co-investigator with Clare Rishbeth (PI) University of Sheffield and Bridget Snaith (Co-I) University of Sheffield
Funder: Natural England
Becoming citizens in 'post secular' Britain: religion in primary school life Jan 2022-Jan 2025. Co-investigator with Anna Strhan (PI) University of York and Peter Hemming (Co-I) University of Surrey and Joanna Malone (PDRA).
Funder: The Leverhulme Trust.
Everyday Bordering in the UK: Practitioners, migrants and families April 2020-July 2022. Mentor on New Investigator Award to Dr. Julie Walsh (PI), Sheffield.
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/S015833/1.
Everyday Life with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Mobilities, Accessibility and Belonging
September 2020-September 2021. Mentor on Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award to Dr. Lauren White, Sheffield.
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/V009397/1.
Children’s and adults’ friendships across social and ethnic difference Feb 2013 – July 2015. Co-Investigator with Carol Vincent (PI) and Humera Iqbal (PDRA), University College London.
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/K002384/1.
Living multiculture: the new geographies of ethnic diversity and the changing formations of multiculture in England. June 2012 – October 2014. Principal Investigator with Allan Cochrane (Co-I) Open University, Giles Mohan (Co-I), Open University and Katy Bennett (Co-I), University of Leicester, Hannah Jones (PDRA) and Kieran Connell (PDRA).
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/J007676/1.
Economic and Social Research Council CASE partnership with Milton Keynes Council and the Open University Multiculture and cohesion in new urban spaces October 2007- September 2010. Co-Investigator.
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council ES/F033311/1.
Identities, Ethnicities and Social Organisations in Contemporary Rural England. October 2003 –October 2005. Principal Investigator.
Funder: The Leverhulme Trust.
- Friendship and Diversity: Class, Ethnicity and Social Relationships in the City. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Race, Multiculture and Social Policy. Palgrave MacMillan.
- Rural identities: Ethnicity and community in the contemporary English countryside.
- Rural identities ethnicity and community in the contemporary English countryside.
- The new countryside?: Ethnicity, nation and exclusion in contemporary rural Britain.
- Lived Experiences of Multiculture. Routledge.
- Introduction. Bristol University Press.
- Editors’ foreword to the 70th anniversary volume. Current Sociology, 70(1), 3-5.
- Rural Brexit? The ambivalent politics of rural community, migration and dependency. Journal of Rural Studies, 82, 176-183. View this article in WRRO
- Author response to reviews of Lived Experience. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42(3), 409-416.
- Community and Conviviality? Informal Social Life in Multicultural Places. Sociology, 53(1), 69-86. View this article in WRRO
- Living in the city: school friendships, diversity and the middle classes. The British Journal of Sociology, 69(2), 352-371. View this article in WRRO
- Editors’ Report 2017. Sociology, 51(6), 1127-1131.
- On the tensions of universities as a social institution – developing a comparative sociology of higher education. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(13), 2285-2292.
- Negotiating the educational spaces of urban multiculture: Skills, competencies and college life. Urban Studies, 54(10), 2305-2321. View this article in WRRO
- Encounters with diversity: Children’s friendships and parental responses. Urban Studies, 54(8), 1974-1989. View this article in WRRO
- Editors’ Report 2016. Sociology, 51(2), 203-207.
- Childrens friendships in super-diverse localities: Encounters with social and ethnic difference. Childhood, 24(1), 128-142. View this article in WRRO
- ‘You can’t move in Hackney without bumping into an anthropologist’: why certain places attract research attention. Qualitative Research, 16(5), 491-507.
- Extended Encounters in Primary School Worlds: Shared Social Resource, Connective Spaces and Sustained Conviviality in Socially and Ethnically Complex Urban Geographies. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 37(5), 464-480.
- Children’s friendships in diverse primary schools: teachers and the processes of policy enactment. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 482-494. View this article in WRRO
- Editors’ Report 2016. Sociology, 50(2), 227-230.
- Listening. Emotion, Space and Society, 17, 7-14. View this article in WRRO
- Sociologies of Everyday Life: Editors' Introduction to the Special Issue. Sociology, 49(5), 811-819.
- Urban Multiculture and Everyday Encounters in Semi-Public, Franchised Cafe Spaces. The Sociological Review, 63(3), 644-661.
- Multiculture and Public Parks: Researching Super-diversity and Attachment in Public Green Space. Population, Space and Place, 21(5), 463-475.
- Race, Community and Conflict fifty years on. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(3), 379-385.
- Researching the Everyday: An Interview with Amanda Wise. Sociology, 49(5), 988-1000.
- Editors’ Report 2015. Sociology, 49(2), 207-211.
- Class Debate. Sociology, 48(3), 427-428.
- Editors’ Report. Sociology, 48(2), 211-215.
- Multiculture, middle class competencies and friendship practices in super-diverse geographies. Social & Cultural Geography, 14(8), 909-929.
- Editors’ Foreword. Sociology, 47(4), 619-622.
- Living Multiculture: Understanding the New Spatial and Social Relations of Ethnicity and Multiculture in England. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 31(2), 308-323.
- Transition culture: Politics, localities and ruralities. Journal of Rural Studies, 32, 60-69.
- Crisis social policy and the resilience of the concept of community. Critical Social Policy, 32(3), 343-364.
- Riot: Race and Politics in the 2011 Disorders. Sociological Research Online, 16(4), 216-220.
- Multiculture and Community in New City Spaces. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32(2), 133-150.
- Researching Up? Interviews, Emotionality and Policy-Making Elites. Journal of Social Policy, 38(4), 689-707.
- Rural Be/longing and Rural Social Organizations: Conviviality and Community-Making in the English Countryside. Sociology, 42(2), 279-297.
- WHO CAN SPEAK TO RACE AND NATION?. Cultural Studies, 21(6), 910-930.
- ‘You can get away with loads because there’s no one here’: Discourses of regulation and non-regulation in English rural spaces. Geoforum, 38(2), 252-263.
- Strangers asking strange questions? A methodological narrative of researching belonging and identity in English rural communities. Journal of Rural Studies, 22(2), 177-189.
- Introduction: Contemporary political contexts, changing terrains and revisited discourses. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(3), 423-444.
- Misrepresenting the multicultural nation. Policy Studies, 25(3), 155-174.
- The Scarman Report, the Macpherson Report and the Media: How Newspapers Respond to Race-centred Social Policy Interventions. Journal of Social Policy, 32(1), 55-74.
- Rural landscapes, representations and racism: examining multicultural citizenship and policy-making in the English countryside. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(3), 442-461.
- Leonard S. Rubinowitz and James E. Rosenbaum, Crossing the Class and Color Lines: from public housing to white suburbia, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000, xiv + 241 pp.. Journal of Social Policy, 30(2), 361-391.
- Embodying Black Madness, Embodying White Femininity: Populist (Re)Presentations and Public Policy - The Case of Christopher Clunis and Jayne Zito. Sociological Research Online, 3(4), 54-63.
- Researching Powerful People from a Feminist and Anti‐racist Perspective: a note on gender, collusion and marginality. British Educational Research Journal, 21(4), 517-531.
- The right to the city: outdoor informal sport and urban belonging in multicultural spaces. Annals of Leisure Research, 1-19.
- HOW DO SOCIOLOGISTS KEEP UP WITH A SOCIAL WORLD?. The monitoring of public opinion economic&social changes(5), 0-0.
- View this article in WRRO Science and Technology In Neal S, Murji K & Solomos J (Ed.), An Introduction to Sociology London: Sage.
- Rural Identity and Otherness, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (pp. 43-47). Elsevier
- Afterword, The Cato Street Conspiracy Manchester University Press
- Extended Encounters in Primary School Worlds: Shared Social Resource, Connective Spaces and Sustained Conviviality in Socially and Ethnically Complex Urban Geographies, Convivialities (pp. 42-58). Routledge
- Cybercrime, transgression and virtual environments, Crime: Local and Global (pp. 71-104).
- Identity and Otherness, Rural, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (pp. 277-281). Elsevier
- Remaking english ruralities: Processes of belonging and becoming, continuity and change in racialised spaces, The New Countryside?: Ethnicity, Nation and Exclusion in Contemporary Rural Britain (pp. 99-126).
- Public Commissions on Cultural and Religious Diversity Routledge
- Ordering Lives Routledge
2023-2025 Living Brexit in rural Britain: migration and rural communities
This two year project explores the relationships and intersections between rural areas, changing rural communities and the politics of Brexit. Over the last two decades rural areas have experienced extensive restructuring and become significant sites of labour migration and, increasingly, asylum seeker and refugee settlement. In this context, there is a need to examine what the rural EU Referendum outcomes reflect and what the ongoing processes and consequences of Brexit for these newly diverse rural communities will be. While high-profile media and policy attention has been directed towards the economic impacts of Brexit for farmers, food production industries and land/environmental management, little attention has been given to the social implications of the post-Brexit settlement for rural communities, rural-based migrants and broader configurations of rural diversity, belonging and cohesion.
With case studies in England, Wales and Scotland and using multiple qualitative research methods, this project investigates how rural localities are being reshaped after Brexit. Using a blend of qualitative methods and emphasizing rural residents as active agents negotiating rural change, this study will investigate: 1). the significance and meanings of Brexit in rural areas characterized by international migration, mobility and socio-economic inequalities; 2). the social consequences of Brexit in localized rural contexts in England, Scotland and Wales and 3). the ways in which socially differentiated rural communities experience, manage and imagine post-Brexit social relations and rural futures.
- Grant awarded: £171,557
- Funder: The Leverhulme Trust
2022-2024 Just Turn Up: informal sport and social participation in the superdiverse city.
This two-year project will begin in Autumn 2022. It explores the extent and ways in which participation in informal sport in urban public spaces contributes to social interaction and urban inclusion. In cities characterised by high levels of superdiverse migrant settlement and social inequality the project will examine whether and how informal sport animates public spaces, is socially connective and has health and wellbeing implications. Using two case study cities (London and Sheffield) this project will focus on how informal sport uses and redefines urban space as a means of exploring what makes for the 'good city' and examines the growth and in/exclusionary dynamics of informal sports participation and the social and spatial outcomes that it generates.
- Grant awarded: £420, 905
- Funder: ESRC ES/W008343/1
2022-2022 Engaging with nature - understanding the barriers and how to overcome them for a range of groups: evidence briefings.
This evidence review based research project synthesises existing data and findings on why certain social groups – black and ethnic minority groups, people living on low incomes, people with disabilities and older people - are underrepresented in urban and rural nature spaces. The project also reviews the evidence of interventions to overcome those barriers and the success of these. The briefings highlight the importance of intersectionality in understanding barriers to nature spaces. The briefings will be published as a set, together with a summary document that provides an overview of the findings, the related evidence landscape and its gaps, and the potential implications for improving and evaluating inclusion and diversity in nature engagement initiatives.
- Grant awarded: £17,480
- Funder: Natural England
2022-2025 Becoming citizens in 'post secular' Britain: religion in primary school life.
This three-year project examines citizen-making in 'post secular' Britain. At a moment of tension surrounding citizenship and national identity and the place of religion in education, the research will map how ideas of citizenship and national identity are being constructed in primary schools and establish the significance of religion in these processes. Using creative child-centred research methods, participant observation and interviews with children, parents/carers and teaching staff, the study will analyse how aspects of religion, national identity and citizenship become interrelated through everyday practices in schools, how children navigate these processes and the implications of this for social division and inequality.
- Grant awarded: £274,831
- Funder: The Leverhulme Trust
2013-15 Children’s and adults friendships across social and ethnic difference.
This was a cross-institutional project (with Professor Carol Vincent, Institute of Education, University College London) which considers adults’ and children’s friendships in London and examines what friendships reveal about the nature and extent of ethnic diversity and social divisions in contemporary multicultural society.
- Grant awarded: £365,000
- Funder: ESRC ES/K002384/1
2012-14 Living multiculture: the new geographies of ethnic diversity and the changing formations of multiculture in England.
This is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional project (with Professor Allan Cochrane, Professor Giles Mohan, both Open University and Dr Katy Bennett, University of Leicester). It focuses on the ordinary encounters of super-diverse populations in everyday locations to explore two key questions: how people live complex cultural difference, and what role place plays in this process.
- Grant awarded: £463,360
- Funder: ESRC ES/J007676/1
2011 Sep- Dec. Riots, Milton Keynes, Place and Technology.
This small-scale, ‘rapid response’ project used repeated focus groups interviews with young people in Milton Keynes to investigate their experiences and perspectives on the urban disorders in August 2011.
- Grant awarded: £2,500
- Funder: Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC – ESRC Research Centre)
2007-10 CASE studentship in partnership with Milton Keynes Council Multiculture and cohesion in new urban spaces.
This project focussed on the ways in which a new city space and those responsible for its social well-being responded to its rapidly developing multicultural local population.
- Grant awarded: 3 year F/T studentship
- Funder: ESRC ES/F033311/1
2003-4 Identities, Ethnicities and Social Organisations in Contemporary Rural England.
This project examined majority ethnic identity formation through the lens of English rurality. It focussed on the way in which nature, the non-human and the concept of community shape processes of ethnicised inclusion and exclusion.
- Grant awarded: £33,846
- Funder: The Leverhulme Trust
- Teaching activities
Sarah teaches on the Department’s undergraduate and postgraduate Qualitative Research Methods modules, the undergraduate Race, Ethnicity and Migration module and the postgraduate Sociology of Everyday Life module.
- PhD Supervision
Sarah has previously supervised and is currently supervising PhD students in the following areas: migration, place and urban multiculture; everyday life, ethnicity, community and belonging; rural sociology and greenspace, community, identity and Brexit, adults and children’s friendships, schools and educational spaces, social in/exclusion and policy interventions. Sarah welcomes enquiries and applications to study for research degrees in these (and related) fields.