Riding Up Research: Auto-ethnography and opportunistic research

Professor Murray Lee1

1University Of Sydney Law School

This paper discusses autoethnographic methods of researching protest and having such methods understood as legitimate in the current research landscape. I draw on work and experiences that involve participation in environmental protest and the policing such protest tends to attract. This research highlights the ethical, scholarly, and practical challenges of publishing ethnographic or autoethnographic ‘opportunistic research’ (Riemer 1977). While cultural criminology has long championed such methods (eg. Ferrell et al 2008) they still inhabit only the margins of mainstream criminological research and scholarship, and in many cases are not seen by journal editors and reviewers as containing any real ‘data’.

This paper puts the case for these ‘non-traditional’ methods suggesting such subjective immersion in, and accounts of, the field provide criminology and related research areas with much needed sensory, aesthetic, and experiential appreciation (and imagination) that brings research to life in sometimes unexpected ways.


Dr Murray Lee is Professor in Criminology and Associate Dean Research at the University of Sydney Law School. Murray’s research interests focus on representations of crime and processes of criminalisation.  His current research projects include policing of environmental protest, criminology of music, and public perceptions of crime.  He is the author of Inventing Fear of Crime: Criminology and the Politics of Anxiety, co-author of Policing and Media: Public Relations, Simulations and Communications, co-author of Sexting and Young People, co-editor of Fear of Crime: Critical Voices in an Age of Anxiety, co-editor of The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime.


Dec 09 2021