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Dr Robin James Smith

Dr Robin James Smith

Senior Lecturer in Sociology

+44(0) 29 2087 0330
Room 0.56, Glamorgan Building
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am currently a Reader in Sociology in the Cardiff School of Social Sciences where I teach a number of modules concerning ethnography, everyday (urban) life, interactionist theory, qualitative research methods, and ethnomethodology.

My research is influenced by the work and sensibilities of Harold Garfinkel, Harvey Sacks and Erving Goffman. Projects have broadly focused upon membership categorisation practices and everyday and work mobilities. These projects have included an ethnography of urban outreach work with the street homeless, a study of social scientific reasoning, and studies of mobile interaction and spatial categorisation practices in cycling and walking. I am currently pursuing some of the above interests via participant observation of the work of Mountain Rescue.

Current positions:
Director of Undergraduate Studies 
External examiner: Brighton University 
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
Board member of Discourse, Context, and Media


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
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

Article 'Care and repair and the politics of urban kindness' nominated for Sociology SAGE Prize for Excellence and/or Innovation 2015 (with Tom Hall)

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

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)

Speaking engagements

Invited conference and seminar contributions:

"Symposium on ‘Method and Measurement in Sociology" (with Cicourel, Uprichard, Fransozi, and Atkinson)
NCRM Research Methods Festival, 2016 (based on Smith and Atkinson, 2016)

“Slow, Messy and Expensive? The precarity of street care in the austere city”.
Inaugural Conference of the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity. De Montfort University. 19th November, 2015

“Revisiting the observer’s maxim: categorization and perception in action”
Membership Categorisation Analysis: In Memory of Stephen Hester. International Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference. Kolding, Denmark, 4-7th August, 2015

“Pedestrian Mobilities: Intersections of mobility, need and care”
Mobility Intersections Conference, 6th-7th July, 2015. CeMoRe, Lancaster University

“Sharing Space: the accomplishment of territory ‘on the move’”
4th Advanced Workshop in Mobility and Social Interaction. Aalborg, Denmark, 2014

“Locating public space in theory and in practice”
Conference Stream Plenary, British Sociology Association Annual Conference April, 2014

“Keeping up appearances: the street-level politics of care, repair and maintenance”
Invited paper, Edinburgh University Human Geography Seminar Series. May 2012

“Researching Space, Place, and Setting: Perspectives on Theory and Method.”
Invited paper, NCRM Research Methods Festival 5-8 July, 2010

Selected international and peer reviewed conference contributions:

“Get in the cycle lane”.
International Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference. Kolding, Denmark, 4-7th August, 2015

“The observer’s maxim: categorisation and perception in action”.
5th Advanced Workshop in Mobility and Social Interaction. Norrkoping, Sweden, 6-9th May, 2015

“On doing being a pedestrian”.
Complexity and Interaction Conference, COACT. Oulu, Finland. October, 2014

“Movement, need and the politics of public space”.
American Sociological Association Annual Conference. New York, August 2013

“Movement, territory and need”.
British Sociological Association Annual Conference. London, April 2013

“Moving encounters”.
Royal Geographical Society Conference. Edinburgh, July 2012

“The politics of care and repair”.
British Sociological Association Annual Conference. Leeds, April 2012

“Urban circulations: Outreach work, homelessness, and the city”.
British Sociological Association Annual Conference. London, April 2011

“Circuits of city Space: Moving and meeting with the homeless.
American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 21/11/10 (paper given as part of a submitted session ‘Domesticating and Domesticated Urban Space’, organised by myself)

“The urban problem: From the Bay to the soup run.”
British Council-Netherlands Knowledge Exchange Workshop on Urbanism 8-9 October 2010

“Tinkering at the margins: The outreach encounter.”
British Sociological Association Annual Conference Glasgow, April, 2010


















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

I teach on a range of undergraduate modules including Sociology, Society and Social Change and Introduction to Social Science Research Methods (Y1), Ethnography and Everyday Life (Y2), the Sociology of Stigma and Ethnomethodology (Y3). I am course convenor for the new Live Theory module. I teach a small block on ethnomethodology and membership categorisation analysis on the MSc Social Science Research Methods course.  

Interaction and ethnomethodology, mobilites, public space, talk and categorisation practices, reasoning, methodography.


I am interested in supervising doctoral projects concerned with the empirical analysis of:

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

Current PhD supervision 
Jonathan Ablitt: urban patrol, repair, waste, urban parks
Zoe John: MMA, embodiment, gender, power
Matthew Howell: institutional cultures and homeless hostels
Fiona Long: everyday interaction, rituals and barriers in homeless hostels
Hyo Eun Shin: cosmopolitanism, belonging and place making
Joseph Williams: homelessness and politics of care provision in New York  

Past projects

Mark Berry: criminal networks, practices and technologies of drug dealing 
Lorenzo Marvulli: institutions, work place studies and policy making