Current Research

Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly has 20 years of experience conducting long-term and longitudinal ethnographic studies. Her current research program encompasses the gendered social and environmental impacts of development projects that seek to improve public health through sanitation, drinking water, and poverty interventions. She employs a political ecology approach that understands WASH interventions as lying at the intersection of complex social and environmental relationships. Kathleen’s regional focus is South Asia broadly, and India specifically. She is currently involved in three funded projects in India.


Lacemakers Research

Lacemakers Research

The NSF CAREER Award project explores latrine use and non-use as a spatial and political problem. The award was received in 2010 and fieldwork started in 2011. The project investigates the complex social, economic, environmental and political geographies influencing the construction and use of latrines at four separate sites in rural India. Ethnographic research and secondary data collection was completed in villages in Rajasthan (2011), Tamil Nadu (2012), and Uttarakhand (2013). The last phase of data collection in rural Maharashtra will be completed in 2016. This research contributes to political geography and political ecology theory by exploring the contests over access to, and meanings of, space and resources (e.g., land and water) that occur during the implementation of sanitation projects. The CAREER Award project also contains a plan for feedback and dissemination of results, as has all of Kathleen’s previous research.


Dr. O’Reilly revisiting the households in rural Rajasthan as a part of her CAREER Award, in October 2016

other two projects are in collaboration with scholars and activists from the Society for the Promotion of Participatory Ecosystem Management (Pune, India), the University of Oklahoma, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) on women’s experiences of psycho-social stress due to violence surrounding access to sanitation and open defecation in rural sites in two Indian states – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. These two projects follow-on from funded research on urban, gendered violence faced by slum-dwelling women in two Indian cities. These three projects have been funded by: 3ie; the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; Sanitation and Hygiene Research for Equity; and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. They were sponsored to enable research that is evidence-based, and that can (and has) informed policy.

Manila 2017 Research

Research in Manila, 2017