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Sociology: People


Martina Karels

Martina Karels
Martina Karels
Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Research Interests
Public Memory and Remembrance, Performance, Space, Visual Sociology, Politics of Memory, Qualitative Research Methods, Collaborative Methods, Participatory Methods, Arts-Based Research Methods, Archives


Performing Remembrances of 9/11 


The attacks of 11 September 2001 have had a profound impact for many, altering lives, perceptions, politics and policies. The last decade saw the construction of numerous memorials commemorating the events across the United States. Most prominent is the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City at ground zero. Highly contested in its planning and building stages, the memorial site was designed to be a national symbol of mourning, remembrance and resiliency, and has since become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

This thesis casts the matter of memorialising 9/11 as a performance of remembering. It utilises an analytical frame that draws from theoretical resources of collective memory and performance studies to examine how and by whom public remembrances of the event are framed, performed and maintained. Theories of social remembering render it an active process. A performance lens used analytically allows for a recognition of commemorative practices not as a mode of representation, but rather as a doing, (en)acting and interacting in the moment. By understanding public remembrance as performance, this thesis explores the implications of thinking about public memory in those terms.

Through ethnographic methods the research unpacks the doing of public memory in three scenarios, each with their own setting and cast of characters, and interprets how, if and when individuals subscribe to the public and/or official memory of the events being memorialised. The first is set at the 9/11 memorial. Although the performances at the memorial site occur in an institutionalised, scripted and choreographed environment, the bodily (en)acting of and at the site can shift complex boundaries and commemorative narratives. The second provides the example of commemorative walking/ running events as performed remembering. These public processions are ritual-like (re)enactments that solidify and reaffirm the politicised national commemorative master narrative of 9/11. Lastly, the annual ritual of commemoration on the anniversary of 9/11 highlights and intensifies the separation of official and vernacular public memory and shows how in both settings organisers and actors utilise embodied performance strategies to gain or regain visibility in the public sphere. 

Research Interests

In addition to the research interests described above, I am interested in creative participatory and collaborative methods in social science research. Because I am drawing on my previous experience and education in theatre, these approaches are often inspired by practices rooted in performance theory.

I have extensive teaching experience with diverse student bodies, both as course convener and tutor, and would be interested in teaching in areas broadly related to my research interests, such as memory studies, sociology, performance theory and (social) dramaturgy, or qualitative and arts-based research methods. I am prepared to teach introductory courses of sociology and social theory, as well as cultural and urban sociology. But I am happy to explore other avenues that fit more generally with any of my areas of expertise. 


Prof. Richard Freeman  

Dr. Niamh Moore


PhD Sociology, University of Edinburgh

MSc (research) with Distinction Socio-Cultural Studies, University of Edinburgh  

MA Theater, CUNY Brooklyn College

BA (Hons.) Communication Arts, St. Francis College

Teaching Experience

(2019-) Lecturer, Politics and Human Rights, Marymount Manhattan College, NY
  • Collective Memory and Political Violence
(2018-) Lecturer, Sociology, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY), NY
  • Introduction to Sociology
(2018) Guest Lecturer, Marymount Manhattan College, NY
  • Global Art Activism
  • Arts-Based Research Methods in the Social Sciences 
(2012-16) Tutor, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh
  • Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection (postgraduate course)
  • Designing and Doing Social Research (honours course)
  • Sociology 1a: The Sociological Imagination: Individuals and Society
  • Sociology 1b: The Sociological Imagination: Private Troubles, Public Problems  
  • Sociology 2: Transformations of Self and Society 
  • Youth Culture, Media and Society (honours course, marking Assistant)
(2008-11) Lecturer, Communication Arts/Performance Studies,  St. Francis College, NY 
  • Fundamentals of Public Speaking
  • The Oral Tradition
  • Acting - Voice and Movement
  • Theater Production Workshop
  • Interpersonal Communication 

Research Posts

(2015-2018) Research Assistant to Dr. Niamh Moore, University of Edinburgh: Clayoquot Lives: An Ecofeminist Story Web.​

(2015) Research Assistant to Prof. John MacInnes, University of Edinburgh: Measuring Up: International case studies on the teaching of quantitative methods in the social sciences (funded by the British Academy). 

(2015) Research Assistant to Prof. John MacInnes, University of Edinburgh: Curriculum Innovation Review Project (funded by the ESRC).

(2013) Research Assistant to Dr. Angus Bancroft, University of Edinburgh: Sociology in Everyday Life: Documenting Digital and Intoxication Cultures.  



Bancroft, A., Zimpfer, M. J., Murray, Ó. & Karels, M. (2014). Working at Pleasure in Young Women’s Alcohol Consumption: A Participatory Visual EthnographySociological Research Online, 19(3) 20.

Book Chapters

Karels, M. (2016). Staging Remembrance and Trauma at the 9/11 Memorial. In K. O’Donnell (Ed.) Ruptured Voices: Trauma and Recovery. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, pp. 3-12.

Bancroft, A., Karels, M., Murray, Ó. & Zimpfer, M.J. (2014). Not Being There: Research at a Distance with Video, Text and Speech. In: M. Hand & S. Hillyard (Eds.) Big Data: Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Volume 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.137 - 153.

Karels, R. & Karels, M. (2014). Inhibitors to Play: Skill and Choice-Making by Adult Students of Long-Form Improvisational Comedy. In L. A. Barnett (Ed.) Play of Individuals and Societies. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, pp. 79-88.

Bancroft, A., Karels, M., Zimpfer, J., & Murray, Ó. (2013). Video Ethnography Case: Alcohol Consumption among Young University Students in the United Kingdom. In SAGE Research Methods Cases. London: SAGE. 


MacInnes, J., Breeze, M.,  de Haro, M., Kandlik Eltanani M., & Karels, M. (2016). Measuring Up: International case studies on the teaching of quantitative methods in the social sciences. London: British Academy. 

Conferences and Presentations

‘Visual Data: Performing Public Remembrance at the National September 11 Memorial’ (5 October 2015). Guest presentation at Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection Graduate Course, University of Edinburgh, UK.

'Staging Myth: Visitor Practices at the 9/11 Memorial’ (22 April 2015). Paper presented at Work-in-Progress Seminar, University of Edinburgh, UK.

‘Embodied Memorialising Practices at New York’s 9/11 Memorial’ (15-17 April 2015). Paper resented at British Sociological Association Annual Conference: Societies in Transition, Glasgow, UK.

‘City Life in Theory and Practice: Past, Present and Future’ (30-31 March 2015). Panel discussion member at New Directions Conference, Edinburgh, UK.

‘Present versus Missing: The Body as Boundary?’ (30-31 March 2015). Panel discussion member at New Directions Conference, Edinburgh, UK.

‘Staging Remembrance and Trauma at the 9/11 Memorial’ (22-24 March 2015). Paper presented at Trauma: Theory and Practice, 5th Global Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.

‘Visual Data: Performing Remembrance at the National September 11 Memorial’ (29 September 2014). Guest presentation at Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection Graduate Course, University of Edinburgh, UK.

'Embodied Remembrance by Design: A Comparative Study of 9/11 Memorials’ (30 May 2014). Paper presented at Remembering Violence and Violent Memory: Violence and Conflict Graduate Conference, Cambridge, UK. 

'Inhibitors to Play: Skill and Choice-Making by Adult Students of Long-Form Improvisational Comedy' (22-24 July 2013). Paper presented at Making Sense Of: Play; 2nd Global Conference, Oxford. (with Ryan Karels)

'Respect the Place Made Sacred: Dramatisation of Grief, Cultural Circuit and Public Memorialisation' (26-27 April 2012). Paper presented at New Directions Conference, Edinburgh.

Awards and Affiliations 

  • School of Social and Political Science Graduate School Scholarship 2012-2015
  • School of Social and Political Science PhD Conference and Fieldwork Fund 2015
  • Thomas J. Cuite Sr. '35 Memorial Medal for Excellence in Communications 2004 
  • Dean's Award for Academic Excellence (Grant) 2003 and 2004 
  • Organiser of the Sociology Work-in-Progress Seminar Series 2015/16
  • British Sociological Association (BSA)
  • American Sociological Association (ASA)
  • Memory Studies Association (MSA)
  • American Ranaissance Theatre Company (ARTC)
  • King's County Shakespeare Company