Meet our PhD candidates: Irene van Oorschot | Sociology

In the first edition of the second series of 'Meet our PhD candidates' Irene van Oorschot of the Department of Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam tells us about her research project on sentencing practices of 'police-judges' (Dutch: politierechters) in a dutch criminal court. Using ethnographic methods, she aims to approach sentencing as a socially and materially embedded practice. 

From an early age, Irene was always looking for explanations for all manner of things that are taken for granted in society, such as for instance inequalities between kinds of people. Having obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, she decided to make the switch from quantitative to qualitative research for her research-based Master’s degree. An ethnographic study of qat consumption in Sana’a, Yemen, was her first foray into ethnography, but she immediately knew she had found her métier.

“This was the form in which I wanted to conduct research,” Irene says. “Ethnography enables you to follow practices in the here-and-now. It can throw light on dimensions that can disappear in a lot of research within the social sciences if only experimental settings are used, or in surveys with pre-structured response categories.”