Celebrating Excellence in Research and Impact Awards 2021

Dr Anna Di Ronco

portrait photograph of Dr Anna Di Ronco

Winner: Outstanding Early Career Researcher in the Faculty of Social Sciences

Department of Sociology

Please explain your research in two sentences

My research critically analyses harmful policies and practices often used in the city to penalise and exclude marginalised groups such as sex workers, migrants, and the homeless. It also focuses on the perspectives and experiences of harm and penalisation of criminalised environmental activists – perspectives and experiences collected both through computational social media and qualitative on-the-ground research.

Why is your research important and what difference will it make?

My research has a strong potential to generate social impact in all its areas. Within my first research line, my findings aim to shape local policy and practices, minimising the harms they often cause on marginalised groups. Next, my research aims to enhance the societal understanding of the effects of repression on environmental activists, and facilitate activists’ exposure through the amplification of their message through my research findings and their dissemination.

Please provide a summary of your research achievements.

Since my employment at Essex, I co-edited two books and co-authored one. The most recent co-edited volume addresses themes engaging harms and disorder in the urban space with their social control, focusing specifically on their sensory, emotive, power and structural dimensions (Routledge, 2021). I extensively published my research in international leading criminology journals, including The European Journal of Criminology, Crime, Law & Social Change, Crime, Media & Culture, Criminology & Criminal Justice, The International Journal of Crime, Law and Justice, and Crime Prevention and Community Safety (this latter article was translated in Spanish). I wrote numerous chapters for books published by international publishers, and was invited to present papers at events and prestigious universities including: University of Pisa, Ghent University, VUB, University of Trento, University of Sassari, BGU, and CUNY. In 2017 and 2019 respectively, I was selected as Visiting Scholar at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU, Israel) and Brussels Centre for Urban Studies (VUB, Belgium). I was also successful at capturing external funding. In 2018, I was awarded two grants: one by the Sociological Review Foundation to study local prostitution policies and practices in two EU cities and their effects on sex workers and the other by the BA/Leverhulme Trust to study the relationship between online and offline representations of criminalised protest. Other awarded grants included the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account which I was awarded in 2019, and the Erasmus+ staff mobility for teaching and training awarded in 2017.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I faced the biggest challenge when researching the perspectives of criminalised environmental activists. Wanting to conduct a virtual ethnography of Twitter posts, I soon ran into the technical difficulties involved in the large-scale collection of social media material. To overcome this challenge, my research immensely benefitted from the collaboration with the computational social scientist Dr. J. Allen-Robertson, which led to the publication of two co-authored papers (one of which is currently one of my most cited papers). Thanks to this collaboration, I am now working in an exciting area of research – Data Science – to which I intend to contribute even further in future years.