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Paul O'Connor

I am qualitative sociologist interested in religion, urban cultures and ethnicity. Originally from the UK, I have lived and taught in Hong Kong and Prague. I am currently a Lecturer at Exeter University in the Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology Department. In addition I hold a position as Adjunct Assistant Professor in Sociology at Lingnan University,  and continue to be affiliated with Charles University.

I obtained my PhD form the University of Queensland in Sociology, studying Muslim Youth in Hong Kong. I have subsequently published two books on the sociology of religion, and numerous research articles on ethnicity, social theory, sport, and religion.

I am also a veteran skateboarder and perform research on skateboarding culture.

Author of

Palgrave (2019)

“At once insightful, questioning and provocative, Paul O’Connor’s Skateboarding and Religion takes two seemingly disconnected phenomena and shows how they are intrinsically inter-related. This massively original study will be of interest to anyone concerned with the sociology of skateboarding and other youthful practices. Very highly recommended.”

-- Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture, University College London, UK

"Paul O’Connor’s Skateboarding and Religion is an exhilarating book; it is simultaneously a challenge to all mainstream ideas about religion and religious experience, and a rich and nuanced study of the religious dimensions of skateboarding. O’Connor interrogates the origin myths of the sport, sketches portraits of the saints and mystics of the skateboarding world, profiles a diverse group of skaters from different geographical and religious contexts and offers a sophisticated reading of the aesthetics and symbolism used by skateboarders. The sacred spaces of the sport, the impulse for pilgrims to visit and engage with these sites, and the ritual dimensions of their activities are chronicled, and the text is enriched by images that make the phenomena discussed comprehensible for the reader. This original and joyous study is a major contribution to the study of contemporary religious and spiritual trends."

--- Carole M. Cusack, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Sydney, Australia

"Through a sociologist’s nuanced analysis and a skateboarder’s commitment to the daring, Paul O’Connor makes clear the often surprising religiosity that underpins skateboarding’s culture, industry, and even the act itself. This groundbreaking book will convince even the most stubbornly secular reader that skateboarding is something especially sacred in the modern world."

-Christian N. Kerr, writer and editor at Jenkem Mag

“In Skateboarding and Religion Paul O’Connor provides a valuable expansion of the sport-religion relationship bound to impact multiple interdisciplinary audiences. Most works on sport and religion focus on team and commercial sports. O’Connor’s work is unique in offering a much-needed analysis of religion in the neglected area of lifestyle sports. From the perspective of sporting subcultures, he crafts an innovative framework for understanding religion across multiple denominational, informal, commercial, geographical, and artistic practices.”

Daniel A. Grano, Professor of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, USA

“A seductive synthesis of radically different genres, O’Connor’s alchemy fuses the sociology of lifestyle sports with religious studies. This bold foray into the academic unknown requires a leap of faith which counters the notion of skateboarding as a culture of destructive iconoclasts. O’Connor’s fresh accounting of this oft demonized subculture argues that the everyday lives of skaters disturbs the sacred profane dualism of classic notions of religion, and instead should be understood as a ‘lifestyle religion’. In this view, a shared ethos of progression, sacrifice, and most critically, ritual practice establishes a ‘communitas’ that helps skaters make sense of themselves in a neo-liberal, fractured world.  Hell yeah.”

Gregory Snyder, Associate Professor of Sociology, City University of New York, USA

HKU Press (2012)

“An unexpected gem. An innovative book which explores the everyday lived reality of Muslim minorities in Hong Kong. The contemporary focus is framed by a fascinating history of South Asian Muslims which reaches back into the early 19th century. This beautifully wrought study sheds a great deal of light on a range of issues impacting Muslim minorities: from the extent of hybridity—adapting basketball spaces to cricket—to the challenge of eating halal in a culinary culture where pork is ubiquitous! Young Muslims in Hong Kong face racism and their inability to access Chinese language schools has huge implications for employment and social mobility. However, Islam is respected and they are not seen through a security lens. In all, a hopeful study.” —Philip Lewis, author of Islamic Britain and Young, British and Muslim

“There has long been a need for a book-length account of Muslims in Hong Kong; this readable and informative book admirably fills the void. Anyone interested in how Muslims make their lives and practice their faith in the Chinese city of Hong Kong should definitely read it.” —Gordon Mathews, author of Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong

“In this insightful and fascinating book, O’Connor walks us through the bustling streets of Hong Kong, where space, civility, hope and freedom are created every day by the territory’s diverse Muslims. It provides a rare glimpse into an imperfect, but perhaps ‘good enough’ cosmopolitanism, lived in the schools, homes, shops and lives of ordinary people. Amidst the worry and panic about young Muslims in diaspora as either problems or victims, this is a refreshing and much-needed account of the valuable ways a global city deals with difference. An essential text for scholars and students of youth, diversity and contemporary multiculturalism.” —Anita Harris, author of Young People and Everyday Multiculturalism

>> Autumn 2019

This year has had a lot going on. In February I hosted a 'University of Skate' forum at Lingnan University. Guests included Dr Sander Holsgens and professions skateboarders Candy Jacobs and Margie Didal. In July I moved with my family to Prague where I will be teaching at Charles University in early 2020. In August I participated in the second Pushing Boarders conference in Malmö on a fantastic panel hosted by Betsy Gordon and Gutav Eden. I also presented research on citizenship in Hong Kong at the Oriental Institute in Prague in October. So far this year I have had two new journal publications in the Journal of Urban Design, and the Sociological Review. Perhaps the biggest landmark of the year has been the publication of my second monograph 'Skateboarding and Religion' that was released in October.

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