Staff profile

Dr Rachel Rafferty

Lecturer in Sociology

Rachel wearing a blue shirt, standing in a classroom, smiling


Social Sciences


College of Business, Law and Social Sciences

Research centre

Better Society





My role is focussed on teaching social science subjects and conducting social research. I have a professional background in peacebuilding and conflict resolution and before joining the University of Derby I worked as a lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies in New Zealand.

I aim to bring a global perspective to my teaching, as I have lived and worked in many different countries. I am also committed to the idea of public sociology – I believe that sociology can contribute to building more peaceful and inclusive societies.

My research expertise lies in understanding why people respond differently to social conflict. I explore why some try to resolve differences peacefully while others turn to hatred and violence. I have also carried out research into refugees’ experiences of resettlement.

Teaching responsibilities

I teach across the social sciences, on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. I teach about subjects such as group identities and conflict, social theory and designing social research. My specialisms include war and violence, social change and research methods. I also have an interest in migration and refugees that I bring in to the classroom where appropriate.

In my teaching, I challenge students to think carefully and critically about the world we live in. I link academic ideas to real-life case studies and encourage students to propose their own solutions to social problems such as intergroup violence and systemic inequalities.

Research interests

I have a strong commitment to understanding how people can live together peacefully, with respect for diversity, due to my personal experiences of growing up in Northern Ireland during the violence of the Troubles. My areas of expertise include collective memory in ethnic conflicts, peace activism, and refugee resettlement. I use a range of research methods, such as in-depth interviews, surveys and case studies. My work has been published in a number of international academic journals, and I have written book chapters for major publishers such as Springer Palgrave and Routledge.

Currently, I am leading a research project to investigate how different interpretations of the history of a conflict can impact political attitudes in post-conflict societies. I hope the findings will be relevant to many societies experiencing division and conflict over how history is represented. I am also involved in international research collaborations on topics including leadership in intractable conflicts and refugee access to higher education.

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

Experience in industry

Before I moved into an academic career I gained several years of work experience in the charity sector. I worked for over five years on co-ordinating community peacebuilding projects in post-conflict Northern Ireland. This work involved activities such as facilitating dialogues between different religious groups, coordinating collaborative art projects and working with schools and teachers to promote peace education. 

I have also worked with New Zealand Red Cross in the past, coordinating youth humanitarian projects including setting up a homework club for Syrian refugees. During my time in New Zealand, I undertook mediation training and worked as a volunteer peer mediator while I was a PhD student. 

As an academic researcher, I have worked on research projects for government and charity organisations. This has included researching mens’ experiences of refugee resettlement in collaboration with New Zealand Red Cross, and contributing to a report for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia.

Recent publications

Peacebuilding and conflict resolution

Refugee resettlement