Sandra Bucerius, PhD 2009

Professor, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept
Director, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept


Professor, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept
(780) 492-3561
6-20 Tory (H.M.) Building
11211 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H4

Director, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept



I received my PhD from the University of Frankfurt/Germany in 2009. 

I deploy extensive qualitative research to reveal the intricacies of settings that are difficult both to access and understand: prisons, police organizations, and marginalized street and newcomer communities. Most importantly, I conduct rigorous research designed to understand criminal justice institutions through the perspectives of both those who work in them and those who encounter them, particularly those marginalized by factors related to race, gender, social class, and addictions. A key feature of my research and its success involves fostering strong collaborations with Indigenous stakeholders, wider community groups, government officials, and prison and police stakeholders across the country to confront the challenges of the criminal justice system and to translate my knowledge into best practices and create positive system changes.

I am the Director of the University of Alberta Prison Project (twitter @theUAPP)- Canada's largest mixed-methods study on life experiences in Canadian prisons. To date, we have interviewed over 800 prisoners and over 170 staff in provincial and federal prisons. While our data speak to various topics, most prominently, I am interested in general experiences of prison life, the victim-offender overlap, and how the opioid crisis is playing out behind bars and changing dynamics in prison. 

I am the Co-editor of the Oxford University Press Handbook series in Criminology (with Michael Tonry) and also serve on the discipline's flag journal (Criminology) advisory board. I am an Executive Member of the Canadian Research Network of Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS) and act as its Publication Editor. I am also on the advisory board for immigration related questions to the German government. 

My monograph "Unwanted - Muslim Immigrants, Dignity, and Drug Dealing", published by Oxford University Press in 2014 is based on five years of ethnographic research on second-generation, male, Muslim immigrants who specialized in drug trafficking in Frankfurt/Germany. It has received numerous reviews in key academic journals.

My second book, edited with Dr. Michael Tonry, is the Oxford Handbook on Ethnicity, Crime and Immigration, published with Oxford University Press in 2014.

I won the Martha Cook Piper Research Award in 2016, which recognizes two faculty members across the university in the early stage of their careers that enjoy a reputation for original research and show outstanding promise as researchers. I also won the Faculty of Arts Research Award on the Assistant Professor Level in 2016. My ethnography on drug dealers has won the 2nd place in the Deutscher Studienpreis Koerberstiftung competition in 2009 - the highest national award for social sciences dissertations in Germany. An article based on this research "What else should I do?" published in the Journal of Drug Issues in 2007, was awarded the Honory Mention of the Migration Section of the American Sociological Association (


I am currently involved in several projects:

My UofA colleague Dr. Kevin Haggerty and I are currently heading the largest qualitative study on Canadian prisons in the history of Canadian criminology. Together with our research assistants, we are examining the lived realities of prisoners and correctional officers, with a particular focus on the victim offender overlap and fentanyl in prisons. To date, we have conducted over 800 interviews with prisoners, as well as with over 170 correctional officers and staff. The project is funded by SSHRC, Killam and TSAS. Several of our graduate students are writing their MA and PhD theses on our prison data.

Together with Drs. Krahn, Berardi, and Haggerty, I am working on a project examining fentanyl related risks for police officers in both Edmonton and Calgary.

Together with Dr. Haggerty and Luca Berardi, I am co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Ethnographies of Crime and Criminal Justice - to be published by Oxford University Press in 2021. This edited collection will draw together the leading criminological ethnographers to provide overview articles as well as cutting edge case studies.  

If you are a potential graduate student interested in working on any of these projects, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Besides my scientific endeavors, I have a strong dedication to teaching and supervision. One undergraduate level at the University of Alberta I have taught:

• Introduction to Criminology - SOC 225

• Decolonialisation and Racism - SOC 370

• Crime and Public Policy -SOC 423

• Immigration, Ethnicity, and Crime -SOC 402

  • Qualitative Methods - Soc 418
  • Sociology of Prisons

Graduate student mentoring has also become a big part of my research program, and one that I take particularly seriously. I strongly believe in fostering a community and mutual learning environment among my graduate students. I am doing this, for example, by running an informal academic book club for the graduate students who are working with me in various capacities. I also employ both undergraduate and graduate students for each of my projects. By integrating them into my projects, I not only offer my students training and research experience, but also opportunities to co-author on my data and to present on my research at international conferences. 

On the graduate level I have taught SOC 622 (Crime Ethnographies), SOC 525 (Criminology) as well as co-taught a course on radicalization and on prisons (with Dr. Haggerty).