Kathleen O'Reilly

Kathleen O'Reilly


Presidential Impact Fellow


  (979) 845-7141

  Eller O&M 812A


Kathleen O’Reilly, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Texas A&M University Presidential Impact Fellow. Before joining TAMU in 2006, she served on the faculty of the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign (Geography, 2 years)  nd was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky (Geography, 2 years). She has more than 25 years of experience in designing, managing, and building multidisciplinary teams to conduct research on gender, water and sanitation (WASH) interventions in rural and urban India; her embeddedness in Indian society facilitates an in-depth understanding of internal community and household dynamics. She is trained as a feminist geographer, ethnographer, and South Asia  scholar, with a focus on human-environment interactions as they pertain to gendered access to resources, including: natural resources (e.g., water); infrastructure (e.g., latrines); and sources of power, both formal (e.g., community-level governance) and informal (e.g, decision-making within households). Her work on India's WASH interventions includes: 1) from implementation to post-project stability; 2) evaluating success and sustainability; 3) open defecation practices; and 4) potential of latrine access to alleviate women and girls' psychosocial stress. She has directly investigated the implications of changing water resource governance and inadequate sanitation for marginal groups, particularly women and lowest tastes. Her research highlights the need to understand the complexities of social relations and the importance of intersectionality as they pertain to spatial patterns of infrastructure distribution and access, due to their critical role in the adoption of sanitation, gender equality, and drinking water governance in the global south. Dr. O’Reilly’s research has been funded by, among others: a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (US); Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (UK) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (UNOPS); and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (US). The BMGF-sponsored project on successful sanitation produced the 'Toilet Tripod' as a replicable framework for evaluating existing sanitation conditions/projects, and the design of new ones suited to specific implementation contexts (O’Reilly and Louis, 2014).

Selected Publications

  • Truelove, Y. and K. O’Reilly. 2020 online. “Making India’s Cleanest City: Sanitation, Intersectionality, and Infrastructural Violence.”  Environment and Planning E

  • O’Reilly, K. 2018. “The influence of land use changes on open defecation in rural India” Applied Geography 99: 133-139

  • Jepson, W., Budds, J., Eichelberger, L., Harris, L., Norman, E., O’Reilly, K., Pearson, A., Shah, S., Shinn, J., Staddon, C., Stoler, J., Wutich, A., and S.L. Young. 2017. “Advancing Human Capabilities for Water Security: A Relational Approach.” Water Security 1: 46-52.
  • Kulkarni, S., O’Reilly, K., and S. Bhat. 2017. “Sanitation vulnerability: Women’s stress and struggles for violence-free sanitation.” Gender and Development 25(2): 167-183
  • O’Reilly, Kathleen, *Dhanju, R., and *E. Louis. 2017. “Subjected to Sanitation: Caste Relations and Sanitation Adoption in Rural Tamil Nadu.” The Journal of Development Studies 53(11): 1915-1928.
  • *Dhanju, R., and O’Reilly, K. 2017. “‘I know, I live here!’ Poor women and the work of empowerment.” Development in Practice 27(7): 940-951.
  • O’Reilly, K., and ‡Mitchell, S. 2017. “Bisexual politics and spaces: An on-campus discussion.” Women’s Studies: An International Journal 46(5): 495-505.
  • O’Reilly, K., *Dhanju, R., and *A. Goel. 2017. “Exploring ‘The Remote’ and ‘The Rural’: Open Defecation and Latrine Use in Uttarakhand, India.” World Development 93: 193-205.
  • Kulkarni, S., O’Reilly, K., and S. Bhat. 2017. Sanitation Vulnerability: Women’s stress and struggles for violence-free sanitation. Development & Change
  • O’Reilly, K. 2016. “From toilet insecurity to toilet security: Creating safe sanitation for women and girls.” WIREs Water 3: 19-24.
  • O'Reilly, K. and Louis, E. 2014. The Toilet Tripod: Understanding successful toilet adoption in rural India. Health & Place 29: 43-51.
  • O’Reilly, K. and R. Dhanju. 2014. Public taps and Private connections: neoliberal water governance and the re-production of caste distinction in north India. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 39(3): 373-386.
  • O’Reilly, K. and R. Dhanju. 2012. Hybrid drinking water governance: Community participation and ongoing neoliberal reforms in rural Rajasthan, India. Geoforum 43:623–633.
  • O’Reilly, K. 2010. “Combining sanitation and women’s empowerment in water supply: An example from Rajasthan.” Development in Practice 20(1): 45-56. 20th anniversary issue.
  • O’Reilly, K. 2006. “‘Traditional’ women, ‘modern’ water: Linking gender and commodification in Rajasthan, India.” Geoforum 37: 958-972.


Ph.D. Geography, University of Iowa, 2002

M.S. Geography, University of Alabama, 1996

B.M. Voice Performance, Westminster Choir College, 1989



Presidential Impact Fellow

Texas A&M University



Distinguished Achievement Award (College Level): Teaching

Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University



Distinguished Achievement Award for Faculty Teaching

College of Geosciences, Texas A&M University



Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award, Nominee

Graduate Student Council and College of Geosciences Nominee, Texas A&M University


Additional Information

Current students

SouYeon Nam

Aaron Lira


  • Association of American Geographers
  • Rajasthan Studies Group
  • Society for Applied Anthropology

Graduate Director

Prospective students please email: grad-director@geog.tamu.edu

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