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Ethnography in inaccessible fields: drawing on visual approaches to understand the private space of the home

Mannay, Dawn ORCID: 2018. Ethnography in inaccessible fields: drawing on visual approaches to understand the private space of the home. Kleinknecht, Steven W., van den Scott, Lisa-Jo K. and Sanders, Carrie B., eds. The Craft of Qualitative Research, Toronto, Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press,

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Hammersley and Atkinson (2007:3) offer a parsimonious explanation of the craft of ethnography as involving fairly lengthy contact with people in everyday, rather than experimental contexts; which involve participant observation and/or relatively open-ended interviews and the analysis of artefacts and documents associated with their lives. A process that for Van Maanen (2009:16) attempts to put into writing ‘what it is like to be somebody else’. Traditional forms of the ethnographic craft have explored multiple fields such as opera, capoeira and educational institutions (Atkinson 2006; Delamont, 2006; Ward 2016); however, some sites remain inaccessible. As Lincoln (2012) argues, the home is a type of sanctuary, which is particularly impervious to forms of qualitative study. There is often a symbolic ‘No Entry’ sign above the doorways to private spaces, which mean that it is difficult for researchers to engage in forms of sustained observation; and interviews, rather than participant observation, become a necessary alternative. Qualitative interviews have significant value and they can be enhanced with participant observation on the edges of public spaces of family life, such as the park and sports fields (Doucet 2006). Conducting interviews within the home can also be supplemented by appreciating the spaces in-between, making fieldnotes and reflecting on the ‘waiting field’ when we are with participants in their homes before and after interviews, and in ‘spaces of interruption/disruption’ (Mannay and Morgan 2015). However, the home has many spaces and routines that the researcher may not be physically present to witness, particularly those that are mundane and so imbued with familiarity that they become overlooked and invisible. Accordingly, this chapter will centralise the ways in which qualitative visual modes of data production can facilitate new insights into the impervious sanctuary of the home, its objects, practices and mundanity. The chapter will discuss how I became involved with visual approaches, and highlight the advantages associated with their application.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Uncontrolled Keywords: home; visual methods; ethnography; qualitative research; qualitative methods; mothers
Publisher: Canadian Scholars’ Press
ISBN: 9781773380971
Funders: ESRC
Date of Acceptance: 28 February 2018
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2024 11:00

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