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Doing ethnography or applying a qualitative technique?: Reflections from research with non-traditional, mature students in the ‘waiting field’

Mannay, Dawn ORCID: and Morgan, Melanie 2014. Doing ethnography or applying a qualitative technique?: Reflections from research with non-traditional, mature students in the ‘waiting field’. Presented at: Society for Research into Higher Education, Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, 9 December 2014.

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Contemporary social science research is often concerned to engage with and promote particular forms of postmodern and innovative data production, such as photo-elicitation, autoethnography or free association interviews. This individualisation of techniques has set up rival camps and critiques where the common ground of being embedded in traditional ethnography is often forgotten; and qualitative researchers have been distracted by ‘the technique’; a distraction that can blind them to the occupation of ethnography. Concurrently, there have been shifts in the social and economic expectations placed on qualitative inquiry that have acted to close down spaces of ethnographic teaching and practice. In response, this paper focuses on the importance of the ‘waiting field’; an opportunity to explore the times where real lives carry on before they make room for the intrusion of the data production of ‘the technique’ and remind us that much qualitative research is, in fact, an ethnographic undertaking: one that encompasses the researcher within and beyond the field. The paper is drawn from the doctoral research of the two presenters. In her four-year, Economic and Social Research Council funded study, Dawn Mannay focused on the everyday lives of mothers and daughters residing in a marginalised area in urban south Wales, UK. The research employed visual and narrative techniques of data production (Mannay, 2010) and was interested in the stigma of place, barriers to education, gendered inequalities and the role of social class (Mannay, 2011; 2013). Melanie Morgan worked in similar marginalised Welsh locales and applied psychosocial interviews to explore the subjectivities of working-class mothers in higher education; and the mechanisms and strategies this group of women use in constructing, negotiating and managing identity/subjectivity within university: and the motivation for pursuing academic success despite the emotional and practical conflicts of doing so (Mannay and Morgan, 2013). In this paper we offer reflections from our research diaries that document this waiting time; and the discoveries of others, and of self, doing ethnography in waiting spaces; which we conceptualise as the ‘waiting field’. Keywords - data production, ethnography, fieldwork, mothers, participatory methods, psychosocial, reflexivity, visual methods, higher education, mature students. References Mannay, D. 2010. Making the familiar strange: Can visual research methods render the familiar setting more perceptible?. Qualitative Research 10(1):91-111. Mannay, D. 2011. Taking refuge in the branches of a guava tree: the difficulty of retaining consenting and non-consenting participants’ confidentiality as an indigenous researcher. Qualitative Inquiry 17(10):962-964. Mannay, D. 2013. 'Who put that on there … why why why?' Power games and participatory techniques of visual data production. Visual Studies 28(2):136-146 Mannay, D. and Morgan, M. 2013. Anatomies of inequality: considering the emotional cost of aiming higher for marginalised, mature, mothers re-entering education. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education 19(1):57-75

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Uncontrolled Keywords: Qualitative Research; Ethnography; Research in Higher Education; Visual Methods; Class; Education
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2022 09:58

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