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Reflections on Innovative Methods for Researching Societal Inequalities

On Wednesday 15th November 2017, the BSA Postgraduate Forum hosted our annual autumn event, this time on the theme ‘Innovative Methods for Researching Societal Inequalities’. Here, PG Forum Co-convenor Kate Haddow reflects on the day.

For more highlights, see the Twitter hashtag #BSAPGMethods

This was myself and Emmaleena’s first event as postgraduate convenors for the British Sociological Association and we were nervous but excited for what lay ahead. In planning the day we had deviated from more traditional conferences, we created plenty time for open discussions and we encouraged some hands on activities.

The day kicked off with Dr Umut Erel, who shared with us her experiences of employing participatory theatre methods in studying gender, migration and citizenship. Umut discussed the advantages of engaging marginalised participants through theatre methods. She further shared with us her thoughts on the practicalities of using theatre methods when the researcher does not come from an arts background, and on making the research accessible for participants with no recourse to public funds.

Next was Dr Helen Kara. I was really looking forward to hearing what Helen had to offer to our event, as she had just recently just published a book on the very topic of creative methods. As I thought, Helen did not disappoint; Helen offered us an overview of some of the bigger questions surrounding innovative methods, such as what innovative methods are and when to use them. Helen also offered our delegates some of her top tips and gave some more tailored advice to help with their own research.

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Helen had asked us to provide some pipe cleaners for everyone, which had us all intrigued. Helen wanted to emphasise that we are all creative, as many of us complain that we are not, me being one of them. We picked three pipe cleaners up and Helen asked us to use the pipe cleaners to describe our relationship with our research. I did sit for at least a minute staring at three aluminous pipe cleaners thinking “help!”, but I did make something. Our delegates made some great little pieces and a few of us presented our pipe cleaning master-pieces to the group.

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After lunch the afternoon started with Professor Azrini Wahidin who gave us a detailed oversight about carrying out ethnographic research. Azrini told us how demanding ethnography can be and that she herself worked incredibly hard working long, unsociable hours in a prison in order to conduct research. I think this all got us thinking of how demanding research can be, as it rarely is a 9am-5pm Monday to Friday job. Last but certainly not least was Dr Sanjay Sharma who talked to us about using Twitter in the study of racism. What surprised me about Sanjay’s research was the complexities of using digital methodologies, and how complicated the ethical considerations were in this research.

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