Workshop Synopsis: Methods (as enactments of relations)

PGF RGS-IBG Mid-Term Conference 2015, University of Sheffield
Facilitated by Suzanne Hocknell,
(SCGRG Postgraduate Representative).

The workshop was an interactive pedagogical session aiming to explore how different methodological approaches not only describe but are performative, participating ‘in the enactment of…realities’ (Law 2004: 45). It is important that researchers reflect on methodologies as ‘enactments of relations – that make some things (representations, objects, apprehensions) present ‘in-here’, whilst making others absent ‘out-there’’ (Law 2004: 14).

Each participant selected a broad area of sub-disciplinary research interest. This enabled us to settle into four groups – urban geographies, food communities, mobilities, and development geographies – each with between two and six members.   Individually we spent ten minutes drawing what we considered to be the key challenge in our research area, before summarising this drawing in a tweet. Each sub-disciplinary group then took a further ten minutes to explain their drawings to each other, and discuss the common themes that were emerging.  In the latter twenty-five minutes of the workshop, we continued to work within our groups in order to co-design a research project around the themes we had identified.

Within our groups, we shared our knowledges and experiences of doing research so as to think about the advantages and limitations of a range of methodological approaches to the imagined research project, who and what different methods include and exclude from consideration, and how different approaches enact different relations.

In summary, in addition to the pedagogical exercise of exploring the limitations of different methods and approaches to research, this workshop encouraged participants to communicate their research in a concise and meaningful way. Further, sharing our knowledges and experiences of doing research ‘to create something new and find commonalities across boundaries’ (workshop feedback), facilitated networking with other PhD researchers working within our respective sub-disciplines.

References: Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Routledge: Abingdon.

(The interactive format for this workshop was inspired by the facilitator’s participation in a session run by Agatha Herman at the Food Justice Conference, University of Reading 2014).

Suzanne Hocknell is a third year ESRC funded PhD Candidate at the University of Exeter supervised by Dr Ian Cook and Professor Steve Hinchliffe.  Her research focuses on knowledges and practices of food.  More specifically her PhD work investigates how margarine is done in industry, and in the home; as well as engaging craft methodologies to create space for exploring other ways of knowing and practicing margarine.  Suzanne is currently a postgraduate representative for the Social & Cultural Geography Research Group (SCGRG) of the RGS-IBG.