RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


205 Doing food research: method, transdisciplinarity and reflexivity (1): The Researcher’s Role: Innovative methods, participation and transdisciplinarity
Affiliation Food Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Charlie Spring (University of Salford, UK)
Rebecca St. Clair (University of Salford, UK)
Chair(s) Charlie Spring (University of Salford, UK)
Rebecca St. Clair (University of Salford, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract Food researchers grapple with questions of climate change, systems complexity, power and justice, where the macro collapses into the micro. The researcher’s role (or search for one) often blurs into the research context, where reflexive awareness can shed light on the importance of interpersonal relationships, emotion and registers of identity/difference/privilege in negotiating ‘the field’. This can be especially the case for those aiming at participatory, action-focussed work that considers the ethics of engagement and impact, and the politics of knowledge beyond ‘policy relevance’. Furthermore, the multi-disciplinary backgrounds of many food geographers bring a wealth of methodological tools to the discipline. The process of 'borrowing' methodological tools and adapting them to fit a particular research purpose deserves its own consideration and a discussion of the potential merits and pitfalls of a transdisciplinary approach. The (incomplete) turn towards reflexivity, complexity and transdisciplinarity has opened up a rich seam of reflection for academic method and theory. These sessions will provide a safe and gentle space for such reflection. We will begin with 5-minute provocations from researchers, especially PG and ECR, to stimulate questioning and discussion of the ‘doing’ of research: topics include collaboration, participatory/action research, institutional challenges, activist scholarship and so on…
Linked Sessions Doing food research: method, transdisciplinarity and reflexivity (2): The Researcher’s Role: Ethics, reflexivity and positionality
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Multidisciplinary approaches to perception and responses to environmental change in northern Nigerian drylands
Nugun Patrick Jellason (Royal Agricultural University, UK)
Richard Baines (Royal Agricultural University, UK)
John Conway (Royal Agricultural University, UK)
By 2020 Climate change effects will impact significantly food systems of those people who depend on rain-fed agriculture such as inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa and this could reduce their food production by 50 percent according to IPCC (2007). Responding to this change will require greenhouse gas mitigation actions (IPCC, 2007) where in developing country agriculture has the highest technical mitigation potential (Bockel et al. 2011). Mitigating these greenhouse gases in agriculture will require change or adjustment to current farmer practices; whether these farmers in sub-Saharan Africa will be willing to change their local practices will depend on many factors such as farmer perceptions of risk (Mortimore, 1998), trust in the source of information (Millstone and Van Zwanenberg (2000), and extensionists also factoring in the indigenous knowledge and resilience of these smallholders (Ajani et al. 2013; Mertz et al. 2009). Hence, the need for multidisciplinary and participatory research to inform understanding of social behaviours of farmers- i.e why they do what they do while at the same time acknowledging the role of the researcher in the construction of meaning is also important. Both quantitative (household livelihood survey) and qualitative (in-depth interviews and Focus Group Discussions) methods of data collection will be employed. Initial field experiences and challenges so far will be shared.
Troubling the Mundane: Planned discussion groups and the fragmenting of coherent food narratives
Suzanne Hocknell (University of Exeter, UK)
When asked about their food habits and practices, research participants have something of a tendency to re-create coherent narratives (cf Coffey & Atkinson 1996), yet food practices are shaped by a complex interplay of material, sensory and symbolic factors (cf Fenko and Schifferstein 2012) and are entangled with the construction and presentation of self (cf Pink 2015). In order to access these tensions and translations, methodologies are needed that do more than produce a snapshot of what eaters say about their food practices. In my research I found that planned discussion groups worked to create an environment in which the participants were comfortable in having their food practices and narratives explored, challenged and unravelled by other group members. In this way discussions moved easily from deceivingly coherent descriptions of food histories and practices, to a reflexive exploration of the fragmented beliefs, values, practices, contradictions and constrictions that are entangled with the food practices of the participants. By drawing on these discussions a variety of insights emerged as to how participants perceive, remember and explain the shopping, cooking and eating habits of themselves and of others, and to the ways in which these eating practices can re-inscribe or trouble social norms.
The adolescent food space: a sociological investigation of factors influencing the construction of taste among adolescents in Trinidad and Tobago
Fareena Alladin (The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago)
The study aims to provide an understanding of the key components of the food space through which adolescents' taste and consumption practices are developed. Through the use of Bourdieu's conceptual framework and the Model of Community Nutrition Environments (Glanz et al. 2005), the study will examine the influence of six (6) main elements of the contemporary food space, namely, family consumption, media exposure, school environment, and community access to food as well as social class and gender. A quantitative approach will be utilized, through the use of questionnaires in order to collect data from a sample of the secondary school population in Trinidad and Tobago. It is also proposed to differentiate between Trinidad and Tobago in order to understand the nuances of the nation's food space. The study seeks to gain a holistic understanding of adolescent taste by encompassing the myriad elements of their food space, recognizing the need for contextually-informed data to drive health-related promotion.
Multi-sited ethnography of street food entrepreneurship in Berlin and London
Aida Baghernejad (King’s College London, UK)
Researching the emergence of artisanal small-scale entrepreneurship on street food markets after the financial crisis of 2009 in Berlin and London, I am conducting an ethnography in two countries with up to 30 interviewees and participant observation on six street food market organisations in both countries. In the open discussion I would like to introduce my approach to transfer a theoretical framework, merging wide-ranging discourses such as creative industries and self-employment, economic theory, gentrification, displacement, and spatiality in the urban economy, class and taste, and food culture, into a practical multi-sited ethnographic method and share insights on the issues arising from researching a fast-changing, growing subject such as street food markets. Since the research project is based on my master's thesis on street food and gentrification, I have already conducted extensive field work and am currently preparing the first leg of field work for this project from summer 2016 to spring/summer 2017 in Berlin. As a PhD student at the KCL German Studies department as well as the department of European Ethnology at the HU Berlin, I am based within a highly interdisciplinary research environment, where I greatly benefit from the variety of different approaches in theory and practical research.
Activist Research and Collective Cartography in Community Gardens: the fusing position and role of the researched and the researcher
Gabriel Wulff (University of Brighton, UK)
This paper showcases the methodological choice and process taken to complete the field research component of a practice-based PhD project: Mapping the Activities of Temporary Collective Gardening Initiatives. This paper is based on two six-month case studies in Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin and in R-urban, Paris. A mixed-activist-method approach was used to produce situated knowledge that would be useful for both gardeners and a growing number of researchers interested in these spaces. Collective Cartography is presented here as a shared platform, a shared language and a shared dissemination strategy for the knowledge created. Activist research enables the researcher to gain intimacy and proximity and to be sympathetic to the activists' needs, thus ensuring that the knowledge produced is both useful for the academic community as well as responding to local needs. In turn, this places the researcher at the center of the activists' work, a privileged position for observation. This paper will present an example of the changing landscape in which academics find themselves involved. Specifically, it will focus on how practice-based research is well suited for decolonizing conventional methods and positions.
The person-place relationship in the research interview
Lucy Wright (University of Hull, UK)
This contribution focuses on providing insights from conducting semi-structured interviews with the project organisers of urban agriculture projects in Kingston Upon Hull and Copenhagen. The specific emphasis will be on 'the place of interviewing' and the role, practicalities and rich data implications of interviewing in place (urban agriculture project site), across place (between site and interview location) and in an other place (interview location). This is particularly relevant due to the ephemeral nature of urban agriculture projects and overcoming data disparity between project case studies including those, which have a growing site, are seeking a site and others, which are moving site. Furthermore the proposed contribution will be grounded in examples from the empirical data to provoke discussion about the person-place relationship in conducting research.
The use of creative and arts-based methods and Participatory Action Research within food-related research
Ruth Segal (University of Sussex, UK)
Rachael Taylor (University of Sussex, UK)
Bella Wheeler (University of Sussex, UK)
We will discuss the use of creative and arts-based methods and Participatory Action Research within food-related research and initiatives. We will consider why such methods might be particularly appropriate for food-related research, especially in engaging with community groups and understanding people's experience of their local food contexts. We will reflect on both the challenges and the potential of using creative methods to engage with non-academics on the topic of food, and to work across disciplines, and consider the benefits of these methods beyond research.
Mixed methododologies in researching food saving/sharing
Mustafa Hasanov (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
This contribution discusses the use of mixed methodologies, including participatory action research and q-sort in researching food saving/sharing by food retailers. Different levels of observation and involvement are also considered.
Digital Conscientization: Digital film, young film-makers and food futures in Rio and London
Dorothea Kleine (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Rita Afonso (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Naomi Shoba (Ovalhouse, UK)
Daniel Heirs (InSpire, UK)
The ESRC Food Futures 2.0 project used Participatory Video to engage young people from housing estates in London and favelas in Rio de Janeiro in a mutual dialogical exchange about their views on sustainable and just food futures. Working with community organisations Ovalhouse Theatre and InSpire in London and Observatorio de Favelas in Rio we held digital film workshops. The workshops followed a participatory video practice as inspired by Paulo Freire, with rapid iteration building confidence and dialogue developing criticality. We subsequently ran a film competition, with the winning team of film-makers in each city visiting the other city to screen their films, discover food cultures and explore the nexus of inequality, sustainability and food. Inner-London film-makers travelled to Rio to meet young film-makers from the favelas there. Methodologically, challenges included a) the synchronous use of group technology (camcorder; joint editing) with individualised everyday media use (filming on cameraphones, instagram) and b) the challenge of integrating technology in discursive and exploratory fieldtrip activities related to food in an enhancing, rather than an "attention-sucking" way.