RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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294 Over-Researched Places
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Participatory Geographies Research Group
Political Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Cat Button (Newcastle University, UK)
Gerald Taylor Aiken (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
Chair(s) Cat Button (Newcastle University, UK)
Timetable Friday 31 August 2018, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Main Building - Small Chemistry Lecture Theatre
Session abstract Certain places are magnets for researchers and sometimes we bump into other researchers or share interview appointments with them. The ‘Ghosts of Researchers Past’ linger at case study sites and traces are present in the work we produce. There has been recent interest in the problems of large numbers of researchers in places as diverse as Hackney (Neal et al, 2016), the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in Lebanon (Sukarieh & Tannock, 2013), and Transition Towns (Taylor Aiken, 2017). This body of literature is focused primarily on reasons that particular places are popular or on research fatigue of respondents. There is a need for reflexive interrogation of the issue of this researcher saturation and its consequences. The research itself, and theory building more widely, can be weaker where it is over-reliant on examples which may prove to be outliers or the applicability of generalisations over-claimed. Over-research also produces a sample bias: familiar cases are easier to communicate to other researchers; possibly easier to publish; or conversely, researchers wring dry popular cases. This also raises questions on the nature of research itself: is it possible to over-research anything, or is seeming over-research just poor research? We could even ask if the research encounter is singular.

This session explores the consequences of theory being developed from research on places that are saturated with other researchers from multiple disciplines. Papers bring case studies of urban or rural landscapes across the world to address such issues as: Theoretical links and implications; Methods and Positionality; Research (and researcher) fatigue; Researching researchers; Encounters. Papers use reflexive approaches and consider the conceptual complications of researching in researcher-saturated landscapes.

Neal, S, Mohan, G, Cochrane, A & Bennett, K 2016 ‘You can’t move in Hackney without bumping into an anthropologist’: why certain places attract research attention Qualitative Research 16(5) 491-507.
Sukarieh, M & Tannock, S 2013 On the problem of over-researched communities: The case of the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in Lebanon. Sociology, 47(3), pp.494-508.
Taylor Aiken, G 2017 Social Innovation and Participatory Action Research: A Way to Research Community? European Public and Social Innovation Review 2(1).
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
La Duchère, Lyon France : an over-researched place that ignores itself
Bianca Botea (Université Lyon 2, France)
Laetitia Mongeard (Université Lyon 2, France)
Lise Serra (University of La Réunion, France)
La Duchère in Lyon, France, can be seen as an over-researched place as the first large city project launched by the Urban Renewal Agency (ANRU) in 2000, located near by the center of Lyon, a main university city where many researchers work and live. Urban workers themselves called for research projects and welcomed them.

We thus counted 28 research projects from 1996 to nowadays in 11 disciplines. This finding led us to a multidisciplinary new research project where three of us, researchers working or having worked on La Duchère made a call for all the researchers having worked on this field in order to reflect on our presences on this same site and our non-wanted or unknown interaction.

Why and how do researchers chose this fieldwork? What were they seeking for and what have they actually found? Furthermore, did they modify, by their research, the neighborhood? Can we go back on past studies, looking to ourselves as part of the fieldwork, transforming it by being and acting within it? What were their links to people working and living in La Duchère?

The first result of this call is that it seems quite difficult for researchers to consider not only the concrete results of their research or their methodology but also the way in which knowledge occurs. Because, in fact, the problematic of the fields which concentrate a large number of researchers refers to the conditions of manufacture of science: how does the researcher produce the knowledge? From which field? By what relations with "actors"? As an actor himself?

The communication will be based on a dialogue between us three researchers whose path have crossed on a same fieldwork and who are reflecting on it some years later.
Ajorpoq! – too many researchers and not enough answers. Dealing with over-researched places in Arctic Studies
Marine Duc (Bordeaux Montaigne University, France)
Beatrice Collignon (Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France)
The Arctic has attracted Westerners since the early 1900s, including researchers. Paradoxically, despite the amount of studies accumulated (54.000 papers published between 1900 and 2018), the idea of the Arctic as uncharted endures feeding projects inspired by the mainstream issues of the period. Since 2000, the general research agenda around global change has translated into programs that concentrate on climate change and economic development.

As a result, Arctic studies have been constantly increasing: between 1997 and 2015, Arctic related publications indexed in the Web of Science have risen by 168%.

The combination of privileged research topics, accessibility and local networks built by generations of scholars results in some places becoming “hot spots” of Arctic studies, when other areas remain outside of Western science scope, like blanks on a map.

This paper will address three issues raised by such situation. (1) The unevenness of knowledge about the Arctic and its implication on general theory building. (2) The strategies developed locally to respond to the growing presence of academics conducting fieldwork in their homeland. (3) The diverging expectations regarding the knowledge produced, where Arctic inhabitants constantly voice their disappointment towards the answers the research they support in many various ways provides.

Overcoming over-research: ethical and methodological reflections from Sydney’s ‘petri dish’
Alistair Sissons (University of Sydney, Australia)
Laura Wynne (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Jenna Condie (University of Western Sydney, Australia)
Pratichi Chatterjee (University of Sydney, Australia)
This paper relates our ethical and methodological reflections from four respective (though somewhat intertwined) research projects grounded in the study of the Sydney neighbourhood of Redfern-Waterloo. This neighbourhood – two contiguous suburbs in the city’s inner-south – has received persistent streams and periodic torrents of scholarly enquiry for nearly 50 years. The area contains large tracts of social housing in an otherwise gentrified landscape, and has for decades been a locus of Aboriginal and working-class activism and organising. It has also been a long-term fixation of urban redevelopment strategies and plans, the latest iteration leading each of us to the area. In critically reflecting on our experiences so far, we set out some potentially productive pathways for conducting research in such a place. Over-researched places are often essentialised and studies often recruit many of the same participants, and as such we point to the need for engagement with under-researched subjects and agendas within over-researched places, and for more comparative analyses of over-researched and under-researched places. Furthermore, we call for more action research and for activism within our own institutional structures to shift academic research away from detached enquiry and toward more collaborative and rewarding modes of research participant engagement.
Over-Researched Places: two perspectives from different contexts
Goran Vodicka (The University of Sheffield, UK)
The challenges of over-researched places are clearly related to the issues of research quality and theory building. This paper focuses particularly on the ethics of engagement within over-researched places as a significant challenge. However, it will further argue that it is the approaches to such ethical issues, in these kinds of contexts, which may influence whether the quality of the research can be defined as ‘weaker’ or ‘stronger’.

Moreover, the paper raises further questions related to the consequences of various types of research, including research being done in the localities not only by academics but also by students, representatives of local and national authorities, journalists from various media etc. The discussion will include an exploration of issues of positionality and the challenges and opportunities related to different research methods.

This paper will offer reflexive insights into the abovementioned issues based on two research projects that I have been engaged in. Both took place in over-researched contexts, but I approach them from two different perspectives: one perspective is that of a participant in post-conflict research based in the context of the Balkans; and the other is that of a researcher in a UK based engaged research project in a culturally and ethnically diverse neighbourhood.

Researching the ‘greenest city’
Samuel Mössner (University of Munster, Germany)
Rob Krueger (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA)
In this presentation we address the limited focus on best-practices that occurs within eco-city research. On their search for the ‘greenest city’, researchers often concentrate on a limited number of cities worldwide. Therefore, cities such as Freiburg, Kopenhagen, Amsterdam or Växjö are widely hailed as models of sustainable urban development and in return attract researchers from around the world again.

In this presentation we discuss two consequences: First, we noticed that city administration and policy-makers are not un-aware of the constant flow of academic tourist travelling to their city. They have arranged a set of practices and tools that sustain these researchers. As a consequence, academic research is transformed into an important part of urban branding and marketing. Second, we argue that this is supported by a series of global and international organizations, funding institutions and global awards that re-produce the narratives of the ‘greenest city’.