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British Sociological Association conference, 8th June 2017

On 8th June 2017, Leeds (UK), Harriet Rowley from the Manchester team will make a presentation titled “Researching youth in troubling times: mess, method and ethical puzzles”, forms of socio-accompaniment in participation and ethnography.

More information about the event here.


PARTISPACE, is an EU Horizon 2020 funded project investigating spaces and styles of youth participation across eight cities. The Men’s room is an arts and social care homelessness charity and one of the selected sites for the city case study of Manchester. PARTISPACE starts from the assumption that there is a relation between the apparent lack of participation among young people on the one hand, and the prevalence of ideological and discursive limitations of what is recognised as participation on the other.

Critical social research has a history of seeking out marginalised groups to foreshadow against mainstream perspectives but can be coercive (Batsleer, 2010).  Participatory methods offer ideal tools in operationalising the lived experiences of participants whilst art-based methods have been recognised to open up communicative possibilities rather than tokenistic gestures (Batsleer, 2011, Gatenby and Humphries, 2000).

In this context, an action research project and eight month ethnography was undertaken with the Men’s Room. To foreground the participants voices and experiences, they were positioned as the lead creators. Lost and Found aimed to highlight issues facing the homeless community through a series of art installations throughout Manchester. The project culminated in walking tours, led by the men and a film documentary was made.

The ethnographic research process was one of socio-cultural accompaniment and drew upon feminist approaches to research, attempting to subvert hierarchies of knowledge by unsettling the presumed authority of the researcher whilst engaging in reflexivity (Enria, 2016; Reinharz, 1992). This paper will interrogate methodological and ethical issues that were encountered during the research process. It will centralise on themes of voice, recognition, mutuality, agency and self-care in an attempt to explore the opportunities and limitations of democratic forms of knowledge making through the utilisation of arts-based methods.

Dr Harriet Rowley is a lecturer in Education and Community at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). She is an experienced ethnographic researcher predominantly working in education, social care and community-based settings.