In the past few weeks, we began recording our series Place-based Methodologies @UTS, and you can listen to the first three podcasts on the Placebased Methodologies WordPress Site. Please note you will need to view this website using the latest version of Safari,Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Meet our UTS expert guests
We started with six researchers/educators from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Jonathan Jones is a Wiradjiuri and Gamilaroi man, artist, and researcher, currently working on a project with Aboriginal elders about Sydney stories. Associate Professor Paul Allatson, is a cultural studies scholar with an interest in Latin@ cultures in the Americas. Ms Leyla Stevens is a visual artist working with the moving image and DCA candidate. Associate Professor Kate Barclay is a social scientist with a focus on fisheries, aquaculture and costal conservation. Dr Angela Giovanangeli is a cultural studies scholar who studies the intersection of history and cultural diversity in cities, in particular in France. And Dr Kristine Aquino is an urban ethnographer focusing on racism, multiculturalism and the everyday life.
What we talked about
I asked them how ‘place’ as a concept, concern or just site of inquiry comes into their work, and how they go about studying it. As you can expect from the diversity of interests of our guests, the five podcasts give us a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches. Most importantly what emerges in these conversation is also the importance of respect, as Jonathan Jones, explains of understanding our own positionality as researchers and the ethics and politics of working with people with other backgrounds and often in a minorotised position.
The first podcast, with Jonathan Jones, sets the tone for this series. Jonathan defines the Wiradjuri concept of Yindyamarra, which in English translates as respect, towards people, communities, Country, cultural codes and ways of doing things. Respect also has a temporary dimension, and in this sense means taking time to sit and understand what is around, and to sit and listen respectfully.
The podcasts also give a wealth of practical advice, from using your phone as a wayfinder, accepting that the research timeframe when working in ethnographic mode can be a long one, to the importance of having a good bag, and a plan B. These practicalities are generally overlooked but can make or break a piece of work (for instance I once lugged around Italy a heavy tripod and then discovered I had left the screw knob-clamp – the bit that attaches the camera to the actual tripod, at home in Sydney).
There are of course some similarities: the first one is that nobody uses just one methodology: methodologies and methods are remixed. Jonathan spoke of the importance of learning not just with people but learning also with the environment in a more ecological sense, by taking time to be with ‘place’. Paul told us how important the experience of place through one’s senses is to be able to do a more fine-grained textual analysis. Leyla articulated how as a visual artist her creative practice is in itself a research methodology, which she combines with archival research. Kate, who mainly uses ethnographic methods, brings in her training in history and politics to close read documents. Angela spoke about doing background research before visiting sites such as museums, and supplementing these visits with interviews and photography. Kristine conveyed the complexities of researching multicultural spaces using ethnographic methods, such as interviews, participant observation and making images. The second similarity is the importance of objects: phones, cameras, recorders, pens, computers, paper, bags, pencils, notebooks. I think everyone has a set of favourite research tools, by which I mean really material tools we use in our work. What is yours?