Researching the Ordinary: The Extraordinary Sociological Research of Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 49
Oral Presentation
John GOODWIN , University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Henrietta O'CONNOR , University of Leicester, United Kingdom
The lives and works of many sociologists have now been well documented and explored yet even when these biographical accounts are combined with boarder authoritative accounts of the discipline this ‘standard history’ is by no means a fully complete nor an uncontentious one. There are numerous others who have made, or continue to make, an outstanding contribution to the understanding of social life but who have become lost within the minutia of academic historiographies. As such considerably more needs to be done to examine the history of our discipline and reassess the significant contributions made by ‘other’ researchers so that we may also reappraise what can be learnt from these ordinary sociologistsIn this paper we argue that Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980) is one such researcher whose contribution to sociology, and the sociologies of youth and community in particular, is suitable for reassessment. Her books - Girls Growing Up (1942), Rising Twenty (1948) Some Young People (1954) Married Women Working (1962), A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill (1964), Time of One’s Own (1967) and Homes in High Flats (1971) – were both formative for many themes within sociology of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, as well have having contemporary relevance despite being largely forgotten. Focusing on two books in particular - Time of One’s Own (1967) and Homes in High Flats (1971) and data collected over a ten-year period from various archives and Universities, we discuss (i) Jephcott’s sociological practice based on ‘reality congruent’ theory developed in order that she may cast a lens on the realities of working class life. She wrote richly detailed studies that offered an unsentimentalreflection of ‘lived realities’, of the ordinary, of the mundane, of the quotidian; and(ii) Jephcott’s methodological innovation and pluralism in the use of text, image and non-standard data sources that mark her out as being sociologically ‘ahead of her time’. Jephcott was an ordinary researcher researching the ordinary but her legacy is anything but ordinary.