Researching Participation: Dimensions of Time and Space in Methodological Perspective

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Howard DAVIS, Bangor University, United Kingdom
Robin MANN, Bangor University, United Kingdom
David DALLIMORE, Bangor University, United Kingdom
Marta EICHSTELLER, Bangor University, United Kingdom
In a three-year study of participation in local civil society in two localities in Wales, the authors set out to explain how volunteering, collective action and participation in local associational life are embedded in place and how they are changing over time. The rich tradition of community studies and other place-based ethnographies has typically generated data from a variety of sources, including elements of life stories and narratives. The present project made a deliberate choice to use autobiographical narrative interviews and narrative ethnography to capture temporal aspects of participation, including social and spatial mobility, occupational trajectories, and variations in engagement across life stages. These interviews took place alongside participant observation of local events and meetings, informal conversations, a local survey, and analysis of local media and archive materials. The paper reflects on the experience of using this research design and the interactions between the different forms of data, comparing examples from autobiographical narratives with examples from the ethnographic data. The research reveals significant complexity in patterns of participation and belonging both in the present and over the life course. Biographical data is particularly appropriate for understanding the social embeddedness or dis-embeddedness of participation and its salience in actors’ lives. Ethnographic data is essential for understanding institutional contexts and their meanings. The paper explores questions of method and interpretation including the relationship between ethnographic time and biographical time, types of biographical interview, and the complementarities (or dissimilarities) between ethnographic and biographical data concerning sites of participation, actors, organisations and events.