Upcoming session: The Intersecting Invisible Experiences of Gypsy/Traveller Girls in Scotland

When: Wednesday, November 25th, 4pm

Where: 7 George Square, S37 (Google Maps here)

Led by Geetha Marcus

Please join us for this seminar, where Geetha will discuss her doctoral research with Scottish Gypsy/Traveller girls, with a focus on intersectional methodology. This will be an interactive, informal workshop-style seminar, with plenty of time for discussion. We are really looking forward to it! The event is open to all, but we do have limited places. Please RSVP to Cara Blaisdell at c.b.blaisdell@sms.ed.ac.uk if you would like to attend.


There has long been interest both politically and theoretically in exploring the complex relations between identity, hierarchical power and subordination.

Intersectional approaches to social locations have stressed the interdependence between different kinds of divisions as well as the tensions and contradictions within and across these social categories. In this brief presentation, I will argue that traditional unidimensional approaches to investigating experiences of oppression and subordination, particularly within marginalized communities, are inadequate.

Critically exploring the complexity of such issues through a single lens – race, gender or class, for example, is likely to produce simplistic and skewed findings.

Intersectionality is not just good research practice or a necessary heuristic device for understanding issues of power and inequality, but is increasingly viewed as a research paradigm in its own right. Drawing on the work of several key proponents of this methodological approach (Anthias, 2013; Brah & Phoenix, 2004; Crenshaw, 1991; Davis, 2008; Yuval-Davis, 2006), I propose that an intersectional framework is ideally placed to critically explore such experiences, using empirical examples from a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Scottish Gypsy/Traveller girls. Their stories are highlighted and juxtaposed alongside the general problems encountered by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland and reveal an intricate, convoluted narrative. I also problematize what it means to be ‘white’, and to be a ‘white woman’ living within ‘simultaneously interlocking oppressions’ that collectively serve to marginalise and silence lives (Brah and Phoenix, 2004; Combahee River Collective, 1977; hooks, 1981). Equally, discrepancies in levels of empowerment, public participation, media representations and respect for ethnicity are experienced at these intersections.


Keywords: Methodology, intersectionality, Gypsy/Traveller girls

(257 words)

Ethically important moments in research with children and young people: our October discussion

By Cara Blaisdell

In our October meeting, we used the idea of ‘ethically important moments’ to guide our discussion, defined as:

The difficult, often subtle, and usually unpredictable situations that arise in the practice of doing research (Guillemin and Gillam 2004, p. 262).

Following Guillemin and Gillam, we wondered how our University ethical review process had ‘matched up’ with our subsequent experience of ethics in practice. This led to a free-flowing and stimulating conversation! Some key themes that emerged:

It was not what we experienced in the field that was surprising, but how we experienced it. Many of us felt that our University ethical review matched up well with our experience, in terms of which issues came up in the field. However, this didn’t mean it was simple to deal with these issues. For example, one group member struggled to manage the expectations of the adults in the ‘host’ organisation where she conducted her research. They wanted her to provide an ongoing evaluation of their work with children and young people during her time researching, and this expectation was hard to shake. She had anticipated this in her ethical review, but the consideration she gave to the problem didn’t stop it from becoming an issue in practice. There was no easy solution, other than to keep talking about it with participants.

Our role as researchers in relationship with participants, and how to negotiate and frame these relationships in the various stages of our research. We particularly discussed the differences between ethnography—which many of us have used—and autoethnography. What is the place of our researcher ‘self’ during fieldwork, and during analysis and writing up? How do we want to present this in the written PhD? Carolyn Ellis, for example, has published a ‘methodological novel about autoethnography’. One issue that was raised was how a less conventional, perhaps novelistic writing approach could fit within the requirements of the PhD thesis. We did not come to an answer about this!

How to work with specific groups of children and young people, without reinforcing the stigma or marginalisation they may already be experiencing. One group member shared her experience working with disabled children who were in (supposedly) inclusive schooling settings. She worried that by specifically seeking out disabled children, she would be reinforcing difference in a way that made children’s everyday experiences more difficult. This was particularly a concern, because the ‘inclusive’ setting was, in some ways, not particularly inclusive. Another group member was thinking about her future research, which may focus on child poverty. She wondered about how to engage with children about this topic in a sensitive manner, while not overly assuming they would find the discussions harmful or offensive.

Finding out the rules about ethical procedures, and what is required of us. We talked about this mainly in the context of informed consent. Who decides whether we need parental consent, for example, when researching with children and young people—especially in the case of ‘older’ young people? There are many layers to this issue, including the researcher’s position, requirements from the University, and what the fieldwork setting requires (e.g. a school and a youth club might have different views on the matter, different countries may have different institutional requirements). Those of us who have dealt with the issue of parental proxy consent generally agreed that compromise was necessary in order for the research to move forward.

Thanks to all who came to this session, and contributed to such a lively and reflective discussion! Below are some readings that group members mentioned during the session. We look forward to our November meeting, where Geetha Marcus will be discussing her PhD research, on using intersectionality to research the experiences of Gypsy and Traveller girls in Scotland (Wed, November 25th at 4pm, location to be confirmed).

Readings suggested by group members:

Ellis, C. (2004) The ethnographic I: a methodological novel about autoethnography. Oxford: AltaMira Press

Holman Jones, S., Adams, T.E., and Ellis, C., eds (2013) Handbook of autoethnography. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. (particularly the introduction, for a clear understanding of the difference between ethnography and autoethnography).

Guillemin, M. and Gillam, L. (2004) Ethics, reflexivity and ‘ethically important moments’ in research. Qualitative Inquiry 10(2): 261-280.

What are some of the most valuable resources you’ve come across when approaching ethical considerations in your work? Any suggestions, comment below!