However, protraction is threatened in an academic climate where external market contingencies create a neoliberal climate of competitiveness Gill and continue to stress the business case for continual research output, which can erode rigorous qualitative inquiry Mannay and Morgan These temporal restrictions raise questions about what can be achieved and whether such time-bounded work can be called ethnographic. Consequently, researchers need to find techniques that can still generate ethnographic understandings of their field of inquiry.
Many have turned to qualitative interviewing, but this approach has been critiqued. However, interviews do not have to be an alternative to or incongruous with ethnography.
For example, Sherman Heyl argues that the technique of interviewing can be framed as an ethnographic undertaking. Visual data production and other qualitative creative techniques can also be particularly useful when ethnographic fieldwork closes down opportunities for observation Abrahams and Ingram ; Hodges ; Lincoln ; Mannay and project timeframes are contracted Mannay et al. Accordingly, this paper explores the potentialities of visual methods to counter the barriers of short-term, small-scale research projects and allow more nuanced insights into the private and public spaces of pregnancy and parenting.
Additionally, the open nature of the visual tasks empowered participants to raise topics outside of the research agenda, which informed the design of later funding applications and studies. In relation to the limitations of the timeframe of their studies, the researchers deliberately applied for multiple funding opportunities within the wider theme of parenthood, resulting in four separate but linked studies. All of the studies involved two of the authors as co-applicants, Mannay and Grant, who were joined by the five remaining authors in specific research projects.
This decision was related to historical and contemporary moral panics around working-class parents in Wales.
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This claim of inadequate parenting negated the actual cause, extreme poverty and lack of ventilation, hot water, drainage, and sanitation. It also established a moral imperative to educate, civilize, and police Welsh working-class communities Aaron et al.
These dominant discourses of lack remain pervasive, and the practice and performance of motherhood continues to operate within asymmetrical gendered and classed spaces in Wales Mannay ; Morgan , and in the UK more widely, working-class mothers are often subject to more scrutiny and criticism Scott and Mostyn ; Skeggs ; Tyler Therefore, study one 2 was interested in intergenerational accounts of infant feeding practices.
Six mothers of infants aged under thirty months and their own mothers the grandmothers participated in the fieldwork. Intergenerational dyad interviews Clendon were conducted with five dyads, and one intergenerational pair preferred to be interviewed separately. Artifacts were selected rather than other forms of visual data production as we did not want to ask participants to engage with time-consuming or complex pre-tasks given the pressures of new motherhood.
Four mothers and three grandmothers brought a range of artifacts, including bottles, breast pumps, infant clothing, photographs, and books. All of the elicitation interviews around these visual artifacts were conducted by Marzella, who had previously conducted a similar study Marzella Marzella did not have any children, and this was seen as advantageous as there could be no direct comparisons between infant feeding practices, which could have acted to frame the interview discussion and position one method of feeding as more acceptable.
Study two 3 was interested in the everyday practices of young motherhood in relation to wider mediated forms of idealized and stigmatized parenting. Mannay conducted two focus groups with three mothers in each group; mothers had given birth to their first child between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two, and four of the participants had been previously living in homeless hostels or mother and baby units. Toward the end of the focus groups, a series of ten images were introduced depicting photographs of mothers and babies that had been drawn from Google images using the terms mother and baby or young mother and baby.
Photo elicitation Collier enabled participants to explore and discuss wider conceptualizations of motherhood and reflect on the semiotics of the two sets of images, the disjuncture between the sets, and how they were framed as young mothers by general publics. Study three 4 extended the study two activities with a focus on the everyday practices of young parenthood. The study involved an analysis of images that examined the representation of contemporary forms of motherhood in relation to social class and age, which have been reported elsewhere.
Of interest here was its inclusion of further qualitative interviews, drawing on the photo-elicitation activity employed in study two. Creaghan conducted a focus group with four fathers, three aged between twenty-three and twenty-eight and one father aged thirty-nine; their partners were in their early twenties. The individual interviews included additional questions around the differences and similarities of being a younger and older mother.
The proposal for study four 5 reflected the emphasis that mothers had placed on the experience of pregnancy in the earlier studies. The study worked with ten mothers who were less than thirty weeks pregnant in their initial interview, with a follow-up interview conducted before the birth.
Prior to the first interview, seven of the women created a timeline that facilitated a life history interview Adriansen ; Berends ; Mannay and Creaghan They could engage with one, both, or none of these pre-tasks depending on their own personal preferences. During the second interview, participants discussed the pre-activities, and nine women completed a sandboxing exercise Lowenfeld ; Mannay, Staples, and Edwards to metaphorically illustrate the impact of pregnancy on their everyday lives.
In contrast to study one, when a researcher who was not a mother was selected to work with participants, in the sandboxing activity, the shared experience of motherhood was used to facilitate discussion around these topics. The researchers were either pregnant, Gallagher, or already had children, Mannay and Morgan. In the sandboxing activity, both researcher and participant built a sand scene using a tray filled with sand and figures and miniatures, including animals, people, fantasy figures, everyday objects, trees, and fences. The interview could then form more of a discussion between two women about their differential understandings of this shared physiological experience.
The four studies combined generated a rich seam of data; twenty-four artifacts were brought to the interviews, and participants produced seven timelines, four collages, six word bubble activities, and nine sandboxes. There were over twenty-nine hours of recorded discussions that generated approximately , transcribed words. Data production and analysis were conducted concurrently, with emergent themes being explored in future interviews and focus groups.
The visual products created by participants, which were photographed at the point of data production, acted as tools of elicitation rather than objects of analysis per se; however, they were considered in the analysis to clarify and extend the associated interview transcripts. All interview and focus group data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed applying a thematic framework, allowing codes, categories, and themes to be constructed from the data. Creative methods are often positioned as participatory. However, there is a danger of linking the visual with the participatory, not least because visual and narrative outputs cannot speak for themselves and they are produced through dynamic and unequal relationships Lomax et al.
However, the introduction of creative approaches did engender participatory elements and allowed more time for reflection and engagement, enabled participant-led discussions, shifted the focus of the interviews beyond the perceptions of the research teams, and broadened out the field of inquiry. The introduction of artifacts in study one enabled an extension of time and space within the temporal constraints and fixed positioning of the interview.
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Participants brought the expected objects, bottles, baby formula, and breast pumps, but they also brought other items of significance such as baby books, photograph albums, or cards that generated new stories that were beyond the interview themes envisaged by the researchers see Grant, Mannay, and Marzella The waiter had listed what could and could not be eaten by pregnant women and would not allow any of the food he prescribed as off limits to be served to their table. The interview schedule had been geared toward intergenerational views and experiences of infant feeding, but the introduction of artifacts allowed participants to shift this temporal focus from the postnatal to the antenatal, where they felt surveillance activities and judgment first began.
Accordingly, the artifacts acted as tools of elicitation, leading the conversations and enabling participants to introduce what they felt was worth talking about rather than fixing them within the defined structure of set interview questions. The artifacts metaphorically took the researchers to different times and places, but they also physically shifted the interview setting from the confines of one room. Ethnographic study with the private space of the home is contentious Lincoln , but as participants introduced artifacts, there was an opportunity to become more embedded in the geography of mothering.
Dodman has also illustrated how the camera allows insights to unseen elements, and as participants led an artifact tour, we were introduced to baby boxes and wardrobes that were located in areas beyond the space selected for the interview. Accordingly, these objects offered opportunities to reflect on and respond to normative and oppressive narratives of mothering that characterized the mundane activities of going out and being seen as well as opening up the private space of the home. As discussed earlier, Marzella, a researcher without any children, conducted the interviews.
Additionally, participants generally led the first part of the interview through their objects, providing an immediate narrative of their infant feeding practices. Opportunities for participants to direct the interview conversations were reduced when they had not brought any artifacts. These interviews were shorter and more focused on feeding practices with less attention to the wider ambiguities of mothering. In one interview, the initial framing of a participant had a negative impact.
In this case, unlike all of the other interviews, the mother and grandmother had chosen to be interviewed separately. They did not bring any artifacts, and the dynamic of the conversation shifted from one led by the participant to one led by the researcher. The interview only lasted for sixteen minutes, which was far shorter than all of the dyad interviews, even when accounting for two speakers. The researcher was already aware of the moral maze of infant feeding and the associated judgments Deane ; Grant ; Hoddinott et al.
The interview became focused on creating a narrative where formula feeding needed to be rationalized and the researcher tried to maintain and create an acceptable form of motherhood for the participant. Artifacts, then, can open up the spaces and topics of interviews, allow fresh insights, and move beyond the prescriptive format of the interview guide Mannay They can enable participants to take the lead in interviews, help to build a rapport, and set the tone and framing for the research relationship.
However, participants cannot always be expected to engage with additional activities, and the researcher should not assume that they will.
Here, a lesson was learned about assuming that the interviews would follow the same pattern and being unprepared for building rapport, beginning the conversation with a more general chat, and treading carefully around the sensitive topic of infant feeding. As Coffey contends, fieldwork shapes and constructs identities, intimate relations, an emotional self, and a physical self, and photo elicitation, as discussed later in this section, was introduced in part to attend to the embodied aspects of distance, nearness, familiarity, and relational positioning.
Mannay had both resided in a similar marginalized area and been a young parent. The mothers and fathers were also drawn from existing friendship groups and local networks, which further enabled a comfortable space for discussion. The interviews took place with mothers and fathers but also some of their children, reflecting the difficulties of securing child care for single parents and parents whose partners work. The focus groups were fast-moving with continual talk, and in some cases, the movement and play of infants engendered a more naturalistic session that resonated with their everyday lives.
The conversations focused on the everyday activities of parenthood, interactions with family and service providers, and also encounters with general publics. For example, there were numerous accounts of interactions with health professionals, landlords, and other service providers;. It does my head in cos they always. Mothers and fathers who had been in mother and baby units or other forms of supported temporary accommodation also reflected on the tensions in these private yet public spaces.
They described how the staff spoke to them like children, shouted at them, and used forms of surveillance such as cameras in shared living spaces and baby monitors:. These processes were framed by staff as guidance and support for young parents, but participants interpreted them as obtrusive and unhelpful. They described how they were expected to respond immediately to their children and how leaving them in cots sleeping while they prepared food, cleaned, or went outside to smoke was vilified.
This was framed as unrealistic as when they moved to their own house, particularly as single parents, they would need to leave their children unaccompanied for short periods in a cot or baby seat to peg washing on the line, complete other domestic tasks, or smoke. The media plays a crucial role in the circulation of ideas and the development of new social representations Morant , and through repetition across different media, specific figures accrete form and accrue affective value in ways that have significant social and political impact Tyler Therefore, photo elicitation was included to explore how images of motherhood are interpreted, accepted, and rejected by participants.
The images discussed came from the search engine Google images using the terms mother and baby and young mother and baby.
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The five photographs in each category were printed out in color on A4 paper, and they were discussed with reference to the search terms applied. As mentioned earlier in this section, many parents did smoke, but they were careful to do this outside of the home, away from their children see also Holdsworth and Robinson For participants, this strategy prioritized the health of their children, but they were still vilified for leaving their children unaccompanied. The focus group conversations had established that mothers understood their abject positioning through their day-to-day interactions.
However, the images allowed an examination of the objectification of the young mother as a collective stereotype, one that guides how they are viewed as individuals. However, being confronted with the images elicited new conversations that moved from concrete examples to a focus on wider social representations, which are abstracted from their individual experiences yet at the same time impacted on their lived realities.
The objectification of the chav mum, young mother, and teenage mother are often framed within images, but these are not simply benign objects. The affective impact of visual images of motherhood was apparent in the photo-elicitation activities, and young mothers and fathers articulated how differentiation and demonization were achieved in these images. In this way, drawing on visual images and moving beyond individual accounts offered an opportunity to develop a new layer of understanding about how participants see themselves and how they negotiate how they are seen by others.
In preparation for the initial interview, participants were asked to create timelines of their lives before they became pregnant and add emotion stickers see Gabb and Fink to reflect how they felt at different points in their biography. The sandboxing activity was introduced in the second interview, not as a pre-task but as a collaborative activity. Judgments about motherhood often create difficulties in discussing everyday behaviors that conflict with the public health ideal Graham , and working on a visual task collaboratively enabled an element of sharing experiences.
Participants engaged with the sandboxing to different degrees, but many found the activity easier to complete with the researcher working alongside them on their sand scene. The sandboxing activity was also favored by participants with barriers to literacy skills as they could use visual metaphors rather than the written accounts that were required for the speech bubble activity. However, she used the sand as a canvas to etch out a single word representing her current pregnancy and being a mother to her four-year-old and seventeen-month-old children, complete.
This was a differential form of engagement, but it was a poignant representation of being pregnant from a participant whose biography had been characterized by school-based bullying, abusive intimate relationships, and a series of three miscarriages. The multimodal approach taken in the study confirmed previous work that illustrates the ways in which participants have differential preferences Johnson, Pfister, and Vindrola-Padros ; Mannay , which necessitate a need for flexibility, where different creative activities are offered and participants can decide what to engage with, in their own way, or just to talk.
It also raised issues around whether visual and narrative data should be created without the intrusive presence of the researcher or whether collaboration enables participants to engage with activities more easily. In the sandboxing activity, some participants suggested that they would have been able to complete the collage if this had been done in situ with the researcher; however, other participants found it useful to reflect on their lives in their own private time and space.
Again, this suggests that more choice needs to be inbuilt in to the design of the study around the nature of data production, but researchers will also be constrained by the time factors and available resources of individual projects. It is also important to restate that the visual methods used here, although useful, were not a panacea; they did not simply create data, as the conversations relied on the relationships between researchers and participants.
The researchers were pregnant or mothers, but this did not necessarily create some form of epistemic privilege. Motherhood is not a singular category, and assuming that mothers are best suited to interview mothers silences the multifaceted nature of identities, lifestyles, and perspectives and discounts crucial differences between women Skeggs This was illustrated when Gallagher went on maternity leave and Mannay conducted a second-stage interview. In the initial interview, the participant had stated that she had easily been able to give up smoking during her pregnancies; however, in the later interview, she felt able to share that she had and still continued to smoke occasionally.
go site There are different aspects of familiarity between researchers and participants, and Mannay was more closely tied to the participants in terms of class, place, and maternal biography. Researchers working on familiar territory can elicit greater understanding because cultural barriers do not have to be negotiated and participants may be more open and less likely to obscure aspects of their lives Aguilar ; Atkinson, Coffey, and Delamont The home is particularly impervious to forms of ethnographic observation Lincoln , but work with artifacts allowed the researcher access to rooms in this private space.
Additionally, the interview talk constructed around individual objects, assemblages of photographs, and collections of artifacts introduced topics that were beyond the interview schedule and provided new insights into the everyday negotiation of the maternal body and infant feeding practices.
The photo-elicitation activity also proved useful in disrupting the focus from individual experience to the dominant visual tropes that circulate in society to produce acceptable and unacceptable maternal subjects. Introducing a suite of creative narrative and visual modes of data production, including timelines, collages, text bubbles, and sandboxing, acted to broaden and deepen the data set of a relatively small-scale study. Interviews, then, were where the meanings of visual data were communicated to the researchers.
However, there were some issues with an overreliance on visual productions to lead these interviews, and researchers need to acknowledge that some participants will not engage with pre-interview tasks. The importance of flexibility was also explored, and providing participants with a suite of activities to engage with as well as different modes of production, individual and collaborative, can be advantageous. Importantly, the positionality of the researchers also engendered differential forms of nearness and distancing, which highlights the importance of reflexivity in the embodied experience of research relationships Coffey However, overall, these studies outline the potential of visual ethnography to effectually explore spaces of parenthood.
In attempting to enter the private space of the home and its everyday activities, they can help in negotiating closed doors and allow some insight to these hidden worlds as well as engendering reflections on more public encounters. Nevertheless, this paper has argued that interviews do not have to adopt a simple question-and-answer format; rather, they can engage with creative practices to enrich their depth and breadth and engender serendipity. Therefore, researchers faced with the difficulties of access to private spaces and the restrictions of tightly time-bounded projects, which work against traditional ethnographic practice in public spaces, may find that visual ethnography can, at least in part, negotiate both closed doors and constraining deadlines.
We are grateful to the mothers, fathers, and grandmothers who took part in interviews and shared their experiences.
We also extend our thanks to the reviewers for their encouragement and invaluable comments on earlier drafts of this article, the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography editorial team, and in particular the Special Issue Guest Editor, Dr Lisa-Jo K. Her research interests revolve around class, education, identity and inequality; and she employs participatory, visual, and creative methods in her work with communities. Dawn edited a collection for the University Wales Press , Our changing land: revisiting gender, class and identity in contemporary Wales ; and wrote the sole authored text for Routledge , Visual, narrative and creative research methods: application, reflection and ethics.
His previous BSc and MSc research has focused on issues of management structure, agile working and interpersonal relationships in both the education sector and finance. Jordon became involved in this set of studies on parenthood through the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods WISERD funding and contributed to analysis of online images and elements of the qualitative fieldwork. Her doctoral research focuses on the impact of obesity on pregnancy outcomes for the mother and child, and the effectiveness of psychological theory based interventions to support women to improve these outcomes.
Her general research interests lie in the development of maternal and infant health, the determinants of health protective behaviours, and in understanding the patient perspective related to health and healthcare. Her undergraduate research focussed on pregnant women in academic and non-academic spaces in Wales. Ruby is currently applying to undertake a Clinical Doctorate. Her undergraduate research focused on sex education in faith schools. Sherelle has an interest in children and special education needs and she is preparing to train as an Educational Psychologist.
All too often research methods texts remain relatively silent about the ways in which fieldwork affects us and we affect the field. The book attempts to synthesize accounts of the personal experience of ethnography. In doing so, the author makes sense of the process of fieldwork research as a set of practical, intellectual and emotional accomplishments.
This includes work on contemporary developments in qualitative data analysis, writing and representation, as well as a focus on of the self and auto biography in qualitative inquiry. I have led and been involved in a number of funded projects focussing on qualitative research methods and methodological development. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Textbooks. Add to Wishlist. USD