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Creative ethnography: Reconsidering covert research - Dr Dave Calvey


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Dr Dave Calvey's PowerPoint for the Research Training Programme (RTP) 2018-19 Methods and Methodologies session.

This workshop will critically explore the role of covert research in social research methodology. This controversial and ethically stigmatised tradition is under-utilised within the social sciences and can provide creative and disruptive insights on the praxis and practice of fieldwork.

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Creative ethnography: Reconsidering covert research - Dr Dave Calvey

  1. 1. ‘ Creative ethnography: Reconsidering covert research’ Postgraduate methods workshop, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Manchester Metropolitan University, 5th December 2018 Dr Dave Calvey (Sociology Department, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  2. 2. Contents 1) Societal context 2) Professional governance 3) Submerged covert tradition 4) Bouncers in the night-time economy 5) Reflections from passing covertly as a bouncer 6) A revival in covert research 7) Some conclusions
  3. 3. 1) Societal context Contradictory themes of protectionism (Data Protection/Human Rights Acts) Voyeurism (public appetite, popular culture passing)-voyeur nation (Calvert, 2000) Populist investigative journalism (expose work e.g. The Secret Policeman, Daly, 2003; The Undercover Soldier, Sharp, 2008, Gomorrah- Saviano, 2006) Practitioner work (untroubled surveillance) Normalization and saturation of surveillance in modern social media
  4. 4. 2) Professional governance Ethical bureaucratization and regimentation (reviews, committees, audit trials) Professional Governance requirement for social research to be more accountable and transparent Doctrine of informed consent (hyper sensitivity, research mantra)
  5. 5. Professional codes, associations and obligations Charters from various bodies-BSA (British Sociological Association), ISA (International Sociological Association), SRA (Social Research Association), ASA (Association of Social Anthropologists), ASA (American Sociological Association), British Society of Criminology (BSC) Frowning up covert research/last resort methodology as a form of deliberate deception and ethical transgression causing harm (inflated risk and danger discourse) Paradoxical fear and fascination with covert research
  6. 6. 3) Submerged covert tradition -sex work (Cressey, 1932) -religious cults (Festinger, 1956) -management culture and bureaucratic dysfunctionality (Dalton, 1959) -asylums, (Goffman, 1961-Bly, 1899)* -pain experiments (Milgram, 1963) * -sexual deviance (Humphrey,1970) * -pseudo-patients (Rosenhan, 1973) * -juvenile gangs (Patrick, 1973 and Parker, 1974) -workplace pilfering (Ditton, 1977) -police force (Holdaway, 1982) -legal work (Pierce, 1995) -bouncers (Hobbs et al, 2003) -football hooliganism (Pearson, 2008) -organ trafficking (Scheper-Hughes, 2004) -hospitality industry (Lugosi, 2006) -management training (Smith, 2007) -lap dancing (Colosi, 2010) -call centre (Woodcock, 2017) -financial services (Brannan, 2016)
  7. 7. 4) Bouncers in the night-time economy Expanding night-time economy and leisure capitalism-moral panics about binge drinking/ recreational drug use Stigmatized occupation Precarity of the work Casualised workforce Dangerous work (extreme) Attempts to regulate, professionalise and unionize bouncers (Security Industry Authority, established in 2003) Links to gangsterism and criminality Intensified surveillance of the NTE
  8. 8. Night-time economy 330,964 licensed door supervisors, with 231, 530 being active (Security Industry Authority (SIA) £66 billion revenue (6% of UK total) Employs 1.3 million in the sector (8% of UK employment) Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA)
  9. 9. Situated door order Folk devil stereotype and urban mythology Fictive kinship Hyper-masculinity and interpersonal violence as a performative doing Collective bouncer code Private policing Bouncing as dirty work (Hughes, 1956) and emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983) Dramaturgical bouncer self (Goffman, 1961,66)
  10. 10. 5) Reflections from passing as a bouncer
  11. 11. Ethnographic features and conditions Embodied autoethnography, biographical familiarity (Layered account, Rambo, 1995) Lived experience (Geertz, 1973) of doing doors embedded in the natural setting (dual identity) Longitudinal immersion Relatively small field-Hobbs et al, 2003; Monaghan, 2002; Winlow, 2001) Interaction rituals (Goffman, 1967), bodily capital (Wacquant, 1995) and hardness passport (Patrick, 1973) as fieldwork mimicry strategies
  12. 12. Nomadic Ethnography Six-month covert ethnography in Manchester as a working bouncer Governance of the nte (Leisure capitalism) Biographical mediation Demonized group (exotica) Multiple door sites (2 clubs, 3 pubs and 5 café bars)-engineered exit strategies Manufactured door career Nomadic style was part of ethnographic risk management (sub-aqua ethnography)
  13. 13. Situated ethics and the blurred bouncer self Occasioned character of ethical self regulation and ethical moments in the field (‘turning the tape off’ syndrome, being recognized, guilty knowledge, publication censorship, shelved data) Problem of going native but commitment to realism (faithfulness-Bittner, 1973) Covert research not a panacea-obviate artificiality but gain sustained problems of instigation Covert role as deeply artful and craft like
  14. 14. A form of edgework: Voluntary risk-taking (Lyng, 1990, 2005) A type of narrative reconstruction (Granter et al, 2015) The management of the post-fieldwork self (‘getting back into character’ syndrome) Liminality of the setting (sensitive legal tightrope-’The researcher as hooligan: where participant observation means breaking the law’, Pearson, 2009)
  15. 15. A local media moral panic
  16. 16. 6) A revival in covert research Rise in various forms of auto ethnography as well as more mixed methods research Popularity of investigative journalism (different analytic game) Virtual, online and cyber ethnography (lurking)
  17. 17. 7) Some conclusions Ethical dilemmas are complex landscapes that are managed and not resolved Codes and guidelines are abstract idealizations (disconnect to field realities) Ethnography as an immersive, emotional and experiential doing
  18. 18. Emergent and messy nature of ethical dilemmas and ambiguities Move away from a heroic picture of the covert researcher Covert research as part of an ethnographic imagination (Atkinson, 1990; 2015) Covert ethnography as part of an artful and creative sensibility (mixed methods) Are the social sciences missing a trick?