Ruth Webber

2016 AFPGR Participant


Home is where…? Using sensory methods to explore home-making practices in the everyday lives of migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women in Glasgow
About Ruth

Ruth Webber is a 2nd year PhD student in the School of Museum Studies

Personal PhD Blog

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About My Research

When we move to a new place, what tools and resources do we bring with us to facilitate the process of home-making in that new place? How do we navigate the web of multiple heritages, identities and ‘homes’ which might be at play, and what might looking at the everyday reveal about these processes more broadly? Drawing on my training as a visual anthropologist, I have used sensory methods in my work with migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women in Glasgow to explore the ways in which they negotiate the process of home-making through their everyday practices and participations in the city. Through participant observation at community groups and photo-elicitation interviews with individuals recruited through these groups, I have been exploring the non-linguistic ways in which this navigation between places and homes occurs through embodied and emplaced ritual, habit and routine in their everyday lives.

My research is guided by the following questions:

  • How do migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women in Glasgow make the city their home through the things they do in their everyday lives?
  • What impact do these different statuses and reasons for being in Glasgow have on their processes of home-making?
  • How do these women negotiate and perform their heritages and identities in their everyday lives in Glasgow through the act of home-making?
  • How do these bodily processes interact with the physicality of Glasgow itself?
  • How might using participatory sensory methods of elicitation help us to understand these processes more deeply?
My Research Approach

I am asking the women I am working with to take photographs over the space of a week of the things they do in there everyday lives that they feel help them to make the city their home. Or indeed, the things which they feel are lacking which cause them to struggle to do so. We then have a semi-structured interview in which we talk about the photographs they have taken, meaning that the images made by the participants are what guides the interviews within the framework of looking at ideas of home. Building on an already rich and diverse range of projects drawing on sensory methods and photo-elicitation in particular, I am trying to illustrate the ways in which considering the sensory and the affective might enable us to reconstruct notions of home, identity and belonging, and to understand the city as a container into and onto which groups and individuals construct, negotiate and maintain senses of home and self.

These methods are also embroiled in the politics of representation. Not only do they enable self-representation by participants through the generation of sound / image / text in their own time and space away from the researcher / participant relationship, but they also challenge the extent to which a researcher can successfully and accurately represent participants’ lives through making their own images.

Early Findings

Having done almost half of my interviews, early themes and findings are starting to emerge. I am dealing with 3 sets of data in my analytic process; the photographs themselves, the transcripts from the interviews in which myself and the participants talk about the images, and my own field notes recorded during my time participating in 3 groups at the community centre in which I met many of the women I am working with. Viewing each through the prism of the others, I am able to understand how what participants are saying about the photographs fits into the wider social contexts in which these women are carrying out their home-making processes.

The images the women have taken fall into broadly three categories; people, places and things. These are all framed by an overarching need for familiarity, which is facilitated through time. The interrelation between old familiarities and new familiarities is emerging and is a fascinating one; for some, they draw on old familiar forms of everyday practice and participation from previous homes in a bid to make the unfamiliar a little less so, for others they become gradually familiar with the unfamiliar places in the city through repeated journeys through them, gradually building up a sense of place. As I continue to carry out more interviews, it is my belief that this theme of familiarity as cultivated through time will continue to be an important strand in the home-making practices of the women I am working with.

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