Research, performance, and doing human geography: some reflections on the diary-photo, diary-interview method
Environment and Planning A, 35, (11), . (doi:10.1068/a3587).
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The past decade has seen a remarkable turn towards the cultural in human geography. This shift has been marked by a strange gap between theory and empirical practice. Radical though the turn to the cultural has been in reconstituting the ways that human geography thinks of itself as a discipline, its impact on ways that geographers actually do empirical research has been in certain respects relatively limited. Indeed, while the cultural turn has become strongly associated with a valorisation of qualitative methodologies, the actual range of methods used has been relatively narrow. Drawing on the work of Nigel Thrift and a range of other human geographers who are exploring the metaphor of performance to understand this realm of practical action, I argue that not only can social action be viewed as performance, so too is it productive to reframe the research process itself as a kind of performance. This reframing allows for a more experimental and more flexible attitude towards both the production and interpretation of research evidence. It also makes it easier to think of new ways of engaging with how individuals and groups inhabit their worlds through practical action. Drawing on my own experimentation with written and photographic research diaries, I explore a number of ways through which the performative ethos can inform and invigorate the human geographic imagination. I conclude by arguing that human geography needs to be more imaginative, pluralistic, and pragmatic in its attitude towards both (a) methodology and (b) the kinds of final research accounts it produces.
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