In May 2017, I participated in the “Critical Urban Ethnography Workshop”, which took place in London (Goldsmiths University) and was organized by the NCRM (National Centre for Research Methods). The workshop was worthwhile and helpful, giving me new insights into (urban) ethnography. I was introduced to the works of Matthew Desmond (2014), a Sociologist at Harvard University, who promotes relational ethnography, a branch of ethnography, I was rather unaware of. Desmond (2014:547) offers an alternative approach to group- or place-bound ethnographies; “[r]elational ethnography takes as its scientific object neither a bounded group defined by members’ shared social attributes nor a location delimited by the boundaries of a particular neighborhood or the walls of an organization but rather processes involving configurations of relations among different actors or institutions. Relational ethnography certainly has potential and might be relevant to my own research. Desmond has received a lot of attention for his book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City“, an equally fascinating and shocking read, for which he won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. In his work on eviction, he applies the concept of relational ethnography.
The two-day workshop was truly hands on. We spent most of our time in Peckham. Getting to know this diverse place (Peckham Rye Street) was extraordinary. It was exciting to see, how urban ethnographers maintain and develop relationships with locals and conceptualize places and spaces as part of their research. As part of the workshop, I conducted a small, exploratory visual ethnography of one street junction in Peckham.
Desmond, M. Theor Soc (2014) 43: 547. doi:10.1007/s11186-014-9232-5
Desmond, M (2016) Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Penguin Books: London.