Archive for the ‘ Methodology ’ Category

Feminist analysis and Bourdieu: 1. Resistance

I am using Bourdieu’s theoretical framework to explore cultural entrepreneurship. However, I am aware that I’m no expert in Bourdieu’s theories, and I wanted to explore a feminist critique of his work to help me understand my own approach. Beverley Skeggs has done a lot of work using Bourdieu as well as using feminist and poststructuralist theory, to understand value and values beyond economic perceptions.

In an article in The Sociological Review, 2004, Skeggs states that:

Bourdieu is useful because of the parallels between feminist approaches to epistemology and methodology, in which theoretical frameworks and political programmes are always embedded in social relations. (Skeggs, 2004, p. 20)

For Skeggs, Bourdieu’s work includes three main strands:

  1. Linking of objective structures to subjective experience (structure and agency)
  2. metaphorical model of social space in which human beings embody and carry volumes and compositions of different capitals  – capitals
  3. methodological insights in which reflexivity, as a prerequisite to knowledge, provides us with a way of examining the positions from which we speak  – reflexivity

Skeggs is more specifically interested in issues relating to gender and class, which are not part of my study. However, I have found some thought provoking insights in her arguments. I have two issues  that I am trying to apply to my own study. In this post I explore the idea of ‘resistance’; people who do not ‘fit’ neatly into a position within the field, may be more likely to resistant dominant discourse or individuals.

Bourdieu would argue that dominated groups are more likely to be resistant because they are less invested in the games of power. (Skeggs, 2004, p.25)

In feminist research that might be women who do not identify with conventional and dominant male power. In my research, this could be influential individuals (policy makers, those deemed to be powerful within the social context) and/or the rhetoric of enterprise which has permeated the language of cultural work. Could it be the case that, for example, if a cultural worker is not looking for funding or support from local agents, he/she is in a better position to act autonomously. However, again referring to feminist research and women’s experience, Skeggs notes that this is not always the case. Rather, ambivalence and contradictions are found in women who can both:

produce a perfect critique of masculine traits and dispositions, yet this does not lead to resistance or change as Bourdieu would predict; rarely to women take on the ‘view of the dominant on the dominant on themselves’ (Bourdieu, 2001:42). (Skeggs, 2004, p. 26)

For me, this complexity is useful because it echoes Banks’ idea that cultural entrepreneurs are not ‘desocialized drones’ and that there is an opportunity for ‘uncovering alternative rationales’ for entrepreneurship and ‘morally diverse approaches to capitalism’ (Banks, 2006, p. 467).  My understanding is that I can expect an ambiguous response to entrepreneurship and to dominant cultural policies from the cultural workers I am studying.


Using evernote for research: making notes and organising data

After recommendations from many friends, including academics, I have started to use Evernote regularly. I wish I had started earlier.

I use Evernote in 2 ways:

  • To make notes about specific articles which I attach to the note.
  • To organise my data.

I also occasionally use it to make notes at conferences or events but I generally prefer to write and doodle with a pen and paper at events.

Making notes while you are reading a paper is a great way of connecting specific ideas and concepts to your research by tagging the note. For example, I have just read a great paper about cultural policy which relates to certain ideas but also to one of my interviews. By using tags I have connected my notes to an issue I raise in my lit review and to a quote by the interviewee. It will be really easy to find using the tags.

My research is qualitative and I have done 15 interviews which are each between 1 and 2 hours. As part of the process of analysing and organising the data, certain themes became important and I knew they would connect to the broader question. I created folders for each of the interviewees and tags for all the themes. This has enabled me to collect quotes for each interviewee creating separate notes for each person but using the same themes as tags. Now all I need to do is use one of the tags, say ‘cultural capital’, and all the quotes tagged ‘cultural capital’ are collected together.

I have not finished my research yet but so far, this has been really helpful.

Transcribing and Analysing Interviews

I have done about 12 interviews so far and will probably end up with about 15 in total.  The interviews are recorded using an app on my iphone and then I use dropbox to store the recordings. I transcribed each interview verbatim to enable a familiarity with the material by listening closely to the interviewee. As Gray states, transcription can seem an onerous task but it has the advantage of engaging the researcher in a profound way with the material. Indeed, Gray suggests that detail such as voice qualities and pauses in the conversation can be significant for the interpretation and analysis. For example, I state when someone laughs and describe the nature of that laugh as best I can.

Furthermore, Gray’s approach enables the emergence of certain themes and ideas to develop as part of the transcribing process.

In this way analysis and interpretation became part of the process of research. This is when I was able to use my imagination, being sensitive to the material and experimental in my analysis. (Gray, 2003, p. 149)

Following Gray’s methodology, I have created categories such as: control, freedom, sense of responsibility, passion, role models, key networks, precarious work, happy, work and lifestyle, and so on (about 20 so far) based partly on the entrepreneurs’ stories but also as a result of key themes arising from the literature. Sections from the transcripts are collected under each category to enable me to see each entrepreneurs’ articulation of the theme together; these can be compared and contrasted in relation to each other and to the literature. For the analysis, Gray advocates flexibility and an open mind to the potential relations between categories and for new themes to emerge. I am using simple processes with colored pens and large sheets of paper to make these connections – a bit like a mind map or a conceptual map.

But Gray also talks about the importance of not loosing the individual’s voice through this process of chopping up the text. The individual narrative or story created during the interview is unique. While the idea of a ‘true’ story is nowadays considered an anathema, it is not up to the researcher to re-describe it. The researcher needs to respect the interviewees’ story as it was told at the time of the discussion. For more information on this subject see Narratives in Social Science Research by Barbara Czarniawska.

Identity and Personal Agency: We are not Robots.

1312-20130301-RobotsForeverAs part of my methodology chapter, I am exploring theories of identity and personal agency as the framework for my approach.

Identity is an important subject in cultural studies. As a means of challenging social norms, particularly, western notions of identity, cultural identities such as gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, for example, are explored and contested.

The authors of Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds (Holland, Skinner, Lachicotte and Cain, 1998) research the dichotomy between humans as products of social discipline and the producers of the social worlds in which they live. In this contribution to anthropology, the authors argue that individuals play an active role in re-shaping themselves, their identity and their world. Continue reading

Feminist Theories of Entrepreneurship and Subjectivity



One aspect of my research is to challenge dominant discourses in entrepreneurship studies. Much of the academic literature exploring entrepreneurship is US-based and explores high growth business models or the impact of entrepreneurship on the economy. Research methodologies favoured by this type of research tends to be quantitative – ‘scientific’. In contrast, women researchers of female entrepreneurship argue that a subjective approach can expose different insights. Bringing their own subjective experience enables women to investigate the subject of entrepreneurship from a new perspective.

…drawing on personal knowledge, in the light of feminist theory, allows women to express their experiences of living gendered lives in conditions of social inequality” (Ramazanoglu and Holland, 2004).

Inspired by this approach, I draw on my first hand knowledge and experience of cultural work, as someone who ran a small textiles business, to inform my study of cultural entrepreneurship. The intention is to listen more carefully to aspects of cultural work based on my own perspective and experience. Furthermore, the dynamic between researcher and interviewees is based on this shared and acknowledged understanding that the researcher is ‘one of us’ rather than an ‘objective’ observer. The idea that I know how it feels to be involved in cultural work, to some extent, removes the opportunity for exaggeration or for excessive invention from the interviewees. They know that I know. This is not born from a sense that cultural workers will ‘lie’ but rather that in my experience, they are often caught in ‘talking up’ their work and experience. In an environment in which the individual worker is often the brand and continuously selling their skills, there can be a lack of critical reflection.

In addition to having some insights into cultural entrepreneurship first hand, I also know the interviewees, having selected them from my personal contacts. Again, this has revealed an opportunity to be informal and created a ‘gossip’ style of interview. Throughout the interview, we will refer to individuals we both know. The process enables a form of self-identification in relation or in comparison to others.

There is Creativity in the Method


I am working on my methodology chapter. These are some of the questions I am asking just to get started: How is the approach linked to the purpose of the research? Why is it specifically relevant to approach the research in this way? How can I justify the methodology? What are the limitations and issues of quality or robustness?

I start by introducing the methodology chapter:

This chapter outlines the research approach taken in this thesis. The methodological choices have informed the data collection and interpretion, enabling the study to address the research question: ‘cultural entrepreneurship: what role does personal agency play in the cultural worker’s experience of entrepreneurship?’. The chapter contributed to an exploration of appropriate methodologies for capturing the subjective experience of entrepreneurial modes of work by individual cultural workers. This will further enhance current academics debates specifically in two disciplines: firstly by scholars engaged with Advancing European Tradition of Entrepreneurship Studies which seeks to explore entrepreneurship from broader perspectives and challenge dominant notions of the entrepreneur. Secondly it will inform cultural policy and cultural studies by further developing critical perspectives through empirical research.

In this chapter, I aim to include both practical elements such as how I collected the data and the process for designing the analysis, as well as the theoretical context for this approach. I start with inspiration from feminist research in entrepreneurship. But that’s my next blog post…