Category Archives: methodologies

‘Mirror Mirror’ by Zamirah Moffat (2006)

‘Mirror Mirror is a 58min documentary, based on an audio-visual ethnography of London’s queer Club Wotever. Begun in the autumn of 2003, it promoted itself as a club that welcomed all genders and sexualities – a counterpoise to London’s mainstream segregated scenes. The film is not only queer in content, however, but also queer in form, as it uses dialogue and intersubjectivity as its main stimulus and narrative drive.  It was part of Moffat’s PhD into the relevance of shared-anthropology, where she argued that integrated audio-visual participant feedback is both an effective and affective strategy for representing contemporary queer cultures – indeed any culture who resists identification by exogamous sources’ (source: Birkbeck Institute site [accessed 30 January 2009] – for a screening on March 2009)

Zamirah Moffat works in the field of visual anthropology and is informed by queer theory. She explains that:

‘By visual ethnography I mean an ethnography that incorporates the visual not simply as a way of gathering ethnographic data, but as a device that captures and documents the process of capturing, thereby producing a thoroughly situated knowledge’.

Her Myspace webpage contains four clips of the film at the moment.

Recently, a photo exhibition narrated the story of Wotever World so far. The photos are online here.

There were some very interesting ideas in ‘Mirror Mirror’. Apart from a scene at the start of the film, where Maria Mojo is being filmed while putting on a Monroe wig, the rest of the performers are not filmed in front of  a mirror. People are uneasy with the camera around. Ingo, for example shares her concern about trust and about control of the ‘final product’. The fact that the filmmaker is a friend of hers complicates the procedure. The filmmaker/ reseracher started filming as soon as Wotever came into existence in Autumn 2003. Zamirah reflects on her presence and how the characters she films are part of her desire and part of herself. One idea that comes out of interviews is about performance and gender- as the focus of the filming is performance, it is easier for a transgender person to take part. There are certain steps required for someone who wants to become a performer and wants to go beyond narrating their personal story.

While watching the film in January,  I was completely shocked at the point Zamirah Moffat asks Jozephine ‘do you like your penis?’. I thought that asking questions about tits, penis and other body and identity related questions was incosistent with the promise of absolute control that the reseacher gave. This particular session is quite harsh- she asks the performer questions about family and then asks for a description of themselves. Jozephine refuses to do so because they see this as a categorization process. A bit later on the film, Ingo explains how the Club intends to be a place of acceptance and respect for what people tell you about themselves- ‘if they want to box themselves in, that’s fine’.I kept wondering why the Jozephine scene was not cut on editing until the reflection session showed. This I think as a good example of productive reflection and feedback on a research project. And I think that the film functions as a recording of the research process, including mistakes and developing from them. Surely this is a valuable artefact in historical terms, as visual material of Queer performance, but I think that the way it is finally edited and screened within educational institutions makes it a valuable source of ethnographic practice as well.

Narrative in Research

I have started my pilot study about Brighton queer activists and, although this will only run for a few more weeks, the data collection will go on later. I thought it’s been a while since i updated the blog, so I will do a few short note-style posts around the themes I read and think this past month. I have been reading some methodological scholarship, especially about ethnography and life history interviewing.

I am interested in narrative and try to incorporate this in my study.  ‘Using Narrative in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches’, by Elliott, J. (2005), identifies three key features that make up a narrative: it is chronological (so it is interested in the temporal nature of experiences and the change in time), it is meaningful (research that uses narrative as a method tries to empower participants) and it is social (it has and audience and understands the researcher as a narrator producing a story for specific audiences).

Elliott notes that even though causality is not the essential aspect of narratives, temporality is. Past events cause future events even if they do not follow the ‘because’ rule. So a narrative is different from a causal explanation in that it is interested in the specific circumstances that led from one event to the other. Another aspect that is important for Elliott is closure, because they provide meaning to actions within the narrative (Ricoeur 1984).

Narrative is not thick description either. For Labov and Waletzky (1997) a fully formed narrative has 6 elements (typical structure):

  • abstract (summary of subject of narrative)
  • orientation (time place situation participants)
  • complicating action (what actually happened, temporal component)
  • evaluation (meaning and significance of action- crucial)- this may be the product of negotiation. Has the intended meaning come through? This process further legitimates the act of narration as a social act.
  • resolution (what finally happened)
  • coda (returns to the present)

Narratives may also be what individuals tell about themselves, (‘ontological’ because they constitute individual identities for Somers and Gibson 1994, or ‘first-order’ for Carr 1997), or they may be the accounts researchers create in order to make sense of the stories, individual or collective, they have come across (‘representational’ or ‘second-order’). The latter constitute a methodological shift because they not only function as a method, but they aknowledge that cultures use narrative structures to make meaning of their lives- so reflective attention is needed to signpost these structures within the empirical data and their presentation.

journal: spring plan and working papers

I am very happy in the new communal space I was allocated, especially as my desk is very near the radiator.

While I initially had planned to write a paper on feminist epistemologies for January and another on methodological issues of feminist studies of media and technology,

I changed course (they were too general and I wanted to concentrate on some reading I did not have the time to during the autumn term). One paper I worked on is on intersectionality, especially about its methodological implications. I am looking at how

intersectionality as a theory transforms social research methodology, examining the link between intersectionality as an epistemological strand in feminism and as production of knowledge with the research process (I use Leslie McCall’s typology of studies of intersectionality).

The other paper I have been working on is on queer methodologies- in particular how has ‘queer’ been used (and could be used) in research. This includes an exploration of existing work that uses queer studies-how the researcher emerges from the study, what kinds of methods are actually used and what the limitations are. The paper concentrates in methods and includes mostly studies of sexuality. (I look into Halberstam’s ‘Female Masculinities’, Driver, Susan. Ed. (2008) ‘Queer Youth Cultures’  and Kath Browne’s various papers- and Seidman’s (1996) collection ‘Queer Theory +Sociology’- the paper is not intended to be an overview, just a selective approach about the issues that may arise when doing research). There is short discussion about ‘queering’ and I am in parallel thinking about what ‘queer’ means to me (whose first language is not English), about queer geographies and diasporas-but these are not discussed in depth in the paper.

I am planning to do some work on ‘queering’ (in relation to other studies apart from sexualities) in the spring term. Apart from that, my reading plan is primarily focused on technoscience (Barad, Braidotti, Butler, Deleuze and Guattari, Haraway, McNeil, Annemarie Mol, Sunden, Lykke and others)- also using the Lancaster ‘researching technoscience’ reading list – and the stockholm resources. I am taking a social research course this term -on qualitative methods- so I plan to write my paper in April on methodological issues of feminist technoscience studies.


McCall, L. (2005) ‘The Complexity of Intersectionality’, Signs 30(3): 1771–800.

Sociological Research Online, Volume 13, Issue 1, <

feminist research methods international conference stockholm uni

at the Centre for Gender Studies at Stockholm University 4-6 february. The site is here

there will be a seminar on material feminism(s) amongst others,

“This workshop will highlight how thinking about the material, specifically the materiality
of the human body and physical world, currently forms a cutting edge of feminist theory
and empirical social science analysis. Material feminisms (e.g., Alaimo and Hekman,
2008), disrupt familiar binaries such as mind/body, culture/nature, and object/subject

Drawing on the work of Barad, Braidotti, Butler, Deleuze and Guattari, Haraway, Mol,
Smith, Lather, Grosz, and Mojab, this workshop will address the following questions:
· What is materiality and how can it be reinterpreted in the context of feminist
methodology that rejects binaries between the discursive and material?
· Is materiality another form of text that perhaps has been neglected but merits
greater attention?
· How do practices (en)gender multiple material ‘realities’?
· How can feminist researchers use the material toward an interruptive
understanding of the social order?
· What does it mean to conceptualise the material as ‘agentic and performative’?
· What are the possibilities for productive repercussions with an engagement
between the seemingly disparate perspectives of poststructural feminist theory
and critical feminist theory? Can new epistemological and ontological
understandings be produced?”.

digital methods and walled gardens

Anne Helmond writes in her research blog about the Mapping the Walled Gardens conference in Amsterdam

a conference about “Digital methods for researching and visualizing networks on the Web, moderated by Sabine Niederer and Richard Rogers”.

the initiative is concerned with doing research with new media and how methods transform “ owing to the technical specificities of new media”.

  • they gather tools in a single space
  • evaluate the various ways of analysis visualisation  (in ranked lists, in cluster graphs, in line graphs, in clouds, on maps)

and the institute of network cultures blog.