March 19, 2017, by James Pattison

The 9th Enquire Conference – A Review

The 9th Enquire conference, held on Saturday 25th February 2017, was themed around Social Inequalities and Social Research. Social inequalities manifest in multiple areas of life and can advance or inhibit an individual or group’s social status and power. Much social research is concerned with recognising and observing inequalities in action and, in so doing, provides the opportunity to challenge and change the social attitudes which make them possible. This year’s Enquire theme, then, was relevant across the spectrum of social science research and drew papers from fields including gender, youth, ethnicity and place. Issues of class, in particular, were well covered throughout the day. Unfortunately, the overlapping of the streams meant that it was not possible to attend them all and so this review can only be a partial account of the day.

After Andrew Yip welcomed everyone to the conference, we began with the first keynote of the day from Nottingham’s own, Tracey Warren. Her paper focussed on both living and researching inequalities of class and gender, and began with her own experiences of growing up working class in Gateshead.  Tracey emphasised the importance of not disregarding economic inequalities in debates on class, and drew on her own research to discuss how working-class underemployment is often lost in debates on work-life balance dominated by the middle class.

By its very nature, the Intersectionality and Multiple Inequalities stream featured a diverse range of subjects both within each presentation and between them. Chaired by Ed Wright (with his trusty time-keeping bell!), this session was well attended and began with Tim Winzler’s presentation on bourgeois and petit-bourgeois relationships to academic disciplines in the case of German economics students. Drawing upon examples from his interview data, Tim gave some thorough insights into the reasons why his participants chose their discipline and their attitudes towards the course content, with consideration also given to their social backgrounds and the influence of these factors upon their choices and thoughts.

Abid Ali’s presentation about disparity in palliative care provision within the UK offered some key insights into the factors which affect the care that is given in end of life treatment options. With reference given to his own familial experiences of palliative care, Abid showed the influence of cultural differences and the importance of allowing patient choice in care provision. He also argued that there is a stark contrast between patient and doctor views about what should be considered when determining end of life care and, in so doing, indicated the ways in which his research has the potential for enacting change within the system.

Joanna Wilson’s presentation on feminist approaches to climate change politics raised some pertinent questions about the degree to which the lived experiences of women are often neglected during the creation of policies relating to climate change. Although still in the early stages of her research, Joanna clearly demonstrated the potential of her study to challenge dominant climate change discourses which exacerbate gendered inequalities and to use such inequalities as the basis for creating more inclusive policies in the future.

The second keynote of the day was delivered by Andrew Yip who had kindly stepped in at the last minute to replace Tracy Shildrick. He talked vividly about his research on the intersections between religion and sexuality and drew upon examples from his fieldwork to illustrate the different issues that arise between these elements. Although his topic was perhaps unfamiliar to much of the audience, many found his comments on the potential for marginality to be a gift to be particularly enlightening.

The Space, Place and Communities stream attracted a small audience but was nevertheless very thought provoking. Hannah Keding’s presentation provided a detailed overview of the differences and similarities between the cities of Nottingham and Stuttgart which forms the basis of her research into urban sustainability. Although still in the early stages of collecting her data, Hannah’s discussion of her methodology and initial findings helped to show the differing priorities of the stakeholders within each city and gave a sense of how these priorities shape approaches towards sustainability.

Susie Atherton’s presentation on community justice initiatives offered important insights into the ways that such initiatives may benefit communities and the disadvantaged people within them. Using Middlesbrough as a case study, Susie explored the socio-economic profile of the area, as well as regeneration efforts, before using examples from her interview data to look at the functioning of community justice approaches and the problems that are faced in terms of investment and successful implementation.

Finally, Chris Hastie delivered a presentation on class inequalities in the incidence of house fires. He considered the importance of looking at community engagement, particularly barriers towards it, when studying fire prevention. Chris noted that negative perceptions of fire services reflected those of other state service providers and he also included an account of the ways in which he had needed to change his approach to effectively integrate with the community he was studying. Chris concluded by suggesting that changing of attitudes, increasing flexibility and better accommodating different cultural groups may further community engagement in fire prevention.

Chaired by Judit Varga, the Q&A for this stream benefitted from the three speakers being able to discuss with each other (and the other audience members) the ways in which their different research topics overlapped. This collaboration was particularly engaging and it seemed that all three speakers were keen to learn from one another’s experiences and ideas.

The day closed with Anoop Nayak’s presentation on young peoples’ reactions to the stigma of the ‘chav’ label. His comments on the reclamation of the label as something to take pride in, as well as on community resistance to the negative stereotypes and media portrayals commonly associated with it, resonated with many people’s research projects. This was none more evident than in the Q&A at the end which elicited several anecdotes from audience members about their own experiences, as well as a generous number of questions.

So, Enquire is over for another year and, on behalf of the organisers, I would like to thank and congratulate all the keynotes, presenters, chairs and delegates for contributing to an inspiring and informative day.

Author bio:

Sam Rosen is a 2nd year PhD student in Applied Linguistics. Her research is concerned with exploring the communication of asexual identities in an online community setting, with an emphasis on the sociocultural contexts which influence identity practices and the linguistic means through which they are performed. She was also one of the organisers for the 9th Enquire conference.

Image Courtesy of Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

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