Neighbourhood ethnographies

How do people in Bristol make sense of their local communities?

We are carrying out neighbourhood ethnographies to understand more about how educational opportunities and experiences of schooling are shaped by place. We are researching with former pupils and local communities of each participating school to understand more about how people make sense of the places in which they live and learn as children. As part of this we will deepen understandings of how localised geographies and urban infrastructures – housing, transport, health care, community resources and so forth – shape educational opportunities and experiences.

Our research in this area is guided by questions such as, how does place embody and re-produce educational injustices over time? How are these place-based injustices understood, negotiated and resisted?

We are engaging with a range of ethnographic and creative participatory methods to carry out our place-based inquiry. Drawing on critical walking methodologies that allow reflecting and thinking in movement, we are inviting former students to take us on a tour of their school neighbourhoods. Working with visual and spoken prompts the participant-led walks explore former students sense-making, memories, connections and disconnections to their school neighbourhoods.

Alongside this we will carry out walking interviews with ‘local experts’ who hold long-standing knowledge of neighbourhoods and school communities. This includes a diverse cross-section of people, from youth workers and community organisers, to school governors and local librarians.

Finally, our research will also bring together groups of former students to open intergenerational inquiry into place. Working in collaboration with a community artist we will explore and document embodied, affective and sensory memories of significant places. We aim to create a collage of collaborative knowledge about how place can both nurture and constrain educational opportunities and experiences in childhood.