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British Journal of Social Work (2011) 1–18
Gay and Pleasant Land? Exploring Sexuality, Ageing and Rurality in a Multi-Method, Performative Project
Lee-Ann Fenge* and Kip Jones
Lee-Ann Fenge is an Associate Dean for Postgraduate Students in the School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University. She teaches on the social work degree and her teaching and research interests include working with older people and participatory methodologies. She is a co-researcher on the Gay and Pleasant Land? Project, which is a work package in the New Dynamics of Ageing Project, ‘Grey and Pleasant Land? An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Connectivity of Older People in Rural Civic Society’, being undertaken in South West England and Wales. Kip Jones is Reader in Qualitative Research and Leader of the Performative Social Science Group in the School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University. He is the Principal Investigator in the ‘Gay and Pleasant Land? Project—a study about positioning, ageing and gay life in rural south-west England and Wales. He is an expert in the Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method of research and leads a programme of work around the use of performative social science. *Correspondence to Dr Lee-Ann Fenge, School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, Room R309, Royal London House, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3LT, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Downloaded from http://bjsw.oxfordjournals.org/ at Universidad de Granada - Biblioteca on April 28, 2012
Until recently, older lesbians and gay men were largely invisible within ageing research and, where it has been undertaken, a bias towards urban samples has occurred. As a result, less is known about the experience of living in a rural community as an older lesbian or gay man. This paper presents a discussion of a current research project that is taking place as one part a programme of research in the south-west of England and Wales under the umbrella of the UK’s New Dynamics of Ageing Programme. The research projects in the south-west and Wales are broadly aimed at exploring how older people living in rural areas interact with their local communities. The Gay and Pleasant Land? project is focused on exploring sexuality, ageing and rurality in the southwest of England and Wales. The project uses multi-methods to explore connections between place, space and identity, which include visual ethnography, focus groups and interviews using the Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM). The development and production of a short, professionally made film as the key dissemination tool are outlined. Performative Social Science and its philosophical grounding in Relational Aesthetics as the bedrock of the project are deliberated. Implications for research
# The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
A number of different methods are used in the Gay and Pleasant Land? project to explore the intricate patterns and enigmas surrounding connectivity. as a result. multi-method.oxfordjournals. 2007. it has been suggested that this means providing ‘an intellectual and practical lead on developing more caring. participatory methodologies. in terms of older people living in rural communities. At the moment. A key task for social work is to challenge social exclusion and marginalisation and. marginalisation and discrimination are central to the social work task and the aim of the project is to develop further understanding of how these issues may impact upon older lesbians and gay men living in rural communities. This research is one of seven investigations being carried out at four universities in south-west England and Wales exploring the connectivity of older people in rural civic society. visual ethnography Accepted: March 2011 Downloaded from http://bjsw. p. Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method.Page 2 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones with marginalised groups in rural communities are discussed. as it has been suggested that minorities in rural areas experience comparative social and political invisibility and. rurality. MRC and AHRC) on ageing in twenty-first-century Britain. Performative Social Science. Ageing and Gay Life in Rural South West England and Wales’ is funded by the Research Councils for more than a quarter of a million pounds. decent and ethically just rural societies’ (Alston. by developing an understanding of both the discursive and material features of social . Relational Aesthetics. little is known of the factors that might lead to social exclusion or inclusion of older lesbians and gay men in rural areas. 2010. EPSRC. 200). Keywords: Ageing. alongside a consideration of multi-methods and the use of tools from the within social work research. sexuality. 2012 Introduction This paper presents a discussion on a research project that is taking place in the south-west of England and Wales as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme (a unique collaboration between five UK Research Councils—ESRC.Biblioteca on April 28. This is particularly important. ageing sexuality and identity.org/ at Universidad de Granada . place and space ` vis-a-vis sexuality and identity. 75). The Gay and Pleasant Land? project hopes to contribute to this debate by providing further insights into the connectivity between rurality. The ‘Gay and Pleasant Land? A Study about Positioning. p. are ‘much less likely to have their needs addressed by welfare services’ (Pugh and Cheers. It is hoped that. BBSRC. Developing a deeper understanding of the issues that may lead to social exclusion. or how they may be simultaneously included or excluded in different situations.
2003). research into the experiences of older people living in rural areas within the UK is sparse (Wenger. the impact of the rural idyll is that it can contribute to stigma and stress for certain individuals. This approach fits comfortably with social work approaches that are committed to anti-oppressive practice and an obligation to empower service users. Geographical .Biblioteca on April 28. The ‘rural idyll’ can be depicted as a consequence of a normalising concept that defines who belongs and who is seen as different within rural communities (Watkins and Jacoby. For those who may be seen as ‘different’. The objective of the film is to contribute a dramatic interpretation of the narrated biographies and everyday life experiences of rural older gays and lesbians. In addition. The complexity of a collaborative multi-method participatory research design will be unpacked. 2009).org/ at Universidad de Granada . this research will enable new ways to challenge it (Ward. Downloaded from http://bjsw. Scharf and Bartlam. a further dimension of complexity concerns how private and public sexual identities are negotiated and expressed in community life (Hughes. Minority groups of older people living in rural communities may be marginalised further and may be invisible both within and outside their local communities. Ageing in contemporary society is a complex phenomenon and takes place within multiple areas of life (McHugh.oxfordjournals. 2007). 2001. Discussion of Performative Social Science (PSS) as a methodology and method of dissemination of research findings within social work and the wider rural community will be explained. 2009). 2005).Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 3 of 18 exclusion in rural life. Commission for Rural Communities. 2008). a discussion is presented on how a range of data can be used to inform the development of the project’s key output—a short film to be produced by a professional filmmaker in collaboration with the project’s researchers and advisors. Living in the countryside is often depicted in romanticised terms as an idyllic experience of living close to nature in a pleasant environment (Phillips et al. it has been suggested that studies concerning rurality should become more open to neglected voices and otherness within the countryside (Philo. 2001. 2001). Life in the countryside may not be idyllic for all sections of the population. and older people in general may be disadvantaged by living in rural locations that offer limited access to health and social care support and can be characterised by high levels of poverty (Wenger. Alongside the differences between urban and rural experiences of ageing. 1992). 2012 Review of the literature Even though there has been a significant growth in the older rural population of the UK (Department for Work and Pensions. This paper considers the challenges of attempting to elicit the views and experiences of marginalised groups of older people by using a range of different methods.. 2006). To offer a counterbalance to this.
Rural communities have been characterised as socially proximate or ‘close knit’ (Parr et al.. 2004) and have been described as being influenced by strong community coalitions (Hirsch. The Gay and Grey project (2006) highlighted the need to learn more about identity issues for older lesbians and gay men and the way in which ‘coming out’ stories seem to be a device employed in negotiating social inclusion. and can also ‘write them out of the script altogether’ (Cloke et al. life-course experiences as well as geographical location and space. to engage the voices of older lesbians and gay men who are not typically captured in traditional research. sexuality and geographical space. due to a dearth of research concerning geographical location and rurality. 2001.oxfordjournals. However.. 2002). Loneliness and isolation have also been related to the lack of local gay resources in rural communities (McCarthy. 2006). Downloaded from http://bjsw. 2012 Methods and methodology The aim of the project is to use a range of qualitative methods. Gay and Grey. age cohort.Biblioteca on April 28. However. 2000. Boulden. 227). little is known about the experience of living in a rural community as an older lesbian or gay citizen (Addis et al. there may be fluid and contradictory beliefs that impact upon the experience of being older and gay in the countryside. leading to a lack of certain social relationships and weaker levels of social embeddedness.. Learning more about how this is accomplished over time seemed an important area for further investigation alongside the need to develop a greater understanding of the intersectionality of age. 2009). social and cultural resources (Heaphy. Negative attitudes and intolerance of same-sex relationships within rural communities may have a major influence on individual selfimage and sense of well-being.org/ at Universidad de Granada . Beard and Hissam. Diversity of experience is a key feature of ageing for older sexual minorities (Musingarimi.Page 4 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones location is important in developing an understanding of older gay and lesbian citizens’ experience of community (Heaphy et al. 2004. 2004) and it is suggested that intimate. As a result. p. which might be linked to loneliness amongst older lesbians and gay people (Fokkemer and Kuyper. 2006). This focuses on listening to the stories that older gay and lesbian individuals tell to make sense of their position in rural . 2009). social and geographic isolation (McCarthy. notions of idyllic rural life tend to mask and conceal marginalised groups within rural populations. identity may be hidden or undisclosed and this may lead to higher levels of personal. 1997. Concerns about homophobia and fear of discrimination may result in individuals concealing their sexual identity. Comerford et al. 2000.. 2008) and multiple levels of difference occur as a result of gender. 2009). As a result. within an overarching multi-method participatory action research design.. family and community relationships that older gay men and lesbians have are often limited by economic.
. as underrepresented groups. 2008. 2004). 2006) or use of tools from the arts in social science research and its dissemination. place and social inclusion/exclusion. 2012 . This participatory methodology builds on the insights gained from an earlier project (Gay and Grey. Shankle et al. 2006). 2008. 2007). as older lesbians and gay people have been largely invisible within research to date (Price. a key value that informed the project team in developing a participatory methodology was a belief that older lesbians and gay men. The participatory methodology builds on the insights gained from an earlier project (Gay and Grey.Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 5 of 18 society. Although qualitative methods do not guarantee a voice for the powerless (Qureshi. a social work researcher/community organiser with expertise in participatory action research and an anthropologist with experience in the use of visual ethnography and film in research settings. This is an important consideration. Such participatory approaches have been described as involving the ‘active participation of stakeholders. Such approaches have been used to engage with other marginalised groups in terms of providing new ways of knowing (Cochran et al. 2003). As a method for social work research. The adoption of an overarching participatory approach was aimed at developing more equitable power relations between researcher and research participants. 12). Jones. Downloaded from http://bjsw. including issues associated with individual identity. The core project research team consists of a lead investigator with a background in social psychology and sociology.oxfordjournals. Etowa et al. it has been suggested that qualitative inquiry holds great promise for research with older lesbians and gay men (Hash and Cramer. 1998. In addition. in all phases of research for the purpose of producing useful results to make positive changes’ (Nelson et al.org/ at Universidad de Granada . those whose lives are affected by the issue being studied. Consistent across the multidisciplinary research team is a commitment to minority issues and a belief in the potential of research to impact on society and change lives.. 2008). should be encouraged to meaningfully participate in the inquiry and research processes.Biblioteca on April 28. A focus on participation permeates a range of stages in the project and is facilitated at various levels through a number of mechanisms: (1) an Advisory Committee made up of a mix of older gay people and service providers who are central in the development and overview of the project. 2005. this is an important consideration. 2003). and it has been suggested that participatory approaches to research can enable social work to engage in partnership with participants to both generate new knowledge and transform society (Barbera. 2006) and develops this further through study participants’ participation in the research’s interpretation and in its outputs through the employment of Performative Social Science (Gergen and Jones. p. 2006) and develops this further to embrace a performative social science perspective in its outputs (Gergen and Jones. Jones.. 2008..
anonymity was maintained throughout all of these processes. 2003). 2007: 749).oxfordjournals. however.Biblioteca on April 28. the focus group (n ¼ 12) and visual ethnographic site visits.. each conducted rigorously and complete in itself. p. for example. The sampling was also purposive by means of inclusion/exclusion criteria to reflect age (over fifty-five) and geographical residence (south-west England and Wales) (Lutz et al. The Advisory Committee was key in providing useful contacts/ organisational links to recruit participants to take part in the various stages of the research. 2003. This evolved as snowball sample methodology and was used to identify individuals to take part in the biographic interviews (n ¼ 7).. however. No one was privilege to identifying information or participated in interpreting stories about someone whom they might know. From this starting point. Snowball sampling has been found to be useful in identifying older lesbians and gay people for research purposes (Warner et al. the project expanded to include the variety of methods delineated below. In addition. reflective panels comprising academics and older citizens that involved the panels’ interpretations of interview data. 190). methods and stages in the research process informed one another and did not remain discrete in terms of knowledge sharing. and /or resources’ (McIntyre et al. 1998). The project was conceived as ‘multi-method’ from its outset and includes ‘the conduct of two or more research methods. take part in a panel interpreting the life story of someone unknown to her/him. In this project. Advisory Committee members were given the opportunity to participate in the interviews and/or reflective panels themselves. including issues associated with individual identity. The Advisory Committee meets every three months to discuss the context and development of the project and in this format the participants are able to take on the role of expert advisers ‘who contribute specialised skills.org/ at Universidad de Granada . Each research method informed and cross-pollinated the stages and methods that followed it. and finally the inclusion of older gay people in the scripting and development of the project’s main output—a professionally made. or recommend participation to others in their acquaintance. short film. place and social inclusion/exclusion over the life course. 2012 . in one Project’ (Morse. filming and interviews (n ¼ 3).. The member could. An Advisory Committee member who took part in a biographic interview could not sit on the reflecting panel that interpreted her/his own story or the story of one of her/his acquaintances. Downloaded from http://bjsw. The project began by listening to the life stories that older gay and lesbian individuals tell to make sense of their position in rural society. knowledge. Nonetheless.Page 6 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones (2) (3) (4) a focus group conducted with older gay people to elicit their views about and experiences of rural life. The Advisory Committee was pivotal is securing the involvement of participants within the various strands of research activity.
these materials will be developed into the film’s final script. the focus group and the two days of improvisation of interview data. Such an approach offers a valuable tool to social work researchers. initial narrative-inducing question to illicit an extensive. Results from these varied methods inform the current development of a film script consisting of composite characters (Sandelowski et al. Wengraf.oxfordjournals. This introduces multiple voices or perspectives into the interpretive process. Downloaded from http://bjsw. 2012 The Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method The Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM) (Jones.Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 7 of 18 These methods include the core Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM) (Jones.Biblioteca on April 28. unsettling and creating a mix of meaning and encouraging communication and collective means of deliberation and understanding (Gergen. 4). thus maintaining the narrator’s gestalt.org/ at Universidad de Granada . 2001. accepts the fact that the interviewee could very well tell a different story on a different . 2001. in that truth is not an absolute. 2004.. 2006). It encompasses willingness on the part of the researcher to cede ‘control’ of the interview scene to the interviewee and assume the posture of active listener/audience participant. therefore. but is socially constructed by the participant during the interview and subsequently assembled as reconstructed ‘“truth” through the panels’ interpretations. This initial question. p. The BNIM is a collaborative approach and relies on the participation of reflective panels as part of the data interpretation process. additional questions are only asked in a second sub-session of the initial interview. The following methodological subsections offer a brief overview of the various methods employed within the study. 2000. led by a professional theatre director. The project’s reflective panels comprised older people. Wengraf. 2001). 2001) employs an interview technique in the form of a single. These follow-up up questions can only be based on what the interviewee has said. This methodological position. It is envisaged that the short film will be used to disseminate the findings of the project to rural communities and others. 2004. as there is a shift of emphasis towards interviewee control over the content and presentation of the interview material. for example. uninterrupted narration. The film offers a potential tool to challenge both social exclusion and discriminatory practice and to open up dialogue on gay and lesbian issues with both citizens in rural communities and service providers. may be ‘Tell me the story of your life’. In collaboration with a professional film-maker. research students and academic staff who expressed an interest in becoming involved in this aspect of the research. the visual ethnographic study. The rationale behind this method resides in the opening up of hypothesising about the data from very different viewpoints and demographic (cultural and social) backgrounds. This assumes a postmodern positioning of the research. using her/his words and phrases in the same order.
Each session comprised five or six participants. through hypothesising how the lived life informs the told story. The ‘Lived Life’ offers the chronological chain of life events (the ‘biography’) as narrated. It was felt by the research team that visual ethnographic approaches could offer insights into the bodily. 1993. which is constructed chronologically and then analysed in sequence. Short excerpts from the biographic interviews. and hypothesising at each new revelation of dialogic material. The ‘Told Story’ offers a thematic ordering of the life story (the ‘narrative’) and this is analysed using thematic field analysis. ten reflective panel sessions took place (n ¼ 10). 27). alongside the embodied experience of rural place and its relationship to sexual identity amongst older people. the same material presented to a similar panel and/or on another day could also lead to very different interpretations.Biblioteca on April 28. 61). discrete panels were assembled for either the ‘Lived Life’ or the ‘Told Story’ components of each interview. p.oxfordjournals. each session taking thee hours to complete. The panels reconstruct the participants’ system of knowledge. This process of analysis involves the panel participants being immersed in the transcript. In total. are presented to the reflective panels for interpretation chunk by chunk. p. 2005. the case history is then constructed by the research team from the interpretations provided by these two separate panels. A two-stage methodology was developed in which participants were asked to select five to ten images that characterise aspects of their experience of living in (or having lived in) a rural area. Participants were also required to reflect upon how they feel about their relative visibility or invisibility as lesbian women or gay men living within a rural . Finally. Such an approach is well suited to capture everyday rural lives and routine. sensual aspects of human experience and ‘sensebased ways of knowing’ (Grimshaw. their interpretations of their lives and their classification of experiences into thematic fields (Rosenthal. 2012 Visual ethnography Alongside these biographic narrative techniques.Page 8 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones day or to another interviewer. the development of composite characters for a film required further methods that could reveal aspects of the experience of living in rural geographies as an older lesbian or gay man. ‘line by line’. which have been initially identified by the project research team. Downloaded from http://bjsw. Separate panels investigate one of the two components of a biography: either the ‘Lived Life’ or the ‘Told Story’.org/ at Universidad de Granada . This creates an opportunity for inductive reasoning and case making by the panel. Aspects of experience that are often unspoken and embodied were important to explore in terms of producing research material that could inform the production of a fictionalised film.
oxfordjournals. Focus groups have been used successfully to engage with older lesbians and gay citizens in the USA (Orel. In order to develop a participatory stance. This stage is followed by a minimum of one meeting between the participant and the researcher to explore the reasons behind the selection of the images and what meaning they have to the participant.org/ at Universidad de Granada . A snowball sampling strategy was used to recruit older lesbians and gay men to a focus group to discuss experiences of living in rural communities (n ¼ 12). Listening to marginalised voices in the context of in-depth discussion through focus groups is potentially empowering for participants. Downloaded from http://bjsw. After the biographic interviews were completed. 2004).Biblioteca on April 28. provides an important source of data for the visual ethnographic study. For this reason. 2004). but who were not necessarily living there now. as well as the selected images. 2012 Focus group Focus groups are an important qualitative technique (Kitzinger. The following focus group probes encouraged relevant issues to be discussed by the group at length: . This allowed a follow-up to the BNIM interviews. criteria for participation in the focus group was expanded to include those who had experience of British countryside dwelling during one or more periods in their lives. so that the researchers could explore areas of interest and questions that had arisen in the biographic interviews with a new group of older gay and lesbian citizens. The focus group was opened to a wider range of criteria than the biographic interviews. In order to support an overall participatory stance within the project. bringing additional voices to the discussion.Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 9 of 18 geography and this includes both positive and negative aspects of their experience. it was clear that those interviewed who are now living in the south-west English or Welsh countryside did not necessarily have a history of continuous rural residency in situ—most had moved over the life course from/to villages. as it can enable participants’ social agency and collective knowledge production (Hyams. 1995) in which participants comment and build upon each other’s experiences. This discussion. the participants have a high degree of control over the initial five to ten images selected in terms of content and visual genre as well as the extent to which they are disseminated. to include participation by gay men or lesbians who had experience of living in the British countryside generally. the participants are actively invited to collaborate with the researcher in the production of still images and video footage about the everyday activities they agree may be represented within the project. towns and/or cities throughout England and Wales and even to other countries.
however.oxfordjournals. 2006).Page 10 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) What is/was it like being gay and living in the countryside? How do you/did you cope with being gay and living in a small community? How open are you/were you about being gay to neighbours and other people in the village? How do people treat you differently because you are gay or when they suspect that you are different? How do services (doctors. Denzin (1997. .) treat you differently? How do you/did you maintain friendships with other gay people in the countryside? What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you because you are gay? What is the best thing? How has growing older made a difference in the place that you live? Or how has the place that you live made a difference in growing older? Downloaded from http://bjsw. creating a new model in which tools from the arts and humanities are explored for their utility in enriching the ways in which social science subjects can be researched and/or findings can be disseminated or presented to audiences (see Jones. nurses. 100) has conceptually divided performance of qualitative data into two types—the performance science model and improvisational ethno-drama. 1997. Ideally. moves beyond the concept of ‘performance’ ethnography or simply putting on a play (or even making a film) to include the potentials of a variety of investigative tools . which proposes that artworks are judged based upon the inter-human relations that they represent. p. Performative Social Science as a methodology that is philosophically anchored in Relational Aesthetics. Kontos and Nagle. ‘performance’ offers an innovative approach to disseminating the results of qualitative studies (Gray et al. The model used in this project could be seen to fit the second category by moving away from the original data by ‘producing composite characters . audiences should be almost unaware of the seams where researchers have ‘cobbled together’ in-depth. . and dramatic reinterpretation and cultural critique’ (Denzin. 2002). PSS is a fusion of the arts and social science. social services. 2012 Performative Social Science A key aspect of this project is its commitment to Performative Social Science (Jones. Performative Social Science is grounded philosophically within Relational Aesthetics (Bourriaud. 113). p.. As a method to challenge textualism.Biblioteca on April 28. produce or prompt. 2001. 2011). substantial scholarship with artistic endeavour. etc. 2006) as an overarching methodology.org/ at Universidad de Granada . in Performative Social Science projects.
The project is currently writing the film script developed from interview and focus group data and informed by the filmed ethnographic footage and the improvisation sessions with transcript materials.oxfordjournals. audio-visual film briefly describing the project and used it in lieu of a more traditional poster at a conference (Jones and Fenge. 2012 Discussion This paper has considered how a multi-method approach can be used within an overarching participatory methodology to engage older lesbians and gay men in an exploration of their experiences of living in rural communities. For example. There was a strong participatory flavour within this workshop. film and music. a discussion of the complexities of developing a collaborative multi-method participatory research design will be offered. 2009). as participants were encouraged to experiment with an embodied method of physically interpreting qualitative research data. produce something unique and distinct from any one form of discrimination’ (Eaton. The theatrical improvisation two-day workshop provided participants with a unique opportunity to contribute to the script development of the project’s professional short film. adjustment. how do these stories relate to non-hetero-sexual ageing and how do these stories .Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 11 of 18 and means of expression more typically used in the arts and humanities. The stories that people tell about themselves as they age and the ways in which these narrations are shaped by shifting experiences of relatedness to rural life highlight the contexts in which ‘coming out’ narratives are adjusted. In this section. Subsequently. the research team produced a short. but also on an emotional one. This also involved participants being reflexive about the discursive forms that life story narratives take and how these present a version of a life through identity construction in action (Hicks. this film was able to engage audiences not only on an intellectual level. Early in the project. this brief film has been used for meetings and continues to be shared generally on the internet. together. social mobility. ‘Performance Art’ and electronic means of communication. The use of PSS within the Gay and Pleasant Land? project moves beyond ethno-drama by using several tools from the arts to expand and enrich social science research and its dissemination. The concept of intersectionality is relevant to this discussion and has been defined as ‘intersecting oppressions [that] arise out of the combination of various oppressions which.org/ at Universidad de Granada . Approaches such as BNIM and visual ethnography enable us to develop a deeper understanding of how self-identity for older gay people living in rural areas may change across time and space. acceptance and connectivity in isolated rural communities. These multimethods allow us to develop new insights into how citizens may use their ‘coming out’ stories to support identity. PSS is particularly becoming known for its use of ‘New Media’. 1994:229).Biblioteca on April 28. 2006). Through the use of dialogue. photography. Downloaded from http://bjsw.
older lesbians and gay men living in rural communities may be marginalised and invisible both within and outside their local communities. sampling older lesbians and gay men can be fraught with difficulties (Sullivan and Losberg. 88) and how this may influence individuals’ access to welfare services and support. it also allows practitioners to develop insight into the ways that discriminatory practices in rural communities. 1994. This is centrally important..org/ at Universidad de Granada . the types of issues that they represent may not be inclusive of those most marginalised and hidden within rural communities. A key challenge for this project was to develop an overall methodology that is inclusive of marginalised voices. As a result. However. 2003). 2002). Whilst participants’ unwillingness to participate is a problem often encountered in qualitative research. including a hetero-normative ethos. rather than from lesbians and gay men who live in rural communities themselves (Oswald and Culton. Taking part in the biographic story telling. p. Boulden. filmed ethnographic interviews or group work may be unappealing to older lesbians and gay people who view their sexuality as a private matter. It is also important for those who provide social work support to those living in rural areas to develop understanding of ‘the complexities of identity and social context’ (Pugh and Cheers. as a consequence. 2001. 2003). on both the micro and macro levels. as rural studies on gay and lesbian issues have often engaged with professional perspectives from health and social care. due to fear of potential discrimination and/or social exclusion. Negative attitudes and intolerance of same-sex relationships may mean that older lesbians and gay men prefer to remain hidden (McCarthy. p. the Gay and Pleasant Land? project hopes to Downloaded from http://bjsw. 2012 . 2000. Beard and Hissam. but it is important to remember that. 2003).Biblioteca on April 28. may influence the identities of older gays and lesbians and shape their way of living in rural communities. Although adopting a methodology that gives voice to marginalised groups by no means guarantees that we will uncover the relations that lead to marginalisation or neglect (Murdoch and Pratt. and therefore not specific to our project. 2010.oxfordjournals. our aim was to uncover precisely why it is that older lesbians and gay men living in rural areas may feel that openness about their sexuality is problematic. A snowball sampling methodology was employed in order to reach out to those who may be hidden (Warner et al. This is an issue with which the project grappled. It is important to consider the impact of self-selection of participants on the emerging research data and that.Page 12 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones create acceptance within different communities and/or a sense of belonging or not belonging? This provides an important mechanism to develop understanding of the social connectivity of older gay and lesbian citizens living in isolated rural settings. In terms of social work practice. 422). those who come forward may only be representative of those who are already ‘out’ in their local communities and those who are particularly marginalised and/or hidden may remain so.
As Denzin (2003) suggests. Such methods may therefore offer social work powerful tools when working with and for marginalised and oppressed groups. as such. the lives and experiences portrayed have a power that is not possible through other forms of presentation and dissemination (Pifer. to stimulate discussion of the experiences of prejudice and exclusion within rural life. ‘performance-based human disciplines can contribute to radical social change’ (Denzin. The Gay and Pleasant Land? project suggests that an overall participatory design can be used in multi-method approach to support the involvement of ‘expert’ participants from early inception of a project to dissemination of findings and across various levels of a project. in order to build up mutual trust and support dialogue (Fenge. 2001). Dissemination plans currently under discussion include addressing these concerns.Gay and Pleasant Land? Page 13 of 18 begin to understand this phenomenon and may offer some solutions at the project’s conclusion. It is hoped that film will be used as a tool in both rural communities and with agencies working with older people in rural areas to change attitudes towards and perceptions of gay and lesbian citizens and to help to build communities in which tolerance and understanding are keys to connectivity. As a result. 2003.oxfordjournals. it may be important that the film is used as a tool within a wider debate. The film is a potentially empowering device for raising the profile of marginalised voices and it has been suggested that. there is a risk that a dramatisation of the reality of such a vulnerable group within rural communities could lead to increased marginalisation and exclusion of the group by the community in which they live. The emphasis on Performative Social Science provides a dissemination tool that ensures that the results of the project reach a wide audience. could be useful in challenging oppressive and discriminatory practices. Downloaded from http://bjsw. 2012 . 2010).Biblioteca on April 28. it is important that the participants are seen as equal partners in the project. By reaching both rural communities and wider audiences. through performative outputs. The role of the Advisory Committee has been central in maintaining an overview of the various different strands of the multi-method approach. awareness may be raised and connections opened up for these particular isolated older adults. p. It will be important to facilitate this process in order to prevent the possibility of reinforcing stereotypical attitudes that may further discriminate against older sexual minorities. The film has the potential to raise issues of inclusion/exclusion of older gay people in/from rural community and civic life and. They have been integral to the overall development of the project through the Advisory Committee and through the analysis process via the citizen panels. However. 3). To ensure that these collaborative arrangements take place in an environment of mutual trust and respect (Whitmore and McGee. Nonetheless.org/ at Universidad de Granada . involving participants in ways that are other than tokenistic requires commitment and time. 1999).
In order to engage with the previously silenced voices of older minority groups. M. festivals and places of conviviality. events. Taking the opportunity to engage with citizens in discussion following their viewing of the film will be crucial in presenting opportunities for changing hearts and minds through meaningful dialogical encounters and the collective elaboration of meaning. gay. 17(6). 2012 References Addis. the encounter and the collective elaboration of meaning. The project must be prepared to address any discriminatory issues that may arise from audiences watching the film. it is also important to remain vigilant to risk that some individuals may be marginalised within the research process itself and that voices can be silenced as well as enhanced by participatory methodologies.. space and identity. M. rural restructuring and health service delivery in Australia: Policy failure and the role of social work’. meetings. Bourriaud (2002) believes that art is made of the same material as social exchanges. social care and housing needs of lesbian.Page 14 of 18 Lee-Ann Fenge and Kip Jones Conclusions This paper has discussed how a range of participatory methodologies can be used to explore themes surrounding connectivity. pp. Methodologies that access the perspectives and experiences of older lesbians and gay men as volunteers and local experts are an important theme within this project. Central to the principles of Relational Aesthetics are inter-subjectivity.oxfordjournals.org/ at Universidad de Granada . G. discrimination. participatory methodologies can be used in a variety of ways to promote greater ‘insider’ knowledge that can enrich and challenge our understanding of their experiences and ultimately promote social justice. 15(3). However.. Health and Social Care in the Community. . some of which may be positive and some of which may be negative. Health and Social Care in the Community. Downloaded from http://bjsw. bisexual and transgender older people: A review of the literature’.. and Shepherd. MacBride-Stewart.Biblioteca on April 28. based in models of sociability. self and society may stir up a range of emotions. Performative Social Science methods and the principles of Relational Aesthetics have formed the bedrock of the project and are fundamental to its citizen involvement and participatory approach. collaborations. It is also important to consider that participatory methods that touch on issues related to power. Greene. pp. Davies. M. (2009) ‘The health. games. being together. 647 –58. S. S. (2007) ‘Globalisation. Performative Social Science may offer social work research and practice a useful shift in conceptual thinking as well as powerful tools for engaging audiences and facilitating social change. At each stage of the research (and subsequent dissemination planning) process. marginalisation. 195 –202. Alston. place.
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