British Academy ‘Cities & Infrastructure’ Programme Projects Workshop

On 19 June, project Co-Investigators Dr Joanne Entwistle and Dr Don Slater attended the British Academy workshop meeting. This was an opportunity to report back on the progress of our fieldwork to date in Delhi and Trivandrum as well as to hear about the progress of the other grant holders.

To this end, the morning and early afternoon was spent on progress updates, sharing preliminary findings and discussing some of the challenges of fieldwork abroad. Many of these challenges are logistical – acquiring visas, transferring money between partner institutions, for example – while others were methodological and intellectual.

One issue that kept recurring was how to incorporate gender into fieldwork. Since our project is the only one explicitly focused on gender and infrastructure, we lead the way in much of this discussion. In break-out groups in the afternoon, gender was highlighted as one key concern; a focused discussion was dedicated to how other projects can take account of gender in their fieldwork data collection and analysis. It was good to hear how other projects propose to acknowledge gender and how it would underpin analysis of their infrastructural concerns in what are complex social and political locations that impact men and women very differently.

There were also many synergies and connections between various other projects. For example, we had an interesting discussion with Charlotte Lemanski, Principal Investigator on ‘Energy innovation for low-cost housing in India and South Africa: strategies for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional dialogue’ around the gendered dimensions of energy use and consumption in the home.

Other synergies were found with the project led by Principal Investigator Steve Cinderby on ‘Implementing creative methodological innovations for inclusive sustainable transport planning (I-CMIIST)’, especially around the relationship of light and pathways for creating safe, walkable city streets.

Two other afternoon break-out sessions focused attention on developing and capturing impact and what is means to do comparative case studies. On impact, it was good to hear from the British Academy that they consider even the smallest degrees of impact valuable. Indeed, in our discussions around impact we agreed that much of the impact of our research might not be fully articulated within the 16 months of project funding and may be more likely to emerge over a number of years.

In discussion on comparative case study work, the discussion focused on why we do comparative work and the value of this. Since almost all the projects have a comparative element – comparing between community locales, cities or countries – it was agreed that often the challenge is to locate appropriate comparative case studies and articulating what it is you are comparing.

We would like to thank the British Academy for hosting this valuable workshop and for their kind hospitality.

By Dr Joanne Entwistle, Project Co-Investigator & Reader of Cultural & Creative Industries, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London

& Dr Don Slater, Project Co-Investigator & Associate Professor (Reader) in Sociology, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science 

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