Title: Researching with radically excluded groups: understanding the challenges of participation

Speaker: Dr Matthew Johnson

Date:  Monday 17th September 2018

Venue: DW0.30, Darwin Building, Keele University, ST5 5BG

Time: 1-2.30pm

Participatory research offers the promise of egalitarian, context-appropriate research with the genuine possibility of impact in communities most in need of engagement. In this talk, I wish to reflect on the development of ‘A Cross-Cultural Working Group on “Good Culture” and Precariousness’ – an international, interdisciplinary, participatory project involving a research network of around 40 academics, community professionals/workers and community co-researchers from Ashington, Northumberland and Aboriginal groups around Brisbane (partial list here: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/good-culture/participants/). The project sought to examine means of fostering culture capable of promoting wellbeing among seriously disadvantaged and excluded groups in societies in which ‘success’ requires individual aspiration and exposure to socio-economic insecurity. The project:

i. highlighted the deep, often centuries-old, historical reasons for communities’ being disadvantaged through political processes of domination that inflict vulnerabilities to forms of change;
ii. argued that the key source of contemporary harm in many such communities has been the dissolution of once prominent institutions that demonstrated interdependence of individuals, fostered capability development and asserted means of collective aspiration;
iii. critiqued the work of Guy Standing, arguing that, unlike aspirational workers whose life paths are imperilled by insecurity and unpredictability, the groups in question are subject to lives marked by predictable drudgery and collective domination, requiring different sets of institutional and cultural responses,
iv. and examined the possibility of Universal Basic Income (UBI) supporting such initiatives

However, the project also faced a number of challenges both inherent to participatory approaches and to the specific cross-cultural element around which the project was forged. These included: i) the difficulty of shaping a common language around which the research could proceed; ii) advancing staged ethical processes through which work, involving the production of a film, could proceed; iii) the difficulty of institutionalizing a culture of research within the project given that the communities involved had been so seriously deinstitutionalized over long periods of time and, attendant to that, iv) articulating any sense of value for money in an age of austerity. By working through each of those issues, and the responses adopted in this specific instance, I wish to enable others to consider means of maximizing the value of their own particular experiences within participatory projects.


Matthew Johnson is Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. His research focuses on issues such as Englishness and the relationship between culture, public policy and wellbeing. He has led a participatory project entitled ‘A Cross-cultural Working Group on “Good Culture” and Precariousness’, which involved embedded exchanges between people from Ashington, Northumberland and Aboriginal communities around Brisbane, Australia. Two films covering the project have been produced by Brightmoon Media and are to be screened on the Made In TV network. An archive of video material, interviews and media coverage produced during the project is available at the project YouTube channel. The project was covered on the BBC One Show and Al Jazeera and in The Independent and ABC. He has regularly contributed to BBC Radio and is the BBC Election Night analyst for BBC Radio Cumbria. He is the founding editor of the journal, Global Discourse, the author of Evaluating Culture: Wellbeing, Institutions and Circumstance and articles in journals such as Australian Journal of Political Science, Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, British Journal of Educational Studies, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Journal of Medical Ethics, Educational Theory, Social Indicators Research and Ethnicities.




CASIC (Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre), Keele University is pleased to invite you to attend a one-day workshop funded by the AHRC on

Embodied Research through Creative, Digital Methodologies

December 5th, 2018

Time: 10.00-5.00

Venue Claus Moser, Keele University

The workshop will introduce participants to creative research methods that bring together embodied and digital processes. It is designed for post graduate and early career researchers from a wide range of disciplines who want to explore new experiential and interactive ways of developing their research. The event will be led by Anna Macdonald who is an artist and scholar specialising in bringing creative embodied research methods to interdisciplinary research projects. Macdonald’s work involves using the body to think through ideas, provoke new insights and generate innovative ways forward for researchers working in diverse disciplines. The workshop will focus on offering practical creative ways for researchers to develop their research using the body. Just as we might put our hands to our head to help us think – here we will go back to the body as a way of refining and enriching out research processes and questions. The first part of the day will involve active creative workshops focused around participants’ individual research projects. The second part of the day will explore the potential for interactive technology to intensify embodied experience and will be centred around a new artwork – commissioned by CASIC, Keele University - made by the artist working in collaboration with digital composer Will Brearley, VR designers Karl Reid and Tom Pardoe and socio-legal scholar Prof. Marie Jacob. Please click here for Biographies.


10.00-10.30 Arrival and coffee

10.00-11.15: When technology meets arts-based methodologies (Professor Rajmil Fischman and Professor Mihaela Kelemen, Director of CASIC)

11.15-1.00 Introduction to embodied research (Anna Macdonald, Karl Reid and Will Brearley)

1.00-2.00 Lunch

2.00-3.45 Working with creative digital methodologies (Anna Macdonald, Tom Pardoe and Will Brearley)

3.45-4.00 Tea/Coffee

4.00-5.00 Exploring individual PhD projects (Anna Macdonald)

The event is free but places are limited to 40. Priority will be given to PhD students from the AHRC’s North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership but all interested parties are invited to register by November 26th, 2018 by contacting CASIC administrator, Liz Riley on e.riley@keele.ac.uk