Episode 5: A Day in the Life of an Ethnographer

Welcome to the Connectors Study Podcast, a six-part series celebrating oral culture as a legitimate form of knowledge construction, explores various aspects of doing ethnographic research with children on the ERC funded Connectors Study (2014-2019). Researchers, Melissa Nolas, Christos Varvantakis, and Vinnarasan Aruldoss, all based at Goldsmiths, University of London at the time of recording, recount their experiences doing ethnography with children, the historical contingency of the research, sampling, and team work.

In this episode we join Melissa, Christos, and Vinnarasan as they take us through a ‘day in the life’ during their research in each of their respective cities. From time management to learning a new language, each location brought its own set of challenges.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Vinnarasan takes us through his process of learning Telugu, a new language for him, spoken in Hyderabad and across Andhra Pradesh, immersing himself in local life and current affairs, and the challenge of coordinating a large group of participants.
  • Christos outlines how he balanced field work and interviews with the need to record data and create field notes each week, as well as making connections with the children and fighting the exhaustion that comes from long visits and and a continuous research cycle over an extended period of time.
  • Melissa describes the difficulty of managing time with a large number of competing tasks on any given day, and her role as an ‘administrator’ for the 50 families she was working with.
  • The commitments each researcher had as well as their research work, and the little things that tend to be forgotten or omitted when people talk about ‘the life of a researcher’.

The researchers:

Melissa Nolas
Melissa Nolas is an interdisciplinary social scientist, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Principal Investigator of the ERC funded Connectors Study. Her research focuses on childhood publics and children’s relationships to public life; child, youth, and family welfare, well-being and social support; civic and political practices across the life course; multimodal ethnography and publics creating methodologies. She has published widely on these topics. She is the co-editor of the online journal entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.

Christos Varvantakis
Christos Varvantakis is an anthropologist, working as researcher at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has a BA in Sociology (University of Crete, Greece), an MA in Visual Anthropology (Goldsmiths, UK) and a PhD (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany). His research focuses on the intersections of childhood and public life, politics and urban environments, as well as on visual and multimodal research methodologies. He has carried out ethnographic research in Greece, India and Germany over the last 15 years. Christos is Head of Programming of Ethnofest, an international festival of ethnographic film held in Athens, Greece every year.

Vinnarasan Aruldoss
Vinnarasan Aruldoss is a Research Fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He obtained his PhD in Social Policy at The University of Edinburgh and prior to that worked several years with a number of civil society organisations, government departments and multilateral agencies as a social development practitioner in India. He is interested in inter-disciplinary research that contributes knowledge to the broader domains of childhood, early years provision and social policy analysis. He has published mainly in the fields of sociology of childhood, early years education, political sociology and childhood policy.

Next time
In the final episode of the series our researchers discuss the process of coordinating and collaborating on such a large scale project that took place in such wildly different locations around the world.

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