University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Fieldwork Seminar: Methodologies in the 'field' > ‘Doing’ comparative research in South Asia: Positionality, postcolonial cities and the making of urban place

‘Doing’ comparative research in South Asia: Positionality, postcolonial cities and the making of urban place

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There is a substantive literature on comparative work from various epistemological standpoints in urban studies (Robinson 2014, Scott and Storper 2015). The idea of comparative urban research seeks to transcend the boundaries of a single-city perspective. But as McFarlane (2010) points out that comparative work has often been understood in relation to cities between the Global North and Global South but a more postcolonial debate considers comparativism as a research and mode of thought. At the core of the ‘doing’ comparative urban research entails the challenge of the researcher. However, scanty literature focuses directly on the process of producing South-South comparability, positionality of researchers and the methodologies and ethical dilemmas of the ethnographic self. In this presentation, I will explore two important questions – First, what does it mean to be a South Asian researcher doing comparative contemporary urban research in South Asia? I will elaborate this by unpacking the connections between South Asian cities from two neighbouring nation-states, look at the process of comparative research once the historical place has geographically moved beyond a single city, nation-state or region (Reference Kenny and Magdin 2015). Second, I will address the impact of insider-outsider positionality on collected data. I will elaborate on this by highlighting the ethnographic self, issues of intersectionality between caste, religion, migrant and a researcher trained in the UK doing research on South Asia. To advance my arguments, I will make use of interviews and observational data gathered to understand the influences of the identities and geographies of the researcher on their work.

This talk is part of the Fieldwork Seminar: Methodologies in the 'field' series.

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