Recently, the ever important issues of methods and access have been on the minds of the research team here at the Centre for Criminology. In particular, we’ve been thinking about new or innovative research methodologies for exploring issues of border control, the criminology of mobility, immigration detention, imprisonment, and deportation. One of the goals of the larger project, Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power, is to draw on innovative methods that are not typically used within the field of criminology to help understand the processes of (im)mobility, criminalisation, and penal power in the context of globalisation. Another goal of the project is to provide rich empirical data to advance our understanding of the detention and imprisonment of foreign nationals within the UK and beyond. By talking to and spending time with those who are subject to these forms of penal power, we hope to enrich criminological knowledge of punishment within our global age by linking theory to local and transnational contexts.

We’re wondering if others have been thinking similar thoughts about research methods and research access. What methods are you using, or have used, that worked particularly well or were unsuccessful? Which sites did you select for research and why? How did you identify them and negotiate access? What literature was particularly helpful? How important is it to think about these practical questions and when in your project did you do so?

Some resources:

  • Loïc Wacquant’s ‘classic account’ of the ‘eclipse’ of prison ethnography is an important take on the need for ‘ground-level’ research on penal institutions. Wacquant’s article can be read here.