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  • Author or Editor: Zanib Rasool x
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This chapter considers some questions related to policy development, as policy impacts all areas of community life. In particular, it explores the concept of social cohesion in neighbourhoods, which is currently a key policy issue. The context for this includes internal conflicts between groups competing for the same scarce resources, structural inequality, housing and environment neglect, crime, and disorder, creating segregation and a culture of ‘us and them’. Moreover, this chapter finds that arts methodology is a tool for ethnic minority women and young people to negotiate boundaries and hostile territories and to engage in policy questions on community cohesion through photography, portraits, and poetry.

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This chapter focuses on the identities of British Muslim young women from a writing group, and shares some of the themes that emerged during these writing sessions. Three specific themes related to identity came out of the girls’ writing group: place and globalisation; religion; and language. In the UK, there is an increased focus on social cohesion and integration. Young people from minority ethnic communities experience a great deal of pressure in order to fit in with the national narrative of ‘Britishness’, and often feel that they should conform outwardly in their dress and physical appearance, and adopt British sociocultural practices. Those individuals who maintain their faith, language, and cultural identity are seen as segregating themselves and living parallel lives.

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This chapter tells the story of community development in Rotherham and discusses some implications for policy and practice. The 1990s saw a decline in community development due to a lack of funding for posts, a lack of training being offered, changing funding priorities, and government policies. However, community development is now back on the agenda again through the work of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), who want to give more power back to local neighbourhoods and communities in order for them to have a bigger say on local issues, participate in decision making, and design and deliver services themselves.

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This chapter argues that emotions help people with ‘meaning making’, and offer different experiences of the world through a different lens. It does so in the context of women’s writing, as writing connects ordinary women and gives them the opportunity to articulate feelings not expressed or shared before. In academic social science, emotions have historically been associated with the irrational and quite opposed to the objective scientific search for knowledge. However, in the last decade or so, sociologists have recognised that ethnographic research cannot be clinical and detached from human emotions. We can say ‘emotions do things’ — they move us but also connect us with others.

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This chapter considers poetry as a creative or arts-based method within social research. It argues that poetry as a research methodology can elicit thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and can give a platform for marginalised voices, such as women and girls, as it enables those silenced voices to be heard — and heard loudly. Poetry offers one way to capture the knowledge held in communities, particularly among those whose voices have been traditionally marginalised, like young people and women. Poetry provides us with a different lens for making sense of everyday interactions, contradictions, and conflicts. Poetry allows us to express different perspectives of our lived experiences — a mosaic of autonomous voices freed through poetry.

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This chapter turns to ‘the Rotherham project’, in which participants aged between 12 and 16 were involved in youth projects at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust. The project aimed to use photography as a means of exploring identity and to investigate themes related to the ethics of representation, informed by the participants’ first-hand experience of living in Rotherham. The young men explored the town on foot and by minibus, visiting the town centre, the surrounding countryside, and places of special interest, such as a local castle. During the photography sessions, the young men highlighted the things they liked about Rotherham, the challenges they found concerning, and their hopes for the future.

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In this article we explore the ways in which universities and communities can work together drawing on our experience of a community-university co-produced project called ‘Imagine’. We reflect on our different experiences of working together and affectively co-produce the article, drawing on a conversation we held together. We locate our discussion within the projects we worked on. We look at the experiences of working across community and university and affectively explore these. We explore the following key questions:

  • How do we work with complexity and difference?

  • Who holds the power in research?

  • What kinds of methods surface hidden voices?

  • How can we co-create equitable research spaces together?

  • What did working together feel like?

Our co-writing process surfaces some of these tensions and difficulties as we struggle to place our voices into an academic article. We surface more of our own tensions and voices and this has become one of the dominant experiences of doing co-produced research. We explore the mechanisms of co-production as being both a process of fusion but also its affective qualities. Our discussions show that community partners working with academics have to bear the emotional labour; by ‘standing in the gap’ they are having to move between community and university. We also recognise the power of community co-writing as a form that can open up an opportunity to speak differently, outside the constraining spaces of academia.

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Connecting Rotherham through research

This is a book that challenges contemporary images of ‘place’. Too often we are told about ‘deprived neighbourhoods’ but rarely do the people who live in those communities get to shape the agenda and describe, from their perspective, what is important to them. In this unique book the process of re-imagining comes to the fore in a fresh and contemporary look at one UK town, Rotherham.

Using history, artistic practice, writing, poetry, autobiography and collaborative ethnography, this book literally and figuratively re-imagines a place. It is a manifesto for alternative visions of community, located in histories and cultural reference points that often remain unheard within the mainstream media. As such, the book presents a ‘how to’ for researchers interested in community collaborative research and accessing alternative ways of knowing and voices in marginalised communities.

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This chapter offers a sense of the legacy of this book and identify its key features, in order to provide a summary of what the authors have learned from doing the book. The central goal in writing this book has been to demonstrate that communities produce their own forms of knowledge, and that those forms are valid — and valuable — ways of knowing. The chapter articulates the value of this kind of research for community knowledge production that is emergent, situated, and future oriented. As such, this chapter identifies four key themes: thinking across difference, the arts as a mode of inquiry and as an agent of change, rethinking knowledge production practices, and hope and the importance of transformational change. The chapter then reflects on these themes.

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This is a book that challenges contemporary images of place. Too often we are told about deprived neighbourhoods but rarely do the people who live in those communities get to shape the agenda and describe, from their perspective, what is important to them. In this book the process of re-imagining comes to the fore in a fresh and contemporary look at one UK town, Rotherham. Using history, artistic practice, writing, poetry, autobiography, and collaborative ethnography, this book literally and figuratively re-imagines a place. It is a manifesto for alternative visions of community, located in histories and cultural reference points that often remain unheard within the mainstream media. As such, the book presents a how to for researchers interested in community collaborative research and accessing alternative ways of knowing and voices in marginalised communities.

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