How to talk to the city: public interventions and observations in the practice of art and ethnography. A PGR workshop as part of the 'Becoming Public Ethnographers' Programme with the Institute of Education, University College London.

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsWorkshopResearch


The aim of the workshop project is to develop the skills of the group in relation to understanding and participating in ethnographic processes that utilise a creative dimension. The idea is that every member will develop an artwork that engages with the public realm, both in terms of content and its presentation.
We will use artistic techniques to foster different ways of producing and representing knowledge. We will also experience how it feels to be a subject in an ethnographic process, by sharing our ideas, development and final works with the group. Hewitt and Jordan will introduce debates around arts and ethnography exploring the similarities and differences in these approaches.
They will address the question, ‘Why do social projects look like participant ethnography?’ They will explore the different histories, contexts and practices of art and posit some ideas of why it sometimes looks and acts like ethnography. In recent work we have been working with the notion of membership over participants as this establishes a collective idea of working together and draws on our understanding of the public that we want to bring this to the project.
 As a group we will respond to a brief that utilises creative making, scripting, performance and documentation. All members will be expected to make a presentation of the production process and outcomes using field notes, and documentation. The content of the workshop is based on the idea of speaking back to urban space. We have chosen the city as this is a contested space, it is a dynamic site, as well as the social/political /economic place in which we develop our subjectivities and where our bodies are made visibly public. When we walk in the city we are also made aware of our publicness when we encounter another passer-by. We chose to use the city as a starting point gives us both a thematic and a place in which to perform our final project. The members will be asked to develop a performative act, which will take place in the public realm and feature a prop or script. In the programme Becoming Public Ethnographers, “Becoming public ethnographers develops knowledge and skills in ethnography. This initiative consists of a series of lectures and workshops aiming to strengthen PhD students’ ethnographic voices and get involved in societal debates about social change. These project foster different ways of representing knowledge and dialogue with the multiple publics that our research intends to address.” Main output: development of an ethnographic product (text, performance, installation) enabling us to engage with our publics With speakers, Andrew Hewitt (University of Northampton) and Melanie Jordan (Coventry University), Dara Culhane (Simon Fraser University) & Danielle Elliott (York University) and Alisse Waterston (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) and Charlotte Corden, Carolyn Ellis (University of South Florida) and Arthur Bochner (University of South Florida)
Period21 May 202125 Jun 2021
Held atUniversity College London, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • contemporary art ethnograpy publicness