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‘I had a hard time actually trying to catch the essence of Englishness’: participant photography and the racialised construction of place and belonging in a South London suburb

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This article draws on findings from a study conducted in a South London suburb that employed photograph participation methods alongside semi-structured qualitative interviews in order to explore the extent to which identifications as English are racialised. While initial data analysis utilised a somewhat reductive photo-elicitation approach, this article presents findings from a reanalysis in which the photographic data were approached on an equal footing with verbal constructions of Englishness. It will be demonstrated that the mobility and movement within space reflexively discussed and captured by participants provide important new perspectives on the ways in which associations between Englishness, whiteness and a sense of belonging are stabilised and destabilised in relation to racialised, gendered and classed interpretations of place. However, whilst these findings are valuable, the reanalysis also raises serious questions about the hugely difficult, even futile, task requested of participants—that of ‘representing Englishness’—during the photography stage of the methodology. The article will conclude by arguing that studies such as these should ideally try to enable ‘messier’ and more socially positive outcomes to emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-768
Number of pages22
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number7
Early online date12 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2014


  • SCG_revised_manuscript_with_formatting

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in 'Social and cultural history' on 12/06/2014, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 483 KB, PDF document

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