Art of the Matter: Merging Theory, Research and Art

“Hyderabad unlike other big cities defines itself through the uniqueness of her streets. It is the streets that have an identity that they communicate to the onlooker. But to the ones who live on these streets life can be less than nostalgic. They may carry the street with them in the form of a gunny bag hanging to their shoulders.”
— Prakash Kona, Streets that Smell of Dying Roses

 

Art Matter 1
A Sample Transect Map of Gudimalkapur Market

 

The Winter Institute is a full-fledged three credit course in the academic calendar of Masters of Urban Policy and Governance at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. It is a space for interdisciplinary and collaborative learning through research, and action through field immersion. In 2018, from October 6 to 17, a group of 24 students and a few faculty members, traveled to Ameerpeth and Medhipatnam, Hyderabad. The aim of this course was to engage with the question of employment. More specifically, to understand how youth from marginalised localities in the city engage with work and the work sphere. As part of it’s tradition, students share their experiences and insights through a series of blogs , published on the department website. This is the final post in this series.

The Winter Institute was held in collaboration with the Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL), a research organization that studies the challenges of contemporary urbanization. Together, the faculty from the Centre of Urban Policy and Governance and staff of HUL conceptualized the theme of the study, narrowed down the research sites, and further guided students through the process.

Apart from writing the blog posts where they reflected on their research methods and findings, students also shared invaluable insights taken from the field through innovative methods. One of these visual methods involved creating postcards that reflected the process of fieldwork. These alternative methods helped students to freely articulate experiences and paved the way for new forms of field research methods.The students were divided into five groups, each encouraged to use a unique field strategy to discuss field research. Anandita Sikka created a series of field images narrating interview scenes with flower sellers, municipal body leaders, and other stakeholders from Gudimalkapur market. These visuals portrayed the narratives acquired from their research and illuminated the underlying presence of authority figures and the versatility of flower sellers in adapting to changes in the market space.

Art Matter 2
Inter-sectional Postcard

The images compiled and created by students supplemented photographic evidence and helped to visualize complex ethnographic research ideas and intersectionalities. The flexibility of field research tools are often not understood from structured reports and case studies. Structured reports can condense rich in-depth data, but often miss several nuances. These visual tools provide an interactive medium for representing data. Ultimately, it brings flexibility in understanding qualitative research data.

Another unconventional method adopted by one of the student groups was to create a series of calendars showing biographical information on some of the interviews and mapped street locations. This effort to convert in-depth data into simpler-to-read and engaging formats is one of the reasons why alternative methods maybe a viable option for future research.

Art Matter 3
Multipurpose Calendar: Goutham and his group discuss how to integrate space and place in their field data

In another instance, rough transect maps were created to make easy translations of geographical locations, marking only those parts which were essential for students. The transect map (as shown in Figure 4) provide readers with a write up about Gudimalkapur Flower Market and guides them through the roads and houses encountered during fieldwork. This layout along with its descriptions makes it possible to visualize several experiences from the field. Devashree Ragde also drew a transect map to delineate the basic stakeholders present from her fieldwork.

Art Matter 4
Student Impression (Made by Devashree Ragde)

Perhaps one of the most prominent moments during the Winter Institute came through post-fieldwork presentations. Students laid out their major fieldwork themes and correlations into comprehensive presentations, diagrams, and model set ups. A few of these samples are represented below:

Art Matter 5
The IT Crowd (Prema and teammates)
Art Matter 6
Typical store placements (Goutham and teammates)

It is difficult to slot these narratives and visualization under any one fixed cluster of research. They are interdisciplinary, in-depth, and represent constant field interactions and changing dynamics. Unlike quantitative research tools which are goal-oriented, the research shown here are examples of how process-oriented methods allow students to understand the nuances in the field. It is practiced through mapping the everyday realities and difficulties faced by residents and workers. These mapping exercises are not meant to be perfect or absolute. Rather, these are tools designed to guide students in their personal research goals. By learning about the history, diversity, and local functionality in markets like Ameerpet and Mehdipatnam, the students taking part in the Winter Institute were able to understand the different complexities in these localities. This is emblematic of how field-oriented research is taught and practiced at the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance. Hyderabad Urban Lab facilitated and highlighted the need for innovative field practices and tools for quality ethnographic research. These larger-than-life stories shared by students may be incomplete, but they are the bedrock of urban adaptability. The Winter Institute has broadened avenues for students to conduct and communicate their research ideas via a diverse set of methods, and reach beyond academia and its peers.

 


The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. The blog series showcases the work, reflections and opinions of the students, and not the Centre.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

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