Building Global Partnerships

The SeaM Project is a three-year partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the University of Witwatersrand.

Our aim is to use innovative, interdisciplinary methods to explore (in)security on the urban margins in South Africa.

Our partnership is funded by the ESRC and NRF.

The SeaM Partnership is led by Barbara Bompani (University of Edinburgh, Principal Investigator) Jo Vearey (University of Wits, Principle Investigator) and SJ Cooper-Knock (University of Edinburgh, Co-Investigator).

SeaM is a member of the ESRC Urban Transformation Cluster.

Narrative Inquiry as a Decolonising Methodology

As part of the #MethodsMatter Blog Series, this week, we spoke with Prof Hamdan, based at the University of Dammam, who has written on Narrative Inquiry as a decolonising methodology. Her use of narrative inquiry stemmed from her PhD, which explored how Arab Muslim women in Canada reflected on their lives and their gender roles.

Prof Hamdan had realised the potential power of narratives when she had started reading bell hooks’ book Teaching to Transgress. ‘It had a high impact on me as an educator, a Muslim minority, as a teacher, and as a pedagogue’, she explained.

Whilst she was conducting a literature review for her PhD research, she had realised the potential impact that this approach could make. Much of the pre-existing work in this area continued to reproduce the Orientalist myth that Muslim women were passive victims of faith-based oppression, who needed to be liberated into Western ways of life.

Prof Hamdan realised that narratives inquiry could shatter these myths, challenging the power and prejudice that undergirded them. The narratives that she collected and explored spoke to the varied experiences of Arab Muslim women in Canada, and their diverse, nuanced reflections on gender roles.

Whereas other accounts of Arab Muslim women in Canada, and beyond, had been dehumanising, Prof Hamdan’s narrative inquiry was inherently humanising. ‘To present participants’ stories and views’, she explained, ‘ makes research real’.

Engaging with this approach was an ‘eye opener’ for Prof Hamdan. ‘We empower ourselves and others through stories’, she concluded, ‘when we include other people’s stories this empowers them and others who go through the same experience’.

You can read ‘Narrative Inquiry as a Decolonising Methodology’, here.

SeaM Spotlight: SJ Cooper-Knock


SJ Cooper-Knock is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Edinburgh.

We caught up with SJ in Johannesburg, where she is working on the ‘Constructing Difference’ pilot project, alongside Emma Monama, Mercy Mupavayenda, and Loren Landau from ACMS. Their work has taken them to Orange Farm, where they have be using in-depth interviews and visual methods to explore what people think about the area, the connections they make with other residents, and the ways they move around Orange Farm in their everyday lives. The research has uncovered some interesting and important insights, and the team are now in the midst of transcribing and analysing their findings.

“It has been fantastic to work with such a thoughtful, innovative and engaged research team. We used photographs in this project as visual cues to start a diverse but focused discussion of spaces in Orange Farm. It worked really well and I’m excited to get started on the analysis.”