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Ethnographies with the Police: Workshop on Intersectionality and Ethnographic Research

7th July 2023 , M2 WBS Teaching Centre Warwick Business School, 12:00pm - 4:00pm (lunch at Radcliffe conference centre)

Option to attend online (1pm - 4pm)

Are you an ethnographic researcher engaged in police work?

As an institution known for its difficulty in gaining access, police work presents unique challenges for researchers, particularly those using ethnographic approaches. This gathering serves as a space to facilitate the production, interpretation, and ethical location of the researcher's body and self in police research. By fostering a supportive community, this event seeks to share experiences, best practices, and mutual support.

About the Event

This workshop/roundtable brings together a collective of scholars who are actively involved in policing research, with a particular focus on gender, sexuality, and the intricate relationships between humans, animals, and the environment. The event aims to foster a supportive community and provide a platform for researchers who employ embodiment and ethnographic methodologies in their investigative approaches.


The event is open to researchers, scholars, and individuals interested in the intersections of gender, policing, and ethnographic research. It welcomes academics from various disciplines, graduate students, and practitioners engaged in related research areas.

Potential Avenues of Inquiry

The workshop encourages discussions and presentations on a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Intersectionality and Policing
  • Ethical Challenges in Policing Research
  • Sensory Methods and Police Practices
  • Human-Animal Interactions in Policing


Workshop Schedule


12:00pm - 1:00pm Researcher Networking & Lunch

1:00pm - 1:20pm

Access, Ethics, and Gender in Police Ethnography

  • Professor Louise Westmorland, The Open University
    • Talk Title : Police Ethnography: Some reflections on access, gendered bodies and ethics.
1:20pm - 1:40pm

Multi-Species Ethnography and Embodied Practices

  • Professor Nickie Charles, Warwick University
    • Talk Title : Multi-species ethnographic research with the police.
1:40 - 2:00pm

Performance, Linguistic Practices, and Research Dynamics

  • Dr. Piotr Wegorowski, Glasgow University
    • Talk Title : "We need to sit down and discuss royalties": Research participants' orientations to being researched.
2:00pm - 2:15pm Discussion
2:15pm - 2:30pm Coffee Break / Screen Break
2:30pm - 2:50pm

Feminist Approaches and Masculinity in Policing Research

  • Dr. Abena A. Yalley, Universität Konstanz
    • Talk Title : Gender Clash: Hostile masculinity and feminist performance in researching policing domestic violence in Ghana and Nigeria.
2:50pm - 3:15pm

Reflexivity and Researcher Identity in Police Ethnography

  • dipbuk Panchal, Warwick University
    • Talk Title : Observations from within the 'riot van' as I still want to call it.
3:15pm - 3:30pm Discussion
3:30pm - 3:55pm

Towards Building a Police Ethnographic Community: Reflections, Outcomes, and Future Directions

3:55pm - 4:00pm Close

Speakers and Abstracts

Professor Louise Westmorland, Head of Discipline Social Policy & Criminology, The Open University, UK
Police Ethnography: Some reflections on access, gendered bodies and ethics.

This paper reflects on two studies carried out a number of years ago. The first, in the mid to late 1990s, focussed on gender and policing. Amongst other things it looked at how women officers, partly as a result of their so called ‘weaker bodies’ were working in a male dominated environment at that time. The second ethnography, in the US, followed a homicide investigation unit and their ways of working in a high crime environment where murders and cases of serious wounding were nightly occurrences. The negotiation of access, trust and ‘being there’ as a method of data collection is discussed, as well as the ethical implications of seeing potential misconduct, is discussed.

Professor Nickie Charles (she/her), Professor and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, Warwick University
Multi-species ethnographic research with the police

This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork with three different police dog sections in the UK. The fieldwork was part of a larger research project exploring different dog training cultures and how they shape dog-human relationships. Here I reflect on how my engagement with trainee general purpose police dogs, their handlers (mostly men) and those who were training them (all men) was influenced by my positionality not only as a researcher but also as someone who spoke the language of dog training and understood its embodied practices. Furthermore, our research was not concerned with investigating police work – our focus was on the training of police dogs before they and their handlers became operational. The space of training, which lasted for an intensive 12-week period, can therefore be conceptualised as a liminal space of apprenticeship which, while it was work for the trainers and dog-handler teams, was not police work as it is usually understood. This break from frontline duties and our primary interest in dog training, together with at least one of the research team’s familiarity with dog training practices, may have facilitated our ability to establish a relationship of trust and openness with the research participants.

Dr Piotr Wegorowski (he/him), Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics, Glasgow University
“We need to sit down and discuss royalties”: Research participants’ orientations to being researched

While linguistic ethnographic research does not prescribe any data collection tools (Copland and Creese 2015: 29), the focus on “linguistics tying ethnography down” (Rampton et al. 2004) often relies on audio or video recordings. Linguists have observed how participants can orient to recording devices, either treating them openly as a resource (Gordon 2013; Hazel 2015), or in a non-overt manner (Heinrichsmeier 2015). In this talk, drawing on data from a project investigating linguistic practices of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), I will demonstrate how research participants engage in a performance for the benefit of the researcher and potentially a future audience. In doing so, I will also be able to examine the dynamics between individual officers and consider my place as a researcher in the process. I will show how participants orient not only to the recording device but to the situation of being researched. In doing so, I will problematize the notion of performance for research, and suggest that researching performance instead reveals a lot about the nature of the relationship between the participants and the researcher as well as participant practices more broadly.

Dr. Abena A. Yalley, Postdoctoral Fellow, Zukunftskolleg, Universität Konstanz, Germany
Gender Clash: Hostile masculinity and feminist performance in researching policing domestic violence in Ghana and Nigeria

Policing is recognized as one of the world’s most masculinised institutions, constructed on rigid patriarchal norms and ideologies. Although contemporary policing is beginning to recognise the necessity for feminist approaches to successful policing, masculinity continues to take a pivotal pre-eminence in policing. The Ghana and Nigeria Police, like most police institutions, is highly gendered with dominant patriarchal principles. But what does this mean for ethnographic research, particularly for female researchers to conduct ethnographic studies in such a masculinised institution? Furthermore, how does the research topic increase the vulnerability/agency of the researcher?

In this presentation, I examine my fieldwork experiences as a woman, researching on feminist issues in the Nigeria Police Force and the Ghana Police Service. I employ a narrative approach to examine the gender tensions, my vulnerabilities, and adaptation skills during my 13 months fieldwork in six police Stations.

dipbuk Panchal (they/them), PhD Researcher, Warwick University

Observations from within the ‘riot van’ as I still want to call all it.

This paper is concerned with how the researcher’s positionally is constructed. How can the unseeable, the unhearable, and the unspeakable be expressed? Also, what about the silent and detached officer? This is a reflexive account of my observations, how I came to be in this position, and whether anything has changed. There are moral dilemmas intertwined within the observations.

My observations inform how I see the uniform and how it interacts with the body that wears it. In this particular shift, I shadowed for the entire shift. Patrolling and also helping. The van was comprised of 8 officers, and at times, I once again wanted to be one of them, just as I once was in a previous life.

These are my gendered reflections on police ethnography. Can field notes and reflexivity bring ethnography to life? The constructions of researcher identity and what does this mean? These are some of the dilemmas I face as a consequence of this reflexivity. Any thoughts or feedback are welcome.


Professor Nickie Charles (she/her). Professor and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender

As a Principal Investigator (PI) in a Leverhulme-funded project, Nickie is actively involved in studying how training cultures influence the interconnectedness between humans and animals. This three-year research initiative, titled 'Shaping inter-species connectedness: Training cultures and the emergence of new forms of human-animal relations,' encompasses a range of facets related to human-animal interactions. Collaborating alongside Nickie on this endeavor are Professor Mara Miele (Co-Investigator, Cardiff) and Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder (Consultant, Edinburgh). Notably, one of the project's case studies concentrates specifically on multi-species ethnography and the cultural dynamics surrounding dog training within the police force.

dipbuk Panchal (they/them) PhD researcher

Collaborative Partners:

We are grateful for the funding provided by the Centre for Operational Police Research (COPR) ,Behaviour, Brain and Society GRP and the Sustainable Cities GRP. Their financial support has been instrumental in making this event possible.

Additionally, we would like to acknowledge our collaborative partner, the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender at Warwick University