New Publications!

I have been a bit quiet on my blog recently but I would like to resurrect it now and share some news with you all.

I have had two things published. One is a book review of Men, Masculinities and Methodologies by Barbara Pini and Bob Pease which is going to be published in the Gender, Place and Culture journal. This is an excellent and timely collection of chapters by scholars of men and masculinities that recognises, and effectively contributes to, a more critical scholarship of methodologies as they pertain to the study of men. The chapters address issues such as power, positionally and ethics in research with men and reflect on experiences of researching a range of topics including internet dating, violence. Researchers also reflect on their experiences of researching men in all their diversity including methods conducted with older men, older gay men, fathers and ruling class men. In the review I highly recommend this book for a geographical audience although it is an excellent interdisciplinary resource.

To read it follow the link here. You will require a subscription to the journal or you can contact me for a copy.

My bookOn the 2nd September 2014, the ‘Studies of Ageing Masculinities: Still in their infancy?’ publication that I edited with Dr Jaqueline Watts was officially launched at the British Society of Gerontology annual conference. This was written for a research series called the ‘Representation of Older People in Ageing’ that the Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies at the Open University publishes with the Centre for Policy on Ageing. The flyer for the event is available here as well as the ISBN number if you wish to purchase it. As well as an opening chapter by Jackie and I, the book contains chapters by the presenters at the seminar I chaired about the same subject last year. In the publication Dr Kate Davidson reflects on her research about the social worlds of older men, Dr Kate Bennett contributes a chapter on male widowhood, David Jackson discusses ageing from an autobiographical perspective, I reflect on my research about grandfatherhood and Robin Hadley explores methodological issues in research with childless men. Together the chapters indicate an increasing research interest in older men as a group whose experiences often remain hidden and invisible.

This Sociological Life: A great blog for academics using social media!

On Thursday I am going to be presenting about the use of social media as an academic at the Open University. I really enjoy discussing my experiences of using social media in my work. It has become an incredibly useful tool for me in many ways. It has enabled me to share my research experiences, to discuss my developing skills, to develop extensive networks with researchers across the globe and to develop my writing skills, among many other things. There are of course many different platforms that academics can use but I tend to use my blog, I write for other blogs (such as PhD2Published and the blog for the new research project I am working on ‘Beyond Male Role Models‘) and I use Twitter as regularly as possible to ensure that my research, and my research skills are visible and accessible to a broader audience. 

In preparing for my talk I was kindly directed to Deborah Lupton’s blog This Sociological Life. In my opinion, this is an excellent example of academic blogging at its best. Deborah, a sociologist at the University of Canberra, Australia, is very candid about why she uses social media and how it helps her in her academic career. Her site features a number of posts ranging from reflection on why she blogs, to comments on news topics of interest, to book reviews. These posts provide really interesting insight into the way in which she operates as a sociologist. For her, blogging means she is contributing to a gift economy in which knowledge is a social good rather than a marketable commodity (see her blog post here on research about social media use by academics).

There are risks associated with using social media as an academic of course but so far, these have been very minimal for me and I think that the positives outweigh the  negatives. I would therefore strongly encourage academics of any career stage to develop their presence and contribute to this emerging gift economy.

There is a lot to learn about social media on Deborah’s site. I highly recommend you take a look!   

Writing an academic book review

I have recently been asked to write a book review for Gender, Place and Culture. I am currently on the Editorial Board of this journal. I have written two book reviews before and consider them a useful way to a) get a publication, b) to establish my interests and expertise as a researcher and c) to learn more about emerging research in my fields of interest. There is of course the perk of getting a free copy of the book! The book I am reviewing at the moment is ‘Men, Masculinities and Methodologies‘ by Barbara Pini and Bob Pease. I am really pleased to have the opportunity to review this book because of my own interests in the power relations that occur in researching men as a woman (something I have reflected on in an article that has recently been accepted for publication here* in The Professional Geographer).

I have been given some instructions by the journal about how to write the review and what information it should include, but I have also come across this useful resource by Wendy Belcher, which outlines how to do an effective review (access it here). This recommends that the review should take about a month to complete, which is exactly how long I now have to write it.

To add to the points made in this resource, I think it is important to state who the book is relevant to i.e. students and/or researchers or both, and to what discipline(s). While this book is not directly targeted at a geography audience it is certainly relevant to geographers who conduct research in relation to men and masculinities, so this is a key point that I will make in the review. The process of active reading is also mentioned. For me, this will involve reading through the chapter, picking out key points, using pen and paper as Belcher suggests to make note of the key points and then constructing an annotated bibliography of each chapter. This is a handy resource for constructing the review and also for later reference should I need to refer to the chapters.

I best get on with it! Keep an eye on the blog for news of when it will be published!

* If you would like a copy of this article please get in touch.

New blog on The Beyond Male Role Models site: The Celebrity Male Role Models Pixel Campaign

pixel blogOver on the Beyond Male Role Models website, the blog for the research project I am involved in at the Open University, is a blog post I have written about the Celebrity Male Role Models Pixel Campaign. This is a campaign seeking to end violence against women by giving men a voice and encouraging men to reflect on the qualities they admire in other men. You can read the full blog post here.

In the post, I reflect critically on the ways in which the male role model discourse is considered part of the solution to ending violence against women and the poor outcomes of vulnerable young men. I reflect on the idea that gender is in fact not all that relevant, rather the qualities of respect, honesty and understanding are what people value in others.

I hope you enjoy the post.


Organisers: Anna Tarrant (Open University, UK), Emily Cooper (Lancaster University, UK) and Canny Liu (Royal Holloway, UK)
Sponsored by GFGRG (Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group)

Feminist geographers have identified intergenerational relations as a crucial research agenda and area of policy concern (Holloway and Pimlott-Wilson 2011; Vanderbeck 2007) and are now seeking to centre family as a unit of geographical analysis (Valentine 2008). The family has hence been re-defined as both a ‘spatial project’ (Luzia 2012) and ‘a locale for collective activity arranged over spatial and temporal configurations’ (Holdsworth, 2013, p.13). It is therefore a rich and significant research space in which to consider the spatio-temporalities and coproduction of identities, relations, norms and practices. Whilst parenting is clearly a central inter-generational relation, family life is not reducible to it. Existing research has shown, for example, how family caring work is being done through grand-parenting in global contexts such as Africa (Evans 2010), the UK (Tarrant 2010) and China (Jiang et al 2007).  Such work raises questions about the impacts on inter-generational family life of dynamics from population changes, employment dynamics, ageing populations, domestic space provision, and new forms of consumer culture. Furthermore, interdisciplinary theorising about family represents an opportunity to reimagine concepts of relevance to geographers through the lens of intergenerational relations. Of particular significance for example are: distance/proximity, belonging, inclusion/exclusion, social inequalities, citizenship, othering and mobility. 

We invite papers focusing on a range of global contexts which have a theoretical, empirical and/or methodological focus. Papers with a commitment to feminist methods, theories and praxis are particularly welcomed. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

- The material culture of family and family life,
- How family life is ‘done’/’undone’, ‘made’ and ‘unmade’, through intergenerational relations,
- Transformations to practices of intimacy, in diverse contexts, and the forces shaping them,
- Families and intimate mobilities
- Reflection on the discourses, policies and spatial practices that construct family identities,
- How dominant ideologies of family operate to constrain or control particular groups,
- Experiences of extended and non-normative families (i.e. (great)grandparents, transnational families, same-sex headed families) 
- The production and socio-spatial deployment of familial norms and orders
- The interiority of intimate family life in a global context
- Innovation in methodologies for researching the spaces of family and intimate relations
- How notions of distance and proximity are reconfigured in the context of   changing intimate relations

Please send an abstract of 250 words with full contact details by Friday, 31st January 2014 to Anna Tarrant (anna.tarrant[at], Emily Cooper (e.cooper2[at] or Canny Liu (chen.liu.2012[at]

How to structure a conference proposal: today’s #acwrimo task

I have several #acwrimo tasks on the go at the moment but my main focus today is writing a proposal for an academic conference. I have done this once before but it was a long time ago, so I have been looking for useful resources to help me put this proposal together. On the RGS-IBG website (or the Royal Geographical Society’s website) there is a really useful set of resources that explain how to propose a variety of different types of organised sessions including Paper Sessions, Panel Sessions, Split Sessions. World Cafes, Speed Dating (or collaborative match-making) sessions and Roundtable sessions (so many!). These can be viewed here.

The format for the session I want to propose is the Paper Session. This should include four to five papers each of approximately 15 minutes in length, followed by five minutes of questions. This allows academics to present on their area of interest, as it relates to the focus of the session and to discuss their work with other interested colleagues. This particular session will use an open call approach whereby people submit abstracts as expressions of interest having viewed the call for papers. This requires a clearly focused session proposal that outlines clearly what the session organisers are looking for. 

Looking at past examples of proposals and CfP’s that have been sent to me via Email has been a useful exercise in thinking about how to structure the proposal and how to decide what elements are important to include. Looking at past calls for papers, the following structure appears to be commonly used and useful for putting together a session proposal:

Title – This needs to be pithy and focused

Session Organisers - List who is chairing and organising the session

Position the session within existing debates/identify the gap - Explain why this session is needed now and explain what debates you are contributing to or expecting to move forward. What gap in knowledge are you contributing to?

Identify the focus of the session – Outline the general topic you want to attract papers about. This should be focused enough to ensure that you attract relevant papers, but broad enough to capture an interesting range of papers.

Explain more specifically what you want the session to explore – You are proposing the session because you want to move an agenda or debate forward. Therefore you should hopefully have some idea of what kinds of topics and papers you want to include. Being more specific about what you want the papers to explore provides useful guidance for people who want to propose a paper.

Use bullet points to list and suggest topics of interest – Again, these act as a signpost to potential contributors about what topics you are interested in focusing on. If you want to attract papers that focus on methodological, theoretical and empirical aspects, make this point clearly.

If necessary, refer to the broader focus of the conference or research theme - If the conference overall has a specific theme or focus overall, then ideally the papers that are included should respond to this as well. 

Provide contact details and abstract submission requirements - The practical bit – people need to know where to submit their papers to and what format their submission needs to be in.

Part One: Why Grandfathers? An introduction to my research

It has occurred to me that while I have been deeply invested in blogging about my academic skills and experiences, as nurtured by my role as Managing Editor for PhD2Published, I have written very little on my blog about my research. In my post as Research Associate at the Open University I am currently working on funding bids and a new ESRC funded project Beyond Male Role Models, but I have also been busy publishing material from my PhD thesis. The list of my publications is available here but in this short series of posts, I have decided to share some of the findings from the research and to reflect on them. In Part One of this series, I outline the context to my research on grandfathering and it’s importance as a topic of interest.

But first: Who do you think about when you think grandparent? Is it your grandmother on your mothers side? Your grandfather on your fathers side? Do you think of a grandparent who has been there for you or one who has been present in your life only through stories and the memories passed down by your parents? Did your grandparent care for you on a short-term basis? Perhaps they even raised you?

I pose these questions because grandparents are important and most people today will have known their grandparents or have some memory of them. ; According to sociologists Sara Arber and Virpi Timonen (2012) they are more important in family life than ever before. This is because the twenty-first century is a period of marked social and demographic change; change that has influenced relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren, as well as the extent to which they can know, love and care for one another. Very broadly (and it is highly complex), improvements in health and technology and increasing longevity mean that grandparents are more likely to know their grandchildren and to be able to maintain relationships with them. Changes within families have more complicated outcomes. Divorce, lone-parenthood and re-marriage for example can result in the requirement for grandparents to play much more significant roles in family life. These changes have varying implications in different countries and contexts as well. In the UK, there is evidence that grandparents play a significant role in looking after children for parents on an informal basis, especially when both parents are working. In America, the incidence of grandparents raising grandchildren without parental involvement is much more significant.

Much of the existing sociological knowledge we have about grandparents, knowledge that also informs the policy that affects people’s lives, is about women. Grandparent is often synonymous with grandmother and there are good reasons for this. Women are still predominantly considered society’s carers (although the roles of men who provide care should not be ignored) and it is women who are most likely to experience age and gender based discrimination in the balancing of work and care responsibilities (see the IPPR‘s report on the Sandwich Generation, 2012). The result of this however is that men’s roles, and their significance in the lives of their grandchildren, have been frequently over looked. In response to this gap in knowledge, my research therefore examined men’s roles and identities as grandfathers. I decided to explore what men did as grandfathers, where they conduct grandfathering, how they feel about being a grandfather and what kind of relationships they had with their children and grandchildren.

While this might seem like an arbitrary topic, the research indicated important differences in the ways in which men and women experience and conduct grandparenting. Assumptions about what men and women do are relational and are often constructed in opposition. So, if we assume that grandmothers are always the main carers, this can actually have implications for the value placed on men and their abilities to care. Previous research for example indicates that they can actually play significant roles in lone parent families where fathers are absent (Harper et al 2004). If we construct grandfathers as incapable of care as a society however, we are less likely to support them and facilitate their needs.

Researching grandfathers then, alerts us to the impacts of social and demographic change, to questions about men and their ability to care and to questions about gender and age and the ways in which they shape people’s lives and experiences and our expectations of them.

In Part Two, I outline the research methods I used to explore contemporary grandfathering…


Arber, S. and Timonen, V. (2012) Contemporary Grandparenting: Changing Family Relationships in Global Contexts, Bristol: Policy Press

Harper, S., Smith, T., Lechtman, Z., Ruicheva, I and Zeilig, H. (2004) Grandmother Care in Lone Parent Families, Oxford: Oxford Institute of Ageing.