Raj Patel presented his doctoral work today on reflexive practice and intersectionality in schools. He developed the approach of i-poems after amassing a mountain of data from interviews and participant observation in a school. After spending a long time thematically coding in Nvivo, he explained that everything was coded and yet patterns were not emerging. The risk with a thematic coding approach is it reveals recurring concepts, but overlooks tacit experiences.

The I-poem draws on Gilligan et al’s (2003) Listening Guide; immersing yourself in the data in order to understand the plot, and then focussing on the voice of I/me/my in order to reveal subject positioning and power relations. Raj then worked with these extracts from the data to create poems.

I went for an interview

I didn’t get it

I got back here again one of the staff said to me don’t see it in a negative

“you’re gold to us” she said it in Gujarati “honanichhe” and

I went away

I went away

I didn’t really think about it but then it kept coming back to me so

I wrote it down

I went back to it a couple of days later

I thought …gold

Patel, 2015

Overall, we were interested in the way in which the I-poems displayed intersectionality in a more nuanced way. When the effects of race and gender are felt through subject positioning and through what is left unspoken, can arts practice such as poetry be a fruitful way of articulating this?


Gilligan, C. et al (2003) On the listening guide: A voice-centred relational method. In Camic, P. et al (eds) Qualitative Research in Psychology: Expanding Perspectives in Methodology and Design. Washington DC: American Psychological Association Press.

Patel, R. (2015) The Role of Reflective Practice in Educating About Race, Identity and Difference Unpublished PhD Thesis Manchester: Manchester Metropolitan University available at http://www.e-space.mmu.ac.uk/espace/handle/2173/582935 [Accessed 14/01/17]

This was originally posted on the Arts Based Methods at MMU blog.

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