D844 Ethnography Essay

Dr. Erel’s research employs an intersectional approach and explores how gender, migration and ethnicity inform practices of citizenship. This has first been developed in her PhD looking at skilled migrant women from Turkey in Britain and Germany (2009), then she explored these issues in the context of paid and unpaid work of refugee women in the voluntary sector and migrants in new areas of multiculture.

Her current research focuses on care and citizenship among migrant mothers and their co-resident children. This explores how migrant women’s mothering practices can be conceptualized as citizenship practices. The focus is on questions of belonging and participation for the mothers and their children, for more information see https://youtu.be/uuB9URTJO8E

She is currently PI on an ESRC funded research grant on ‘Participatory Arts and Social Action Research (PASAR): Participatory Theatre and Walking Methods' Potential for Co-producing knowledge’ (January 2016 - December 2017) http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/projects/pasar . This work focuses on exploring and developing participatory walking and theatre methods for use in social science research, dissemination, engagement and teaching. Substantively the project builds on her interest in migrant families’ citizenship, exploring intergenerational relations and the marginalization of migrant families affected by the ‘No Recourse to Public Funding’ policy. A reflection on the methods is available in this podcast http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/resources/podcasts/view.php/creative-methods and this blog


This builds on a range of empirical projects on migrant mothers’ citizenship including an AHRC funded networking activity on ‘Migrant Mothers’ Caring for the Future: Creative Interventions into Citizenship’ (PI Umut Erel, CI Tracey Reynolds, University of Greenwich) (2013-15), consisting of a series of seminars, an international conference and a series of participatory theatre workshops with migrant mothers. In this project, she applied participatory theatre methods as a research method to explore the theoretical notion of how migrant mothers enact citizenship. The project website with audio-visual clips from the theatre workshops, presentations of the conference and seminars and a theatre performance is available at(http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/migrant-mothers/index.php).

Co-Director of Research Programme Migration and Belongings, Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance http://www.open.ac.uk/ccig/research/migration-and-belongings

Externally funded research

- 'Migration Making People, Making Places' £25,000, PIs Umut Erel, Jacqueline Broadhead (COMPAS, Oxford University), CI: Giles Mohan (OU). February 2018 - December 2018

- ‘Participatory Arts and Social Action Research (PASAR): Participatory Theatre and Walking Methods', Economic and Social Research Council £452,821 PI with CIs Maggie O’Neill, York University and Tracey Reynolds University of Greenwich. January 2016-December 2017

- ‘Migrant Mothers Caring for the Future: Creative Interventions into Citizenship’, AHRC Networking Grant, £32,500. PI with CI Prof. Tracey Reynolds, LSBU. May 2013-Feb 2015

- ESF Exploratory Workshop ‘A Caring Europe? Gender, Care and Migration in Europe’, European Science Foundation, Euro 14.000. PI with CIs Nicola Yeates and Parvati Raghuram November 2009

PhD supervision

Since 2016: Marianna Latif ‘Migrant fathers’ identities’ (part-time)

Since 2015: Kiran Nihalani ‘How can emerging practices which acknowledge interdependence and foster solidarity prefigure new forms and relationships of social welfare?’

Since 2015: Xenia Rochelle Jones ‘A critical ethnographic study of the Philippine Overseas Foreign Workers Phenomenon to explore its impact on poverty alleviation via the ‘Padala’ practice’ (part-time)

Completed PhDs

Hilal Alkan Zeybek on Enacting Citizenship: Practices of Intimacy and Gift-Giving in Turkey.


2009: Migrant Women Transforming Citizenship. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Journal articles

Erel, Umut, Reynolds, Tracey and Kaptani, Erene ‘Migrant Mothers’ Racialized Citizenship’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, under review

Erel, Umut; Murji, Karim; Nabahoo, Zaki 2016 ’Understanding the contemporary race-migration nexus: Reflections on the UK in European context’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39 (8), pp. 1339-1360

Erel, Umut and Tracey Reynolds: Research Note: Black Feminism and Migrant Mothers’ Participatory Theatre, Feminist Review, SI on Black Feminism December 2014.

Erel, Umut 2013 ‘Kurdish Migrant mothers enacting citizenship’ Citizenship Studies, Special issue on Reproducing Citizenship, 17 (8), pp. 970-984

Erel, Umut 2012 ‘Engendering transnational space: Migrant mothers as cultural currency speculators’, Special Issue on Gender and Transnationalism of European Journal of Women’s Studies, vol 19 (1) November, pp. 460-74.

Erel, Umut and Helma Lutz 2012 ’Gender and transnationalism’ European Journal of Women's Studies November 19 (4) pp. 409-412

Erel, Umut 2012 Introduction: Transnational Care: Changing Formations of Citizenship, Family and Generation, Social Politics 19 (1) pp. 1-14

Erel, Umut 2011 ‘Complex belongings: Racialization and migration in a small English city’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 34 (12), pp. 2048-68

Erel, Umut 2011 ‘Reframing Migrant Mothers as Citizens’, Citizenship Studies, vol 5 (6-7), pp.695-709

Erel, Umut ‘Making Migrant Women Visible’ Special issue of Cahiers du Genre on Mobilizing Migrant Women in Europe, vol 51 Dec 2011, pp. 135-154

Erel, Umut 2010 Migrating Cultural Capital - Bourdieu in Migration Studies’, Sociology 44 (4) August 2010, pp.642-660

Erel, Umut 2008 ‘Constructing Meaningful Lives: Biographical Methods in Research on Migrant Women’, Sociological Research Online, Volume 12 (4), 2007 (Reprinted in: Life Story Research, edited by Barbara Harrison, Sage: 2008.)

Edited Books

- L, Ryan, U. Erel, A. D’Angelo (eds.) 2015 Placing Capitals: Migration, Networks, Identities. Palgrave.

- M. Morokvasic, U. Erel, K. Shinozaki (eds.) 2003 On the Move! Gender and Migration: Crossing borders and shifting boundaries. Leske & Budrich

Book chapters

‘Re-thinking Citizenship through Migrant Women’s Life-Stories’ in E. Gutierrez Rodriguez and M. Littler (eds.) (2015) Creolizing Europe. Liverpool University Press.

‘Thinking Migrant Capitals Intersectionally: Using a Biographical Approach’, in L. Ryan, U. Erel, D’Angelo, A. (eds.) Migrant Capital. Networks, Identities and Strategies, Palgrave.

‘Troubling’ the problematization of intergenerational relations: migrant children’s views, in J. McCarthy, C.-A. Hooper, V. Gillies (eds.) (2013) Family Troubles. Bristol: Policy Press.– 2nd, paperback edition 2014.

2010: ‘Migrant Women Challenging Stereotypical Views on Femininities and Family’ in Gill, R. and Scharff, C.M. (eds.) New Femininities:Postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan).

2010: with Jin Haritaworn, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Christian Klesse: On the Depoliticisation of Intersectionality Talk. Conceptualising Multiple Oppressions in Critical Sexuality Studies. In: Taylor, Yvette; Hines, Sally, Casey, Mark E. (eds.) Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality. Palgrave Macmillan.

Teaching interests

I chair the module The Uses of Social Science DD206, and have contributed to DD102, DD103 and DD206, having previously chaired D844 Ethnography. I am on the module team of DD218.

Impact and engagement

2016: Workshop on participatory theatre methods for Evelyne Oldfield Trust, Research and Women's Conferences

2012-14 Chair of the Milton Keynes Council’s Ethnic Diversity Commission, specific responsibility to lead 15 public, private and voluntary sector professionals in conducting the first ever consultation on Ethnic Diversity in Milton Keynes. I led the consultation and the report with groundbreaking recommendations.

2010-11 Academic consultant to Roj Woman, Kurdish Women’s NGO in London on their reports ‘Women Human Rights Defenders in Kurdish Regions of Turkey’ and ‘Empowering Kurdish Women in London’

2011: Evidence to European Commission Report on Migrant Women in Europe

2009: 90 second lecture: ‘British Jobs for British Workers?’ .youtube.com/watch?v=5kwIgdoDwYw

2008: Migrants’ Rights Network consultation on Pathways to Citizenship

2008: workshop for gender researchers and activists from the Middle East on Gender and Migration at the Conference on Gender, Migration and Ethnicity at the Lebanese American University Beirut, January 2008

2006: Commission for Racial Equality consultation on migration and racism

External collaborations

I have co-led the OU part of the consortium across arts and academia putting on a multi- platform event at Tate EXchange: Who are We Project? https://www.whoareweproject.com

I am on the Steering Group of the Migration Museum Project http://www.migrationmuseum.org

I am on the Board of Trustees of Imece Women's Centre http://imece.org.uk

International links

I am on the board of Research Committee 05 Racism, Nationalism, Ethnicity and Indigeneity of the International Sociological Assocation.

In his paper, Moon (2001) draws a picture of the conception of reflection in higher education as a tool to a better learning. The main points are also summarised in another article written four years later (Moon, 2005).

Moon begins by searching for a definition of the concept of reflection, suggesting that it is a form of mental processing to achieve some anticipated outcomes, and is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is no obvious solution. Moon believes that emotions are also part of the process of reflection and may influence the way it is carried on. For Moon the process of reflection can occur only on something when you already have some knowledge about it, therefore reflection from scratch has no sense. I find this point interesting regarding what I notice in my course or in the courses I mentor as referee, when students are asked to think and reflect about a case study at the early beginning of learning about a subject where they have only a few ideas about it. What can we really expect from such a demand?

The article then explores different authors’ approaches to reflection, encompassing Jurgen Habemas, David Kolb, Donald Shon. From this quick browsing I was struck by the description of Kolb’s cycle which was visualised as a spiral later by Cowan (1998)

Adapted from Kolb (1984) and Cowan (1998)

The important point I keep from this schematic vision is the principle of ‘cognitive housekeeping’ given to the reflection process explained by Moon which permits integration of old and new raw cognitive material into a new form of knowledge. We can then consider actual knowledge as a big jigsaw puzzle image where each piece has its importance but reveals a higher level of understanding by putting it all together in an way that makes sense.

From his summary of Habermas (1971) I note the three kinds of knowledge he described:

  1. instrumental knowledge – how we understand and control our human environment;
  2. knowledge as the interpretation of human action and behaviour – to better understand the society in which we are living and behaving;
  3. knowledge as a way of acting on the two first forms of knowledge (reflexive knowledge?) – which transforms personal, social and other situations and gives the bases ‘on which we make judgements’.

The most interesting point about Schon (1983) is the separation of reflection into a dichotomy, reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. If I can clearly see how we can reflect on and what we have done as a process ex-post, I agree with Moon that reflecting during the action helped my thought process.

Mo0n concludes this theoretical presentation claiming that none of the previous authors study the importance of emotion in the the reflection action and he raises the question of whether emotional content is always present in reflection and if so, how it influences its result. He concludes that this important point for him is not answered in the literature so far.

For Moon, we can only see the result of learning but it is difficult to perceive the process. Nevertheless, Moon suggests that learning passes through different stages: Noticing and Making sense which belong to a surface learning approach (Marton (1997)) and Making meaning, Working with meaning and finally Transformative learning which all belong to the deep approach of learning.

Moon and assessment of students reflective work

I agree with Moon that ‘assessment tends to drive student learning’ and that we can force them to follow a deep approach of learning if they see in this a way of succeeding in the learning task. For this to be true, we, practitioners, must believe in the method we use and show the way to students instead of asking them to adhere to our proposition of methodology. For reflection as a learning tool, practitioners must believe in its potential outcomes to foster such behaviour. Moon suggests that positive outcomes of reflexive work are apparent during the period of revision before examination.

As long as reflection is an ‘encouragement for learners to follow their own thinking, to work without a curriculum’, Moon is not in favour of a formal assessment of this material. But on the other hand, he claims as I already pointed out in a previous post, with Crème that whenever we see value in students’ work it has to be assessed.

Moons then suggests that assessment must follow very clear, and maybe new, criteria enabling fair marking. He also suggest that such artefacts could be marked as ‘adequate and passed’ or ‘not yet adequate and not yet passed’, privileging qualitative rather than quantitative marking. I note that Moon’s marking suggestion gives students a chance to improve even after a final marking. I personally agree with this approach which fosters lifelong learning and the fact that learning from a course continues long after the course’s end.

Positive outcomes of reflection in learning

  • Reflection slows down activities
  • Reflection enables learners to develop greater ‘ownership’ of the material of learning and enhances the student’s ‘voice’
  • Foster ‘metacognition’
  • Challenging learners with ill-structured material of learning improves students’ cognitive ability

Comparing these claims with H808, I agree that reflection slows down the process of learning, fostering a deeper approach and a time left to analyse and incorporate new information to create a bigger picture. This is maybe why the course syllabus is short in H808 but the tasks themselves take a long time to be processed by students. I personally already complained in another post about my feeling of a lack of structure in this course, but in the light of Moon’s claims, this is maybe not a lack but a pedagogical way to push students to find their own way toward professionalism and improvement of our  cognitive ability.

Reflexive tools

Comparing Moon’s suggestions of tools to reflect on, most are offered for engagement during H808: learning journal, portfolio, reflection on work experience, reflective exercises. The following proposed tools are, not yet, part of H808: reflection on work-based training, reflection on placement learning, peer and self assessment.

Issues relating to the introduction of reflective activity

Moon points out different issues as follows:

  • students’ ability to reflect is sometimes weak – ‘not all students find reflection easy’;
  • some staff will not understand reflection either
  • cultural issues – ‘some languages do not have a word for reflection’
  • disciplinary issue – ‘the discourse of some subjects are, by nature, more likely to require reflective activity’


Cowan, J. (1998) ‘On Becoming an Innovative University Teacher’, SRHE / OUP, Buckingham.

Habermas, J. (1971) ‘Knowledge and Human Interests’, Heineman, London.

Kolb, D. (1994) ‘Experiential Learning as the Science of Learning and Development’, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Marton, F., Hounsell, D., Entwistel (1997) ‘The Experience of Learning’, SCottish Academic Press, Edinburgh.

Moon, J. (2001) ‘PDP working paper 4: reflection in higher education learning’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id72_Reflection_in_Higher_Education_Learning.rtf (accessed 29 June 2007).

Moon, J. (2005) ‘Guide for busy academics no. 4: learning through reflection’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id69_guide_for_busy_academics_no4.doc (accessed 2 July 2008).

Schon, D. (1983) ‘The Reflexive Practitioner’, Jossey-Bass, San-Francisco.

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Categories: H808_Unit1_2009Tags: assessment, H808, reflexive, theory

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