UGRLS Scholar practices ethnography in Kirkgate Market

Introduction by Penny Rivlin.

In this post, Leeds Voices Undergraduate Research & Leadership Scholarship Award scholar Rianna Haree reflects on her new role and first experiences of research practice on the Leeds Voices project. Rianna has already made valuable research contributions, working both collaboratively and independently in Kirkgate Market. The team has benefited from her interesting and fresh insights on ‘doing’ research in multicultural public space, and on the interrelationship and interethnic encounters therein.  We are delighted to welcome Rianna to the team, and look forward to working with her as the project progresses. Rianna is mentored by, UAF Elisabetta Adami, who, as a leadership role model, is providing guidance, instruction and inspiration – particularly in her specialist areas, which traverse multimodal studies, semiotics, language and communication. 

My reasons for applying for the UGRLS Scheme, by Rianna Harree 

My name is Rianna, and I am an undergraduate student working on the Leeds Voices project as part of my Undergraduate Research & Leadership Scholarship Award (UGRLS). One of the main reasons that I wanted to get involved with Leeds Voices was because of its interdisciplinary context. I loved the idea of being able to pursue my interests in race and ethnicity along with gaining knowledge in other fields of which I had little familiarity, such as linguistics. There are a wide range of languages from across the world spoken in my family. However, the majority of my relatives speak English as a second language, so I’ve always been interested in way that people of different native tongues use English as a lingua franca to communicate. As a result, the idea of researching into the dynamic of interethnic communication as part of my scholarship really appealed to me. The cultural hub Kirkgate market also seemed to me like the perfect location to conduct this research. After I finish my undergraduate studies, I’m thinking of applying for a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology. Thus, I knew that undertaking a research project with an ethnographic element would give me a good insight into the nature of a postgraduate degree in this subject. 

My research so far 

The first phase of my summer research was dedicated to developing my understanding of multimodality and other semiotic concepts. Two of the main books I decided to focus on were Introducing Multimodality by Carey Jewitt and Jeff Bezemer, along with Discourses in Place by Ron and Suzie Scollon. I found Discourses in Place particularly useful as it included multiple exercises to help one’s understanding of the way in which meaning is expressed in public spaces. These consisted of analysing interactions between individuals, to the position of words in a stall sign. So, I conducted these exercises in the market to better my understanding of different forms of communication and its significance within this space. Next came my favourite part of my research: my ethnographic study. Here, I surveyed market traders and gathered data on their ethnicities, spoken languages and gender. I loved the communicative practical element of this task as it was a nice variation to my previous weeks of reading, and as well, it was great to acquire some hands on ethnographic experience. Nonetheless, gathering this data also made me value the immense amount of cultural diversity within Kirkgate market. Merely by conversing with traders, I learnt about, and found myself, researching into such interesting and varied aspects of different cultures – from dialects of Senegal to the history of Kurdistan. The purpose of this task was to use the collected data to create an interactive map of the Kirkgate Market documenting the ethnic and linguistic diversity amongst traders. The idea of constructing a map appealed to me as I wanted to create a visual representation of the data that I gathered. Due to the current economic decline that markets are facing across the UK, I also felt that it was important to create an artefact of the cultural diversity of Kirkgate Market at a moment that its current traders are operating. 

What have I gained from UGRLS? 

I can’t express enough how fortunate I feel for being awarded my scholarship. My summer of research has impacted me both academically, by strengthening my study skills, and personally by enabling me to develop my interests in ethnicity and language. At the moment, I am applying for work placements in France for my year abroad as part of my English and French degree. The skills that I’ve gained from my scholarship will no doubt prove useful in my applications, as well as in my aptitude in the professional environment. Equally, being involved in the UGRLS scheme is fantastic. It is great to be in a network of other undergraduates who are passionate about research and learn about the nature of their projects. I can’t wait to continue with the second half of my project and share its outcomes with others!