Working with time, intersubjectivity, and the vernacular imaginary - Online

Organised by

University of Leeds


Professor Jon Lawrence & Dr Dawn Lyon


13/05/2021 - 20/05/2021


Run online by University of Leeds


View in Google Maps  (LS2 9JT)


Marie Johnson


Working with time, intersubjectivity, and the vernacular imaginary: perspectives and practices from history and sociology

This multi-part workshop across three mornings is concerned with time, intersubjectivity, and the vernacular imaginary. It is led by a historian – Jon Lawrence – and a sociologist – Dawn Lyon - and starts with an interdisciplinary dialogue on ways of working with qualitative secondary data from history and sociology. Across the three workshops, we share material from Ray Pahl’s Sheppey studies (archived at the UK Data Service) with participants, discuss the range of research tools and practices it is built on, and consider the different ways each of us has approached and worked with elements of this data set. We provide a context for the data and confront the ethical issues implied by re-use across a time period where norms and sensitivities have changed. We explore the relationship between oral testimony and transcripts, and the scope for writing histories of the self, subjectivity and emotion using social-science sources. We reflect on intimacy and the direct experience of data collection and analysis alongside the process of doing qualitative secondary analysis. And we work through notions of time and temporality that underpin all of this work.


The workshop will involve:

  • Live streamed presentations
  • Guided data analysis activities including first-hand re/analysis of original materials
  • Individual, group and/or paired work
  • A chat function to facilitate learning and exchange


Participants will gain appreciation of:

  • A range of approaches and methodological tools to do qualitative secondary data analysis across history and sociology
  • Working with archive materials
  • The ethical and practical challenges of data reuse
  • The role of time and temporality in the research process


SESSION 1: Working with time, intersubjectivity, and the vernacular imaginary: perspectives and practices from history and sociology (Thursday 13 May 2021, 10am-12noon)

The first session of this multi-part workshop is an interdisciplinary dialogue on ways of working with qualitative secondary data from history and sociology. We set the scene on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent (UK) and introduce to participants to the range of resources archived from Ray Pahl’s Sheppey studies at the UK Data Service. Pahl (1935-2011), a well-known British sociologist, was a geographer by training and at the same time committed to a historical understanding of the contemporary social world he investigated. He undertook a series of projects on the Isle of Sheppey, a predominantly working-class community, from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s which led to the publication of Divisions of Labour (1984). We present some of our starting points in working with this data set and the different trajectories undertaken (and paths not taken) by each of us from our respective disciplinary locations in history and sociology. We invite participants to think with us and take part in a discussion about time and temporality in the process of doing qualitative secondary analysis.


Set reading (both will be provided):

1. Lawrence, Jon (2017) ‘The People’s History and the Politics of Everyday Life since 1945’ in John H. Arnold, Matthew Hilton, and Jan Rüger (eds) History after Hobsbawm: Writing the Past for the Twenty-First Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2. Lyon, D and G Crow (2020) ‘Doing Qualitative Secondary Analysis: revisiting young people’s imagined futures in Ray Pahl’s Sheppey Studies’ in K Hughes and A Tarrant (eds) Qualitative Secondary Analysis, London: Sage.

Additional Reading (1. will require library access and 2. is open access):

1. Crow, G. and Ellis, J. (2017) Revisiting Divisions of Labour. Manchester: Manchester University Press, especially Introduction.

2. Crow, G. and N. Takeda (2011) ‘Ray Pahl’s Sociological Career: Fifty years of impact’, Sociological Research Online 16(3):


SESSION 2: Revisiting Linda and Jim’s Stories, 1978-1992 (Tuesday 18 May 2021, 10am-12noon)

This workshop explores methodological and theoretical issues thrown up when we seek to make use of historic social-science interviews (tapes and transcripts) that are themselves the product of an unusually close personal relationship between researcher and subject. Ray Pahl conducted nine formal interviews with the couple he called ‘Linda and Jim’ over 15 years between 1978 and 1992. Pahl acknowledged that his closeness to Linda and Jim blurred the professional boundaries of social-science research. Revisiting the archival traces of these encounters, and relating them to Pahl’s published account of the couple’s experiences in Divisions of Labour (1984), raises many fundamental questions about both social-science practice and secondary analysis. This session will explore many of the key practical and ethical issues raised by the secondary analysis of social science fieldwork, but it also raises fundamental questions about the ‘primary’ analysis of personal testimony.

Participants will be expected to read selected extracts from three set texts. In reading the original interview transcriptions you are encouraged to reflect on:

a) What is the relationship between the raw interview transcripts and Pahl’s published account of Linda and Jim’s experience?

b) What additional issues might we use the original transcripts to explore, and what methodological issues might this raise?

c) What is distinctive about the Linda and Jim material, and how has it been influenced by Pahl’s personal friendship with the couple?

d) What are the ethical issues thrown up by working with this material?


Set reading (1. and 2. will be provided, 3. is open access):

1. Extracts from the interview transcripts with the couple Pahl calls ‘Linda and Jim’ in Divisions of Labour (17pp)

2. Ray Pahl, Divisions of Labour, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), extracts from chapter 11 [12pp – pp. 280-86, 298-304]

3. Jane Elliott and Jon Lawrence, ‘The emotional economy of unemployment: a re-analysis of testimony from a Sheppey family, 1978-1983,’ Sage Open (Dec. 2016), Special on in ‘Digital Representations: Re-Using and Publishing Digital Qualitative Data,’ @ [11pp]

Additional Reading (both can be provided on request):

Ray Pahl, Divisions of Labour, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), chapter 11 [33pp]

Jane Elliott and Jon Lawrence, ‘Narrative, time and intimacy in social research: Linda and Jim revisited’ in Graham Crow and Jaimie Ellis (eds) Revisiting Divisions of Labour: the Impacts and Legacies of a Modern Sociological Classic (Manchester University Press, 2017), [25pp]


SESSION 3: Imagining the future and remembering futures past: working with imagined futures essays and memories of a younger self (Thursday 20 May 2021, 10am-12noon)

The third and final workshop focusses on a specific research technique: imagined futures essays. In collaboration with local school teachers, Pahl collected close to 150 essays written by school leavers in 1978 imagining their futures as if they were already past. In 2010, we (Dawn Lyon and Graham Crow) replicated this exercise and gathered over 100 essays written to a similar format. This session works with example essays which we read as powerful statements of the ‘spirit of the times’ in which these young people lived, documenting how their hopes and expectations were inflected by the class, gender and other social relations of the day. They also carry the ‘imprint’ of other times (e.g. legacy of the closure of the Royal Dockyard in Sheerness on the Isle of the Sheppey in 1960) and are vehicles to explore ‘projectivity’ as an often-overlooked aspect of agency. Finally, we consider what these essays do when they are reunited with their original authors who confront their memories of futures past from their present lives.


Set reading (1. and 2. will be provided, 3. will require library access):

1. Pahl R E (1978) Living without a job: how school leavers see the future. New Society 2 November, 259-62.

2. Lyon, Dawn, and Graham Crow (2012) ‘The challenges and opportunities of re-studying community on Sheppey: young people’s imagined futures’, Sociological Review 60: 498-517.

3. Mische, A. (2009) ‘Projects and Possibilities: Researching Futures in Action’, Sociological Forum 24(3): 694-704.

Additional reading (library access will be required):

Linkon, S (2018) The Half-Life of Deindustrialisation, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


This short course will be delivered by Jon Lawrence, Professor of Modern British History, University of Exeter and author of Me, Me, Me? The Search for Community in Post-war England (OUP, 2019) and Dawn Lyon, Reader in Sociology, University of Kent, who has published on qualitative secondary analysis based on her work (with Graham Crow) on the Sheppey Studies.


Intermediate (some prior knowledge)


£30 - For UK registered postgraduate students, £60 – For staff at UK/EU academic institutions, UK/EU public sector staff, staff at UK/EU registered charity organisations and recognised UK/EU research institutions and £100 - For all other participants

Website and registration


Yorkshire and Humberside


Secondary Analysis, Narrative Methods, Biographical Methods/Oral History

Related publications and presentations

Secondary Analysis
Narrative Methods
Biographical Methods/Oral History

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