Maginn, Paul J., Susan Thompson, and Matthew Tonto, Editors. Qualitative Housing Analysis: An International Perspective.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Skelton, Ian
Pub Date: 06/22/2010
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2010 Source Volume: 19 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Qualitative Housing Analysis: An International Perspective (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Tonto, Matthew; Maginn, Paul J.; Thompson, Susan
Accession Number: 243797930
Full Text: Maginn, Paul J., Susan Thompson, and Matthew Tonto, Editors.

Qualitative Housing Analysis: An International Perspective, Studies in Qualitative

Methodology volume 10. Bingley, UK: JAI Press, 2008.

289 pp.

ISBN: 9781846639906.

Qualitative Housing Analysis is a welcome addition to works on qualitative methods in housing studies, and in policy and planning more generally. Intending to undermine the domination of these fields by quantitative argumentation and evidence-based policy making, the editors have assembled a set of papers that show the usefulness of a broad range of qualitative approaches and that also give good leads into the various reaches of the methods literature. Most of the chapters are designed to include authors' reflections on previous work, describing their research processes and explaining how these relate to their overall research programs.

In the opening chapter the three editors develop their vision of a 'pragmatic renaissance' for qualitative work, which was proposed in a previous volume in the series. Accumulating knowledge on various contexts and circumstances in policy formulation and implementation will enable qualitative analysts to "engage strategically in the debates that matter" (p. 5). This seems like a useful counterstrategy to the narrow pursuit of universally best practices. The editors argue for building a "sedimentary evidence base" (p. 20) through replication, standardization of methods and research questions, and quantification of results. They are aware that this may leave readers--and apparently some authors in this volume--feeling that attention to specifics, which drives qualitative work in post-positivist methodologies, is at risk.

Part I, Home and Homelessness, includes three chapters. Perkins, Thorns and Winstanley detail research processes, including face-to-face and telephone interviewing and document analysis, from a number of studies in New Zealand centred on prevailing cultural attitudes to home and planning. Martin and Kunnen report on studies of homelessness in Australia, outlining the strategies and principles guiding their practice. Robinson rejects categories that "contain homelessness within particular measurable parameters" (p. 95) and argues ardently for attention to emotional and corporeal experiences.

Part II, Researching Complex Housing Needs and Worlds, also consists of three chapters. Martin stresses the "importance of particularity" (p. 137), clearly showing how a study with existing residents in an area undergoing gentrification in Notting Hill was conceptualized and undertaken. Lyons adopts an essentially positivist framework, involving hypotheses, generalizations and an orientation towards systems rather than world views, in a study of post-tsunami housing interventions in Sri Lanka. Reflecting on studies with "Gypsy/Travellers" in the UK, Lomax gives innovative strategies for incorporating cultural knowledge and sensitivity to gender and age in peer-led research.

The four chapters of Part III are the most programmatic contributions of the volume. Adams et al. employ self-directed photography, sound walks and interviewing to "explore people's sensorial experiences and understandings of their local environments" (p. 185). Arthurson reviews literature on social mixing over the period 1990-2007, making the case that studies generally omit residents' day-to-day experiences and thus are unable to explain how purported benefits of social mix might actually come about. Blokland and volume editors Maginn and Thompson provide an overview of ethnography in their studies of non-participation in community development in Rotterdam and New Haven. As a methodology focused on "relational complexities and dynamics" (p. 232), Blokland et al. argue that ethnography can provide empirical strategies consistent with Patsy Healey's institutionalism. Jourdan introduces work in grounded theory, in which theoretical statements are produced through induction within the study, rather than in any sense separately from empirical work. Jourdan shows that this orientation led to unexpected yet useful findings in examining public housing redevelopment in the USA (HOPE VI).

Part IV, Conclusions, consists of one chapter. Franklin reviews ethnographic work on housing since publishing an early programmatic piece in Housing Studies and, lamenting progress to date, calls for wider adoption through increased government funding.

It is a great strength of this volume that the contributors give a lot of insight into their research processes, thus enabling readers to evaluate the contributions of the various qualitative methods illustrated. It seems puzzling however, that the editors did not include a conclusion reflecting on the contents, though the chapters by Franklin and by Blokland et al. might suggest a subtext: ethnography is highlighted in the context of the editors' call for standardization of methods. Other quibbles: there is no index, and the title conveys a greater international scope than the volume delivers. More substantively, important debates about philosophical orientations are underplayed and the more superficial issue of qualitative vs. quantitative approaches prevails. Nevertheless, this is a useful collection, supporting the broadening of methods in housing studies and wider policy work.

Ian Skelton

University of Manitoba.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.