Research with a Twist

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Research with a Twist


National Centre for Research Methods -



Project Team and Collaborators

Dr. Eline Kieft (Principal Investigator) C-DaRE, Coventry University

Dr Ben Spatz (Co-Investigator) University of Huddersfield 

Dr. Simon Ellis (Mentor) C-DaRE, Coventry University

Advisory Board:

Dr. Jerome Lewis University College London

Prof. Vero Benei French National Centre for Scientific Research

Dr. Thomas Groß Director of the Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security (CCCS)

Project Overview and Background

Since ethnography’s somatic or affective turn, a researcher’s physical sensations are understood to contribute to insights into people and cultures. However, there are no adequate courses that teach students how to be in their bodies and utilise their body as research instrument. This project translates insights from somatics to scholarly research, and explores the contribution and benefits that can come from such integration.

Somatics enable a structured exploration of body awareness, deepening the researcher’s understanding of subjects’ experiences regarding complex issues, resulting in a richer and more authentic representation of the data.

Using the body as a source of understanding as well as support throughout the entire research cycle benefits the researcher as well as (lay) audience. Firstly, the toolkit offers different approaches to conducting a literature review, gathering data, analysis and dissemination. Secondly, it provides mental and emotional support to the researcher during challenging aspects of the research cycle. 

Project Objectives

The main aims of this project are to explore embodiment as tool across the entire ethnographic research cycle in order to:

  1. to interrogate the potential contribution of somatic techniques to ethnographic methodology and investigate the role of physicality and corporeality in interdisciplinary ethnographic research, reflecting on the body as site of knowledge; and 
  2. to contribute to somatic training and awareness within UK anthropology teaching and research through the development of a ‘somatics toolkit’ that enhances the quality and depth of training and supports the physical and mental wellbeing of researchers.


  1. to design and deliver a toolkit that informs and supports teaching and research in anthropology through live facilitated sessions
  2. to collect and analyse data on the utility of the toolkit sessions through participant questionnaires, qualitative interviews, focus group discussions and case-studies;
  3. to produce an accessible tutorial and two peer- reviewed scholarly articles (one video-based);
  4. to build toward a body of empirical research that provides the ground for a future project which would make the somatics toolkit available to researchers in a wider interdisciplinary context beyond anthropology.

Research questions

  1. What activities and (contextual) conditions will support researchers in bringing body-based and somatic techniques into their specific research context?
  2. How can improvised, conscious movement and somatic practice in a studio setting support thinking, knowing, analysing and connecting research activities?
  3. What, if any, are the effects or influences on ethnographic work of engaging more deeply with somatic attention and enhanced ‘physical literacy’?

Impact Statement

Ethnographic fieldwork has a profound impact on the communities in which research takes place. Articulating the community’s values and practices can be a powerful way of serving and giving back to the people, but anthropologists are highly aware of the delicate and sometimes difficult power dynamics that arise during fieldwork. A major question in anthropology today is how to locate and acknowledge the place of the ethnographer’s own subjectivity and embodiment in fieldwork. The somatics toolkit for ethnographers will provide new practical and critical tools for the embodied work of ethnography, with significant impact not only on ethnographers but on all the communities they work with.

The somatics toolkit has numerous potential uses outside the professional anthropological community as well. It can inform the training and ongoing professional development for health care professionals, who can use it to deal with topics such as navigating the unknown in the treatment room, dealing with ethical and moral challenges that arise from different lifestyles and worldviews, staying well and healthy in such a challenging professional environment. The patients and the culture of health care institutions will benefit as an effect of this. As the somatics toolkit supports bodily confidence and awareness in general, it could be used by professionals already working with the body. PE teachers, dance therapists, athletes, and performing artists are increasingly working with mindfulness tools like meditation and taijiquan to enhance performance, reduce injury, and support longer effective careers. The somatics toolkit, with its distinctive grounding in an anthropological context, would be a useful and distinctive addition to currently available approaches.

A local impact event will be organised in Coventry for young adults leading up to their A-level exams applying the toolkit to support homework planning and exam stress, as well as career and life style choices.


Expected outputs

Both academic and those orientated to (potential) users (articles, papers, datasets, events, etc.). Where possible, describe the expected impact.


Expected Impact

Somatics Toolkit for Ethnographers, developed through practice sessions with anthropology students, and interdisciplinary academic staff. 

Reaching and benefiting students and academics of all career stages and a range of disciplines, leading to richer outputs while navigating the stress and challenges of the academic environment.

(Social) media communications to a broad audience using contemporary (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and traditional media (e.g. press releases).

Increase the visibility and raise awareness and use of the ERM Framework for a wide audience.

Fortnightly electronic blog post for members of the academic community as well as lay audience via a variety of channels (JiscMail, C-DaRE blog, Twitter, Facebook).

Communicating the research to a wide audience of interested researchers and members of the public.

Presentations of the process and findings at relevant conferences, for example Oxford Ethnography & Education Conference, Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Conference; Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth; European Conference on Research Methodology.

Raise awareness of the toolkit in the academic community and among health care professionals.

A written journal article in a peer-reviewed journal such as Teaching Anthropology or Qualitative Inquiry.

Increase the visibility of the ERM Framework in the academic community.

A scholarly video article that addresses and articulates the project making specific use of the unique properties of audiovisual documentation, submitted to Journal of Embodied Research. 

For individual researchers and health care professionals to apply the method(ology) individually, to increase uptake and practice of the methodology.

A video tutorial with accompanying written document.

Serving as an entry point to somatic techniques for anthropology students and researchers at all levels.

A local impact event in Coventry for young adults leading up to their A-level exams.

To support them particularly with homework planning and exam stress, as well as career and life style choices.

A sustainability plan to advocate the toolkit and ensure its uptake.

Ongoing training and professional development of the research community.