Overcoming over-research? Reflections from Sydney's ‘Petri dish'

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Over Researched Places: Towards a Critical and Reflexive Approach


This chapter relates ethical and methodological reflections from four respective research projects (though somewhat intertwined) grounded in the study of the Sydney neighbourhood Redfern-Waterloo. This neighbourhood—two contiguous suburbs in the city’s inner-south—has received persistent streams and periodic torrents of scholarly enquiry for nearly 50 years. The area contains large tracts of social housing in an otherwise gentrified landscape and has for decades been a locus of Aboriginal and working-class activism and organising. It has also been a long-term fixation of urban redevelopment strategies and plans, the latest iteration leading each of us to the area. In critically reflecting on our experiences so far, we set out some potentially productive pathways for conducting research in such a place. Over-researched places are often essentialised and studies often recruit many of the same participants and as such we point to the need for engagement with under-researched subjects and agendas within over-researched places and for more comparative analyses of over-researched and under-researched places. Furthermore, we call for more action research and activism within our own institutional structures to shift academic research away from detached enquiry and toward more collaborative and rewarding modes of research participant engagements.

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