Thank you for letting me in. Observations on the methodological agility required for sustaining contact with the Milltown Boys over 50 years
04 fevereiro 2022 | 16h | Online

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Howard Williamson | University of South Wales, UK



Susana Henriques | CIES-Iscte





The ethnographic study of the ‘Milltown Boys’ has lasted almost 50 years.  Howard Williamson first met the Boys when they were young teenagers: they were typically school drop-outs and young offenders.  He was a ‘participant observer’ with them on the streets of Milltown and in courts and custodial institutions, exploring their engagement with and perspectives on the criminal justice system.  Twenty years later, he conducted semi-structured interviews with them about how their lives had unfolded, and twenty years further on, he interviewed some of them online as they passed the age of 60.  This presentation considers these different ways through which both human and research relationships were sustained with the Milltown Boys over time, providing me with knowledge and understanding of both their public and private lives and – critically for sociological analysis – their perspectives on the interaction between the two.  The ‘methodological agility’ invoked over 50 years did not always guarantee ‘successful’ research but, without it, any research would have been impossible; the Boys controlled the situation and, for the most part, continued to ‘let me in’. 

Dr Howard Williamson is Professor of European Youth Policy at the University of South Wales in the United Kingdom. Previously he worked at the Universities of Oxford, Cardiff and Copenhagen and has held visiting positions at universities and research institutes in Hong Kong, Malta, Croatia, China, France, Australia, and Iran.  He has lectured and published widely on young people, youth policy and youth work.  His most recent publications are The Milltown Boys at Sixty: the origins and destinations of young men from a poor neighbourhood (Routledge 2021) and About Time! A reference manual for youth policy from a European perspective (EU/Council of Europe Youth Partnership 2021) 
He is a qualified youth worker and ran a youth centre for 25 years in parallel with his academic research. He has advised many levels of governance on youth policy issues, from the Welsh and UK governments, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.  He co-ordinated the Council of Europe’s international reviews of national youth policy.  He is a board member of Grassroots – the Cardiff City Centre Youth Project, the Restorative Justice for All International Institute, the European Forum Alpbach Foundation, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People.