Qualitative Researcher, 12 pp 5-7
In 2005, we conducted research that focused on the experiences of African American undergraduate students at a large U.S. university (Inwood and Martin 2008). Our goal was to better understand how race –or more accurately, “whiteness”- was evoked in the landscape of the university. As part of this research we employed two ‘roving focus groups’ in which 5-8 African American students led the first author through the campus and discussed the ways in which the campus embodied particular racial narratives as well as the relationship between the cultural landscape and their own life stories on the campus1. We created these roving groups because we felt that certain elements of the landscape were hard to recall in an interview; walking them with the research participants, we felt sure, would ground our understandings in the actual spaces and places which participants were discussing. Based on that experience, we argue here that roving focus groups offer critical information about place and space that simply does not emerge in interviews or focus groups in fixed locations. Indeed, when dealing with issues of identity and “insider/outsider” spaces, walking to and through particular places may be the most efficient way to understand –see, experience, and define- the spatial marginalizations and transgressions that so many individuals daily practice and experience.