This article explores the significance of researchers positionality for the interpretation of local cultures of rurality. Drawing on personal experience of studying the apparent emergence of a new squirearchy in an English village, it argues that backyard ethnographies, in which researchers study worlds with which they are already familiar if not intimate, can offer valuable insights into cultures of rurality by facilitating particular forms of disclosure and understanding. While the potential value of insider status, and indeed participant observation, has become increasingly debated in rural research, the implications of being local have been largely neglected. The article discusses the significance of being local in terms of privileged access to elite cultures in rural space, focusing on how it assists enquiry in terms of acceptance, observation and interpretation. At the same time, it highlights some of the challenges to this mode of investigation. The article draws on material from a locality based study of the so-called new squirearchy in England.
Published: April 2011