Prefigurative Nomadism? An ethnographic study exploring the alternative living practices of “New Travellers” and their implications for social change
This study is motivated by an interest in social movements that involve an abandonment of conventional lifestyles, and experimentation with new ones. This involves new forms of housing, identification, notions of community and family, and other value systems that contest consumer capitalism.
To explore this, I will carry out an ethnographic study looking into the lives of “New Travellers.” I am currently carrying out interviews, with an array of New Travellers from different generations. “Rhizomatic sampling” (Stehlik, 2014) has been employed to locate participants via social networks. I am currently searching for a new field site, where I hope to live for at least 6 months during the data collection phase of my PhD.
This arduous search for a place to dwell and carry out participant observation reveals the difficulties accessing (often) off-grid communities (many of whom have bad relations with researchers). Many sites are very much hidden due to unauthorised or off-grid nature or frequent displacement. For those that are accessible, free pitches are often unavailable due to high demand for such places.
The lack of authorised stopping places is an ongoing problem in the UK. Indeed, while planning permission applications are almost always rejected at first hearing (Crawley, 2004; Niner, 2006; CRE, 2006; Department for Local Communities and Government, 2007; Greenfields & Brindley, 2016), the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 has also effectively criminalised those who attempt to form communities of this kind without permission.
While the economic and social benefits of site provision (to both the state and individuals) has repeatedly been illustrated through previous research (e.g. Morris & Clements, 2002; Crawley, 2004; Niner, 2004; CRE, 2006; Department for Local Communities and Government, 2007), this study aims to explore further benefits of site provision. Most notably, in relation to an experimentation with alternative ways of being with each other and the world. This includes a focus on the reconfiguration of people’s lives with their environments – a particularly important issue in the face of today’s climate crisis.
It is considered how responses from the state and wider society are impacting the growth of alternative housing. The implications that this situation has for social change and resistance will be explored.