Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers

Three Manchester Met researchers are involved in an upcoming event with the BSA entitled ‘Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers’.

deborah jump - ethnography in action

Dr Deborah Jump boxing

Ethnographic data is essential for studying, observing, and identifying with a culture or community that one might not have previously been familiar with. Studying contemporary social life is essential to understanding who we are in the world and steering social change, particularly regarding policy and law.

Three Manchester Metropolitan University researchers from the department of Sociology are involved in an upcoming event with the British Sociological Association (BSA). The seminar series entitled ‘Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers’ will include the work of many academics from a variety of institutions in the North West about ethnographic research in the field of criminology.

Dr David Calvey, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, will present his ethnographic data into bouncers and their illegal and deviant subcultures in the night-time economy of the UK. He said “bouncers are evocative and stereotyped figures but [this is also of interest] because the covert approach taken is unusual and innovative. The range of scandals from both investigative journalism and popular television programmes has also placed undercover work in the popular imagination.”

Calvey said: “There is a classic fear and fascination with undercover work because of the clear deception involved in it and the subsequent management of various ethical dilemmas. It is a highly emotive and controversial area of study. The most common fear is around the justification of deliberate deception.”

His work attracted a wide range of media attention on publication and has been subsequently quoted and reprinted in various methodology textbooks.

Dr Deborah Jump, Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, will also present her ethnographic account of North Town boxing gym: ‘They Didn’t Know Whether to Fight Me or F**k me’.

Dr Jump’s interest in boxing and young offender’s perceptions of violence stemmed from her own love of the sport: “For my PhD I became a boxer for 6 months during the time of the Olympics when women’s boxing first came into existence, or was recognized as an Olympic sport. Nicole Adams went on to win gold, as I’m sure you’re aware. Having been a youth worker for 10 years prior to being an academic I was really interested in how sport could be used for a vehicle for change among disenfranchised young people, this is why I chose the topic for my PhD research. It was as a result of this work that I was able to gain access into various boxing clubs in Manchester, some without women’s toilets(!) which is testament to the fact that it is only now being recognized as a valid sport for females”

Dr Jump aims to raise awareness that sport has an impact on all areas of life, not just health. She said: “Although the health benefits of sport are well established, the evidence for sport’s impact on education, crime, and community cohesion is limited and largely anecdotal.”

Also presenting at the event is Dr James Treadwell from the University of Birmingham, Dr Steve Wakeman from Liverpool John Moores University and Dr Mike Salinas, Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Dr Salinas will be presenting his paper ‘An Ethnography of Drug Markets and Youth Transitions’.

The seminar series aims to demonstrate the relevance and impact of ethnographic research to academics and policy makers. Dr Calvey said “Although covert ethnography clearly occupies a niche position in criminology, it is a necessary part of the criminological imagination.”


The Early Career Forum Regional event will also include a round-table discussion, wine reception and a book launch. It will take place on Wednesday 13th April, 10am – 4pm and will cost £10 for members of the BSA and £25 for non-members. Tickets can be booked here.

This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.


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