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PhD candidate Sindy Joyce’s research making an impact

The research of Sindy Joyce, a PhD student with the Department of Sociology at the University of Limerick has made an important impact for young Travellers in the city of Galway.

Galway City Museum recently notified Sindy that her dissertation for the taught MA in Sociology (Youth, Community and Social Regeneration) has inspired the organization to focus on the inclusion of young Travellers for Takeover Day 2017, an initiative in which young people take charge of  their local museum for a day working in a range of roles from curators, to front of house, to security guards.

Sindy’s dissertation Divided Spaces, examined everyday racism and its impact on young Travellers’ spatial mobility. The title of her dissertation was “Divided Spaces: An examination of the restrictions placed on young Travellers’ spatial mobility in Galway City -Their Perceptions – Their Voice”. This thesis examined discrimination and racism experienced as a result of Traveller identity in Galway City. The research drew on the Traveller ethnicity debate and theoretical literature.

Her analysis used Henri Lefebvre’s theory that space is socially produced and is influenced by everyday circumstances. In particular, she applied Lefebvre’s conceptualisation of the racialized construction of space to the case of Galway. She also drew upon Peter Hopkins’s (2007) research on ‘Young Muslims experiences of local landscapes after 11 September 2001’. Her research found that young Travellers are severely restricted in their movements and that their access to public and commercial space is limited. Most importantly, this study revealed that these limitations were directly related to the impact of virulent racism experienced by young Travellers.

Brendan McGowan, Education & Outreach Officer with Galway City Museum stated that Sindy’s research:

“has proved the catalyst for an exciting project. Galway City Museum has begun working with two groups of young Travellers (through Foróige and Westside Youth Project) towards Takeover Day (Friday 17 November). A Kids in Museums initiative, Takeover Day is a celebration of children and young people’s contributions to museums, galleries, arts organisations, archives and heritage sites. It’s a day on which they are given meaningful roles, working alongside staff and volunteers to participate in the life of the museum. In 2016, Galway City Museum became the first museum in the Republic of Ireland to take part. This year we are partnering with the Galway Traveller Movement, Galway 2020, Galway Civic Trust and Town Hall Theatre to make our local cultural organisations/venues more accessible and welcoming for young Travellers.”

Sindy’s PhD research

Sindy’s PhD Minkiers Siúladh: An ethnographic study of young Travellers’ experiences of urban space which is nearing completion, develops upon this work. The core aim of her research is to advance our understanding of how urban space is experienced by young Travellers (aged 14-21). The objective of the research is to determine how young Irish Travellers’ movements through, access to and use of public and commercial urban space are impacted by their ethnicity, gender and age. This research builds upon the understanding that our relationships to space are mediated through our social and cultural identities.

Drawing on particular on de Certeau’s (1974/1991) observational methodology of ‘walking’ to analyse daily urban life, Sindy’s research documents young Travellers’ experiences in and of urban space. Using focus groups and interviewing, she explores the meaning and significance which young people associate with these experiences. Through ethnographic analysis Sindy, as an Irish Traveller, examines young Travellers’ relationships to the socially constructed, policed and governed, boundaries which control and regulate the spatial mobility of the marginalized classes, giving particular attention to how these are shaped by age, gender and ethnicity.

Irish Times Women’s Podcast

Sindy recently spoke to Róisín Ingle on the Irish Times Women’s Podcast about her research, and her gateway to education at the University of Limerick. Sindy joined UL as a mature student on the BA in English and History, and followed this with a Masters in Sociology at UL. She is due to complete her PhD at UL next year. Listen to the podcast here (episode 157).


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