Ethnographic Shorts

A blog of flash ethnography, based on interview and participant-observation work around Worthing, a seaside town in West Sussex, England.  

Flash fiction – micro-stories or sawn-off tales.
Ethnography –  writing about culture.  What anthropologists do.
Flash-ethnography – a format.  Micro-ethnographic moments turning around a specific question or issue.

Latest Post

  • Marine Biologies
    (A Queer Creatives Workshop) I brought him to the beach. It was what he wanted. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted. After 25 minutes of grasping and slipping, hoisting – we both always hated that bit – he was out of the tank and at the edge of the water. He hadContinue reading “Marine Biologies”

Previous Posts

  • Marine Biologies
    (A Queer Creatives Workshop) I brought him to the beach. It was what he wanted. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted. After 25 minutes of grasping and slipping, hoisting – we both always hated that bit – he was out of the tank and at the edge of the water. He hadContinue reading “Marine Biologies”
  • Do You Belong Here?
    That’s enough hifalutin’ metropolitan life for you, sunshine. Back to Worthing, Sussex, UK. We already have a bunch of arts spaces (another day, another piece) and a reputation for ‘brave’ programming.The Socially Engaged Art Salon is coming over from B’town to run some festival work and they’ve commissioned a couple of locals to do events that support their art exhibition.
  • Biodiversity
    Hairstyles, clothing, birthday gifts Public spaces, family trips Online forms, relationships “Man bun”, “Lady Beard” “Hello, ladies!”, “Come on, lads!” Nights out and mornings in the gym School and work and every bloody thing – Not a minute of respite, not a moment of rest, There’s fucking gender Everywhere. But, strangely, just 2 of them. Too much gender? Or not enough?
  • Cycling with a 6-pack of mylk? 
    I hate shopping. The lifestyle option of a cycle-friendly small daily shop horrifies me: spend 1 of my precious free hours a day outside of work doing consumer-related activity? I’d rather be in the garden, or walking the dog.
  • Underwater Love – and Death
    We dance our human sorrow, shame, regret at what has been done. But also our refusal to allow more of this. Together, we raise a furious, urgent energy while the soundtrack reminds us that this crisis is real and at tipping point.
  • Magic, Dance and Diversity
    Bhangra at a Worthing family party, queer art at the town hall, online apologies for experiences of racism: signs of conviviality in Worthing?
  • Sea Shanties and Vibe Shift
    As post-post-moderns, we can still get a kick from those fantasies of piracy, running away to sea, and wearing cool matelot clothes. Contemporary pub scene is full of yearnings. We’re in the middle of vibe shift, for sure.
  • Living in Worthing – Globetrotter Style
    Why would a globetrotter with 66 countires under their belt return again and again to Worthing? Can it be the vegan sausage rolls? Ot the bountiful opportunities to get a nose hair wax? Terry tells me what pulls him here.
  • White Poppies
    White poppies remember and respect civilian deaths, deaths in all wars, and deaths from wherever they came. They’re a much less 19th-century approach to grief and mourning than the ‘only our boys’ approach of the red poppy campaign.
  • Today is a Day of National Mourning
    Today is a day of national mourning. An Elizabethan era ended – Carolingians again.
  • Coastal Remote Working – A Very Hot Desk At the Seaside
    The town appeared to have somehow catapulted straight from 1960s to the 2000s. Time felt woozy. Millenial nostalgia for the mid-century modern collided with memories of actual mid-century, when life really did feel modern, in a not-ironic way.For an hour or two, I lived the fantasy of moving to Whitstable for the last part of my life: a return to Kentish birthplace but folding in that seaside vibe I’ve grown to love.
  • Social Prescribing
    Aunty Eileen’s doctor advised her to take up smoking for her asthma. You have to understand that this was in the 1960s. Doctors now are prescribing choir as part of proven Singing for Lung Health programmes.You might not yet have heard about ‘social prescribing’ – but you will.
  • Don’t You Want Me, Baby?
    The vest is mine, the underpants too, the cock – well I suppose it’s mine. I bought it. I wrote the little piece above about the time when I took my drag king persona Eddie onto a public stage in Brighton. White, mainstream, middle-class, respectable, assimilated gaydom?As Edelman’s global ethnographic review from 2001 will tell you, liberation doesn’t tend to emerge from such spaces.
  • A Shit Night Out in Worthing
    I’m not a fan of stand-up, but we needed a group night out and I mistakenly assumed that a Black comedian would be offering something interesting to us here in melanin-starved Worthing. When he opened with an anti-royalist joke and a poke at Brexiteers, I knew we weren’t going to be getting creative absurdist monologue or Afrofuturist mould-breaking humour, but I thought we’d be fairly ok.  We weren’t. A huge contrast to last Friday’s cabaret night over at Worthing’s The Factory, where Revolver Revue served up a signature blend of humour with burlesque and some sheer daftness. 
  • Back on the Beer in Worthing 
    Anyone who passes down South Farm Road has spent months of their life waiting at the railway crossing there. Romances have come to inception and ruination during long moments of boredom or tetchiness at that crossing. Dogs and children whine why, why when they’re told again and again that they cannot move – yet. (There’s still another train coming through, apparently, although we’ve seen 2 pass already). 
  • Closing in on Food Waste
    One minute everybody was scoffing 2 or 3 choc-chip brioches a day, leading to mild stockpiling on my part. Those bloody ‘3 for 2’ offers play their own guilty part in this practice. And then, bugger me, 3 weeks later, everyone was ‘off brioche’ and ‘into mini cheeses’.
  • Blog Stats, Baby, Blog Stats!
    I do this blog because I’ve always been a scribbler and a communicator-by-writing. My over-long text messages are notorious in the family and I’d like to think that the blog outlet has saved some of them from having to scroll through my thoughts on a tiny badly-lit screen at 11pm, just in case I was going to say something important.
  • Screaming at the Sea on Worthing Beach
      And so that was Christmas. Or Hannukkah. Or just another holiday season.  But have you noticed, my dear one, that nothing feels quite the same these days?  Have you noticed, my dear one, that nothing feels quite the same these days?  This December was heavy with undertones and reminders of last December – whenContinue reading “Screaming at the Sea on Worthing Beach”
  • Creem Cheeze & White Poppies
    An old post from October 2017. (When vegans in Worthing were still remarkable – how we’ve moved on!) We’re in The Orchard cafe for their vegan tea event.  There’s 7 of us, in a chock-full cafe (tickets sold out weeks ago), and we look around in wonder, interested to know who are the vegan-or-vegan-curious of Worthing, then?Continue reading “Creem Cheeze & White Poppies”
  • Worthing – Haven for White Supremacists?
    ‘Patriotic Alternative’, the extremist organisation of which Worthing Conservative councillor Tim Wills was a member, appears on Princeton University’s TRAC terrorism’s list of 4000 terrorist organisations to watch. It is noted for its sophisticated recruitment methods, high competence in social media and the massive disjunct between its outward-facing communications and the inward-facing rhetorics. The gamification of extremism has arrived. … We are fortunate that we have many Worthing locals who won’t stand for a takeover by extremism. No Fascists in Worthing. That’s something to hold fast to, this coming remembrance day.
  • Whose Beach, Which Nature?
    Whether we think of ourselves as connected by, or divided by, the seas that lap at land masses is a profoundly political question.The Indian Ocean coast has been imagined and lived as a porous boundary where people freely leave and travel, return or arrive – a place that has been valued as a space of hybridity and cosmopolitanism. (The latter, of course, are engines of creativity and innovation).
  • Chatting Creativity & Thriving – With Independent Worthing
    While there is a familiar shared trajectory to the gentrification and regeneration process, there can be many missed opportunities to intervene and shape the (inevitable) process of change in positive and inclusive ways.
  • Chatting Creativity & Thriving – With Independent Worthing
    Things were getting nasty. Anyone opening the fridge door would find me right behind them, reminding them that, “Those are the only olives we have”, or “I was planning on using that mozzarella on a home-made pizza tomorrow”. I wasn’t exactly hiding the chickpeas, but I did count the tins every morning.
  • Shitty Crafts
    After going all un-Boomer ish last post and plastering my personal life all over the blog, which has had great positive responses, I thought I’d do a quick share of something I got into over lockdown, which began as something of a time-pass and then turned into both a kind of mindfulness practice and alsoContinue reading “Shitty Crafts”
  • Queer Love in the Time of Covid (Part 2 of 2)
    A Sussex lockdown queer wedding. Blending some old and well-known traditions with Celtic spirituality and a nod to church roots worked. And at no point did it ever feel like ‘Sheilaism’ (the term Robert Bellah famously used for describing the contemporary fall from traditional religion and rituals and into an utterly individualistic solipsistic pick-and-mix contemporary state of ‘spiritual but not religious’). The celebrant reminded us Boomers how far we’ve come since our teens, when ‘gay wedding’ was preposterous blasphemy. Keep an open mind.  Allow the unexpected into your life.
  • Queer Love in the Time of Covid (Part 1 of 2)
    On one of our weekend lockdowns, at a Worthing hotel (where we drive just 10 minutes up the road once every few weeks, to get away from domestic life and the over-familiarity of home) I asked. Shocked, she responded, “thank you”.  We both laughed at the response and at the thrill of making something good happen in the middle of all the horror around us. The older you get, the more you understand the cosmic complex truth that, somehow, when the house is burning down, remembering to laugh and to dance is important.
  • Who’s Living Nextdoor?
    A chaotic mix of entrepreneurial hustle, neighbourly compassion, lost pets, reports about traffic, queues and crowds, curiosity about roadworks or wildlife species spotted- and a fair bit of baiting and toxic trouble-stirring. Lockdown has intensified both the volume of traffic and the emotional charge.
  • Dancing Towards An Inclusive Worthing
    Lindyhop is all about free expression and getting into the music. When you look at absolute beginners and very advanced dancers, they look very similar… Programmes like ‘Strictly’ don’t help. Amanda and I resist the temptation right there to do a ‘deplorable things about Strictly’ talk.
  • The Rough, Rough, Really Bloody Rough Guide to Worthing.
    WoBy is not going to invite you to ‘get involved’; you live here, you already are involved. Write something about Worthing. Or send an image about it.
  • A Breath of Fresh Air?
    One man kept backtracking as he remembered things the family might need in case of shortages – “sorry, sorry”, he kept apologising, unaware in those days of magic hand-sanitiser that his outbreath and loud ‘sorry’ could itself be a vector for spread.
  • Epic Fail for Dry January? Daytime Drinking in Lockdown? Too Much Toking Going On? No Worries (Part Four)
    From the consumer point of view, frankly, one six-foot tall and beefy 20 year old’s session is likely a five-foot skinny 50 year old’s downfall, so you have to take this ‘session’ concept a bit personally
  • Epic Fail for Dry January? Daytime Drinking in Lockdown? Too Much Toking Going On? No Worries (Part Three)
    Dry January feels like a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. For society. Even at a personal level. I remember I had all my friends round the house on day 30, and they rolled a foot-long and I remember feeling sick and thinking – well, that was pointless, that whole month.
  • Epic Fail for Dry January? Daytime Drinking in Lockdown? Too Much Toking Going On? No Worries (Part Two)
    What do you feel about the AA-style sobriety (or even ‘hip sobriety’) as opposed to the ‘mindful drinking’ approach? I’ll never climb a mountain, but I’ll get up Cissbury Ring alright.
  • Epic Fail for Dry January? Daytime Drinking in Lockdown? Too Much Toking Going On? No Worries (Part One)
    An Alcohol Free Drinks Party My neighbour breezes into the kitchen with a posh looking bottle, glasses, a shaker and snacks, which she sets up on the island*. Whoa, what’s this? – it’s only 3 o’clock. (She thinks I’m one of those work-from-homers who don’t know how to discipline their daytimes?) She grins. You’re interestedContinue reading “Epic Fail for Dry January? Daytime Drinking in Lockdown? Too Much Toking Going On? No Worries (Part One)”
  • The Floral Alternative
    They gave me a generic poinsettia-ful Christmas centrepiece with a dirty (and elderly) carrot plonked on top. And I paid up and meekly took it home.
  • New Decade, New Worthing
    We came over to Worthing to look around for nice places, but really, we just needed an excuse – we’d chosen. What’s missing from Worthing? I don’t think anything. It doesn’t need to be like anywhere else. It’s got everything that a place needs.
  • My Blue, Blue Heart (Part Two)
    Weedkiller-spraying and care for the environment make the strangest of bedfellows, don’t they?
  • My Blue, Blue, Heart (Part One)
    We’re still junkies for the gaudy – hooked on brilliant colours. Years of drooling over websites and catalogues full of wine-gum annuals have blunted our taste. We’re in recovery from bedding plants, and it’s going to take a while.
  • A Deeper Love?
    I’m 19 and still working through what it left me with. I think it’s gonna take time to get rid of the self-hate. People who are straight often see high school as the best years of their life, but if you’re gay, it’s the worst. Still now.
  • “Drummer – Got Me Own Hair and Teeth”
    Stan reckons the high street has been killed by internet shopping – and the council.
  • “We’d Never Even Heard of Worthing”
    To be clear, this is not a head shop, and they don’t want to be confused with a traditional drug paraphernalia shop (as Nicole puts it). They’re seeing themselves very much as a dispensary.
  • No Hot Towel Shave or Prosecco Blow Dry at Gender-neutral Tidy Penguin
    Keep your bloody prosecco and just cut my hair, seems to be the contemporary woman’s stand.
  • The Past Was Better? Only Because I Was Young Then.
    Most people do live precariously. You only need a couple of upsets and anyone could end up there. Anyone. People seem to live in ignorance of this fact.
  • Up The Hill (With Companions)
    The lure of OOdles is no mystery. Neoteny and its appeal make biological anthropologists smirk at puppy-love.
  • Symbol & Ritual Among the Worthingites
    As any anthropologist will tell you – all traditions are invented.
  • The Consolations of Worthing Central. Part Two
    Sod terroir and its restrictive snobbery: we have Sussex qvevri, yes we bloody do.
  • Tom’s Pairings for Pie and Ale (and other couplings).
    If you’ve got a match challenge for Tom, mail it in – or pop in to see him. Christmas is over and he’ll not be wearing the scary cat jumpers now.
  • The Consolations of Worthing Central. Part One
    Did you choose old-fashioned steak-and-kidney or a bougie steak-and-stilton? Mushroom-asparagus? Humble beef-and-onion, perhaps? Maybe you went wild and bought steak, mushroom and truffle? Did you, did you? And did you also buy gravy? And – (Granny! Don’t listen!) – ready-made mash?
  • Fighting – With A Narrative
      Splashpoint. Monday Morning, 10am. Lauren briskly swags in and sets up, no nonsense. Smiles at us all, asks us if we’re ready. Gets the music blasting and we all follow her lead and raise our fists, bounce on our toes, try to zone in. Lauren’s smile never drops and her energy is extraordinary. She’sContinue reading “Fighting – With A Narrative”
  • Terrifying Chickens, Green Dreams.
    There’s a green festival at the Other place, and they do a plenty of musical dreaming up the road, but what’s especially dear to the hearts of many Worthing folk is the future of the planet and questions of how we can support sustainability. This was the 3rd Green Dreams festival, where a very motley crew ofContinue reading “Terrifying Chickens, Green Dreams.”
  • The Travelodge Rembrandt (part two).
    I had nothing left except my Vietnam football shirt, so I said, let’s get our hair bleached and think what to do next. Och, don’t call me Rembrandt.
  • The Travelodge Rembrandt. (Part One).
    I hide it all under my bed when I go out …. when I leave … I wonder if they’re gonna stop me one day.
  • Ethnographic Shorts
    Ethmnographic shorts. Not these cargoes – not even Malinowski’s old baggy khakis; na, it’s tiny flashes of local life. Small town, big thinking.
  • WoBy – Worthing ethnographic – shifts here this week.
    The blog ‘worthing By Accident’ (WoBy) shifts here from its old home at SOAS blogs (university of London, UK). Ethnographic short flashes by Caroline Osella.