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The geography of absence

The geography of absence

The geography of absence – Second masterclass series

At the end of this first phase, ToHAI started laying out the first elements of their research. They drew up a theoretical framework, which helped them define their topic more accurately. They ended up calling it “the geography of absence”. When they started reviewing their work, they realized that the young people they were working with did not show much concern for the theoretical aspect of the research project. ToHAI found it necessary to think things out differently in order to bring the group closer together and get it to play an active role in the process. They started by appealing to the “hard core” of the group from Rennes, composed of a young man and four young women. They met with them practically every week over a period of two months, in informal places (such as parcs, cafés, at each other’s places) and sometimes remotely because of the health crisis (people testing positive to Covid-19, close contacts…). ToHAI changed their strategy: now it was up to the young people to organise the meetings and set the agenda.

They then moved on to the main subject: pursuing the study in a less formal way. ToHAI and the young people they were working with unanimously opted for filmed or recorded street interviews.

Together, they created a questionnaire with five to six items based on their main focus points. The interview was designed to last a maximum of ten minutes. They then decided to proceed as such:

  • Constitute pairs to conduct the interviews;
  • Pinpoint the locations in the city which would enable them to target a large array of people (universities, downtown areas, “priority neighbourhoods” known as QPVs…);
  • Identify a sample (young people, young adults);
  • Identify a timeline.


These interviews were conducted between May and June (around thirty in total).

In a second phase, they will decide on how the results are to be presented, keeping in mind that they wish to depart from the way results are usually disseminated. They have several ideas: recording podcasts, creating a photo exhibit, posting sounds and videos on Instagram…
In order to reach as many people as possible, ToHAI also has in mind a more conventional seminar, during which the young people and they will be able to describe their methods and share their results and experience as young researchers.