Rethinking qualitative methods for Challenging Environments and Times: The Skagen Conference 2016 Working Retreat

Annette Markham

Oct 19, 2016


November 21-25, 2016, the Skagen Institute and Aarhus University will host the third annual PhD course on transgressive methods. This week-long course, modeled after the idea of a working retreat, focuses on innovative concepts, assumptions, and techniques for qualitative research practice.  This year, we are joined by Dalida Maria Benfield, Professor at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and founder of the Institute for (Im)Possible Subjects. Along with the founder of the Skagen Conference courses Annette Markham, Dalida will facilitate workshops during the week. PhD students can earn credit for their participation; Professionals can join the workshops or simply use this time as a welcome retreat for intensive writing, thinking, and walking along the northern edges of the Danish coastline.

Ok, that’s the official text.  To be more casual about it, this is the third year I’ve run this working retreat. We sometimes call ourselves the Nordic Transgressive Methods Movement. Other times, we take the more modest “Skagen Institute.” Regardless of title, this course provides an opportunity for students of any age to work beyond their boundaries, to practice new ways of tackling complicated social research problems, to build a network of colleagues, and to explore what it might mean to be truly innovative as a 21st century academic.

If you need testimonials, contact anyone who has attended previously. If you want inspiration, look at some photos of the area around Skagen, Denmark.

I developed this workshop/retreat/PhD course as a response to the significant mismatch between current use of qualitative methods and the complexity of the social contexts these methods seek to comprehend.  By working directly with methodology experts from a range of disciplines, students build their abilities to apply discipline-specific methodologies across disciplines. By pushing against normative boundaries of what counts as data, method, and scientific analysis, participants find new ways to extend their understanding of what constitutes a strong scientific community of practice. By adopting practices from arts and activism, participants end up connecting their academic mindset to larger efforts to change the world.

Nov 21, midmorning: travel together from Aarhus to Skagen by van (or pick you up at Aalborg airport).  After settling in, taking a walk, and having an early dinner, we meet in the evening for introductions and position statements.

Nov 22-24, we meet each morning and afternoon for 2.5 hours for workshops. Coffee breaks, lunch, and walks = a natural part of each day. Evening meals are followed by discussions in the beautiful seating areas of the Klitgaarden Refugium.

Nov 25: After breakfast, we have our final meeting, followed by lunch and return to Aarhus.

Contact for more details. See the Skagen Institute website for more details about previous years.