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Occasional Papers

Between 1993 and 2002, the Archive produced a series of occasional papers. You can now download these for free.

No 1: Reading Mass Observation Writing:
theoretical and methodological issues in researching the Mass Observation Archive by David Bloome, Dorothy Sheridan and Brian Street, 1993.

Models of reading and their relevance in the process of interpreting M-O material with a particular emphasis on the M-O in the 80s/90s material. A final brief section is on doing case study work.

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No 2: Observing the 'Other':
Mass Observation and 'Race' by Tony Kushner, 1995.

The author's particular research interest is anti-Semitism and this paper makes use of early MO studies of anti-Semitism including MO panel replies to the June 1939 directive on race, observational research undertaken by MO in the East End of London in 1939, postwar material on Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel, as well as more recent material derived from M-O in the 80s/90s directive replies in response to the "Social Divisions" Directive (Spring 1990).

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No 3: Weeping in the Cinema in 1950:
A reassessment of Mass Observation material by Sue Harper and Vincent Porter, 1995.

This paper involved a re-working of a 1950 study conducted by Mass Observation on emotional reactions to sad films as described by members of the MO volunteer panel. The re-analysis is compared to MO' s original conclusions.

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No 4: Birth and Power:
An examination of some Mass Observation writing by Claire Sornerville and Helena Watson with Amy Fletcher and Anisha Imhasly, 1996.

Claire Somerville, Helena Watson, Amy Fletcher and Anisha lmhasly were undergraduate students in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex 1993-6. The research for this paper was undertaken as part of their group project for the Social Anthropology major course: "Observation and Explanation". It is based on an analysis of the replies to a directive on personal experiences of giving birth (Autumn/Winter 1993).

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No 5: Mass Observation, Gender and Nationhood:
Britain in the Falklands War by Lucy Noakes, 1996.

One of the early Directive themes of the MO in the 1980s/90s Project was the Falklands/Malvinas War. Correspondents were asked for their reactions to the news in the media and to report on any direct experiences. In this paper, Lucy Noakes examined the ways in which the war was represented and perceived and looks at links with the Second World War.

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No: 6: The Family in Time and Space:
personal conceptions of kinship by Dorothy Jerrome, 1996.

This paper addresses the conceptual and methodological problems associated with the study of kinship through the words of the Mass Observers writing in reply to the Winter 1984 Directive and develops a discussion of models of kinship. One of them, particularly popular among writers and interviewees, is linked to a popular pastime: working on one's 'family tree'. The paper also explores the motives of these amateur genealogists. The chapter ends with some conclusions about the nature of qualitative research and the value of Mass Observation and life history material.

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No 7: "Damned anecdotes and dangerous confabulations"
Mass Observation as life history by Dorothy Sheridan, 1996.

Consideration of some of the critiques about the 'unrepresentativeness' of the Mass Observers based chiefly on the M-O in the 1980s/90s Project. Discussion of appropriate methodology for the interpretation and use of the material, that is as case study rather than survey data.

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No 8: Mass Observation and Civilian Morale:
working class communities during the Blitz 1940-41 by Brad Beavan and John Griffiths, 1998

One of the most difficult concepts in both contemporary and academic accounts of the Second World War is that of “civilian morale”. This papers uses evidence from the Mass Observation Archive to argue that understanding fluctations in morale can only be understood through an exploration of working class culture during the 1930s and 1940s. The paper examines difficulties of defining “morale” and goes on to argue that the pattern of bombing in urban centres and the continuity of working class institutions helped shape and maintain morale during the critical period of 1940-1.

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No 9: Intellectual property,
representative experience and Mass Observation by Jenny Shaw 1998.

This paper is based on doing research on the recent (post-1981) autobiographical material in the Mass Observation Archive and examines the idea of intellectual property in relation to the use of the material for research purposes. It also explores Donald Winnicott’s concept of the “transitional object” suggesting that the Archive may serve as a transitional object enabling both its contributors and the researchers to find the “other” in and through the “representative experience” stored in the Archive.

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No 10: Mass Observation:
a short history by Tom Jeffery, 1999.

This short history of Mass Observation was first published as an Occasional Paper in 1978 by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. This paper provides overviews of the whole enterprise and gives a particularly good insight into the origins of the project and its social and historical context in the 1930s.

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No 11: Health, sickness and the work ethic
by Helen Busby, 2000.

This paper takes its theme from a set of autobiographical writings about 'staying well and keeping going' sent to Mass Observation Project correspondents in Autumn 1998. Drawing on a sample of the replies, it aims to look at the ways in which people write about health and illness, in the context of wider debates about the experience and meanings of health and work.

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No 12: Beneath the mourning veil:
Mass Observation and the death of Diana by James Thomas, 2002.

This paper offers an introductory examination of the collective evidence offered by M-O correspondents of the extraordinary week following the death of Princess Diana. It challanges the underlying myth of the mourning and suggests that far from being 'united in grief', popular attitudes were in fact deeply divided across a variety of themes.

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