Having spent years undertaking empirical studies of housing renewal and regeneration, adopting a public policy focus, I was struck by the fact that both processes appeared cyclical, being re-applied in a number of 'deprived communities' many times. While physical housing conditions undoubtedly improved over time, other social dimensions of poverty persisted and, if anything, got progressively worse (Robertson, 2014 http://www.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/reports ). Trying to explain this pattern led me to the reflective sociological practice of Pierre Bourdieu and I have drawn on his work to better understand the largely hidden significance and power of place, given its importance in constructions of identity and belonging. Place, belonging and identity is also critical in the social construction of societal hierarchies, which display a remarkable resilience (see Robertson, 2013; Smyth & Robertson, 2013; Robertson, 2011; Robertson et al, 2010; Robertson, 2008, Robertson et al, 2008).
My initial interest in identity developed out from teaching Scottish Society which explores four distinct aspects of identity: nation, class, gender and ethnicity. This led to undertaking a study of the English in Scotland, with colleagues, which considered the notion of a ‘hidden' minority as well as discrimination based on voice (see McIntosh et al, 2004a; 2004b; 2005 & 2008).
I have also had a long-standing interest in flatted properties, especially the Scottish tenement, and have examined its management, maintenance and renewal over many years. Of particualr note was a major study of Scottish Housing Action Areas, with Nick Bailey, and a follow on series of international comparative studies for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on private flat management systems which helped contibute to the introduction of Commonhold legislation in England and Wales.
This work has attracted three PhD students who have a direct interest in social identity: Iris Altenberger, undertook a groundbreaking study on the renewal of Raploch, through focusing on the social and visual culture of place; Ian Glen, currently completing an ethnographic study of Fallin, Stirlingshire, exploring class and gendered identities; and, finally, Helen Young who is examining the historic role played by rural schools and female teachers in the construction of communities around Loch Tay.