Dialogue, Positionality and the Legal Framing of Ethnographic Research
AbstractThe question of positioning between the research Self and the research Other is a much discussed issue within qualitative research, especially within ethnographic approaches. Yet what is distinctive about many of these accounts is that they begin their respective analyses from a concrete level. In other words, many who champion placing their Self in the research process do so by focusing upon face-to-face encounters between their Self and the Other. This often entails a rejection of a positivist and objectivist informed accounts of social research in favour of a more humanist approach. This latter standpoint, humanism, is certainly interested in themes such as bias, power, regulation and domination constructed during the research process. But the structured, layered and ideological nature of the research context itself, namely its non-humanist properties, is often neglected in humanist explanations in favour of the more concrete interpretive moment. What this amounts to is a lack of sensitivity towards the positioning of Self and Other by the unobservable and ideological structures of a specific research context. As a result, discussion about the necessity of dialogue between all participants involved is one-sided. This closes down considerably the impact we, as researchers, have on a research context. In addition such a standpoint closes down the positioning effects of a research context upon our own research Self. By drawing upon the work of radical ethnographers and the discourse theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, this paper seeks to outline some of the problems that arise in humanist ethnographic accounts as regards positionality and dialogue. This opens the way for some observations about how ethnography might take into account 'non-humanist' structures such as the state, law and governance in capitalist societies in respect to the issues of positionality and dialogue. I flesh out these theoretical observations through a brief discussion of my own ethnographic experience researching Speakers' Corner in London.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Sociological Research Online in its journal Sociological Research Online.
Volume (Year): 5 (2001)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
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Bakhtin; Dialogue; Ethnography; Ideology; Positionality; Social Form; Speakers' Corner;
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