Methods Tip: Positionality and Reflection

Looking to the dissertation, which runs from April to August, this marvellous piece by Sarah Lagot, an MA student in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response at HCRI, provides an excellent example of reflective writing.

In Unbroken Silences – Musings of a Novice Field Researcher, Lagot considers the ways that her multifaceted positionality affects her negotiation of what it means to be an insider and an outsider,

There are many layers to my experience as a novice researcher in post-conflict Northern Uganda. On the one hand, I assume an insider banner. I am a survivor of the LRA war with a lived experience of conflict. Yet, I am never completely able to wear the hat of insider. On the other hand, I am an “outsider” looking in, as a postgraduate student researcher from the University of Manchester.

This duality posed problems in my interactions with interviewees. Some interviewees were initially hesitant to share information as they assumed I was just a chaperone for the research group. They only divulged information upon confirmation of my student status through repeated showcase of my student identity card. Some also treated me with suspicion especially when I asked questions about male survivors of wartime sexual violence.

[source]

Lagot’s piece demonstrates the power and importance of critical reflection during the data-gathering process, as well as journaling, the emotional impact of fieldwork, and how this can be addressed in conjunction with the broader methodological literature.

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