Perriton (2000) 'Incestuous Fields: Management
Research, Emotion and Data Analysis'
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Received: 6/4/2000 Accepted: 16/11/2000 Published: 31/11/2000
Although there is clearly an ultimate, altruistic... motive driving [the] research, there is, nonetheless, a thin line between the exploitation of relationships of love and trust, between children and researcher/teachers and parents, and the privileged access that such close relationships afford us as researchers. (Reid:1998:56)But I believe that a great many researchers - especially those new to the process - start their research amongst their peer group, friends, family or partners because they believe it will lessen the anxiety involved.
With respect to your relationship with your subject which you describe as 'long-standing' and 'reasonably close' even claiming to know his personal history ... this concerns me: surely any relationship which you have with a practitioner should be on purely 'professional' grounds, devoid of your subjective interpretations and feelings in relation to his 'life'. I feel vindicated in this regard as I read on through your 'account' - your relationship was the rock upon which your research began to flounder (cf. his marital relationship?). (Down and Sadler-Smith 1999)Friendship and research are a potent mix. And it is a mix that we should perhaps stop being so surprised about. Homan asserts that all social science researchers start to suffer from a 'persistence of research habits' and that 'one's subjects become one's friends [and] one's friends become one's subjects' (Homan 1991, p. 169).
In conducting interviews in a web of group affiliation, then, the researcher must distinguish any features that may detract from validity - feelings of 'stupidity,' suppression of storytelling, betrayal of loyalty, and porous boundaries between interviewer self and respondent other - from those that may enhance it - broadening and deepening the meaning of the interview in multiple encounters - and then decide whether the latter outweigh the former. (Harkess and Warren 1993, p. 334)Of course, this presumes that the researcher is aware that such issues may become significant. As I have argued in the introduction it is these issues and others that 'amateur' management researchers are not encouraged to confront.
Interestingly, much of this work [on reflexivity] seems to have focused more on design and fieldwork issues and it only more recently that attention has been paid to the importance of reflexivity for the analytical process, these are welcome advances Ribbens and Edwards 1988). Equally, if addressed at all, the role of emotions in the research process has generally been examined from the viewpoint of respondents and their impact on the researcher has remained largely unacknowledged...(Backett-Milburn 1999 p. 73)
Such [a reflexive] approach rejects the key foundationalist myth of the detached scientific observer/researcher; it instead positions an experiencing and comprehending subject at the heart of intellectual and research life, a subject whose ontologically based reasoning process provide the grounds for knowledge-claims and thus for all epistemological endeavour. (Stanley 1996 p. 45)
Instead of defining as what the public excludes ... the private should be defined ... as that aspect of his or her life and activity that any person has the right to exclude others from. The private in this sense is not what the public institutions exclude, but what the individual chooses to withdraw from public view. (Young 1997, p. 197)
[Names academic], for instance, is established in her career, so little wonder she gets to confess herself into her scholarly work. What about the untenured aspiring feminist theorist who questions their self-sanctioning rhetoric? (Bernstein 1992)
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