Roberts (2001) 'Dialogue, Positionality and the Legal
Framing of Ethnographic Research'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 5, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/5/4/roberts.html>
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Received: 4/7/2000 Accepted: 19/1/2001 Published: 28/2/2001
(T)he researcher's identity is not necessarily fixed in some absolute sense...but it may translocate through categories and identities, such that at some times and places the researcher may emphasize certain positionalities and identities and not others (Herod 1999: 321).
By 'symbolic world' we refer to the meanings people apply to their own experiences, meanings developed through patterns of behaviour which are some way distinctive by comparison to the outside world (Fielding 1993: 157).
We are talking about a circular process, in which reflexivity is the guiding relationship allowing for the circularity. This looping back may...unfold as a spiralling, if we allow for multiple perspectives, and acknowledge that 'the same self' may be different as a result of its own self- pointing (Steiner 1991: 21).
(The field is) a heterogeneous group of locations and contexts. Everyday life as an arena of social enquiry makes the boundaries of observation and analysis almost limitless. While generalizations about the field are difficult, and often unhelpful, all fieldwork sites will have at least one common factor. The field is a site peopled by social actors and, implicitly, by the social researcher. The primary task of the fieldworker is to analyse and understand a peopled field. This task is achieved through social interaction and shared experiences. It follows, therefore, that fieldwork is dependent upon and guided by the relationships that are built and established over time (Coffey 1999: 39; my italics).
Geertz, then, restricts the active role of the anthropologist to the moment of writing, denying an active role to the anthropologist in the direct encounter with the Other. In Geertz's approach, the anthropologist has again become a passive observor or recorder, and the interdependence of Self and Other is supplanted by the interdependence of the anthropologist and the text he or she constructs, a text in which the Other's constructions are treated in isolation and as having been expressed spontaneously (Dwyer 1982: 263; see also Lemaire 1991; Scholte 1986).
The extended case method looks for specific macro determination in the micro world...It seeks generalization through reconstructing existing generalizations, that is, the reconstruction of existing theory (Burawoy 1991b: 279; see also the discussion of Evans-Pritchard by Mattick, Jr. 1986).
In presenting our field work we have to be personally reflexive, that is, present a description of our changing relationship with the researched population...But in order to decide which site to speak from or to understand a pre-given site we have to engage in theoretical reflexivity, based on the new kind of theories we are constructing. Theoretical reflexivity is a key concept and a key practice in the identification of standpoints...Theoretical reflexivity means thinking about oneself in terms of a theory and understanding theoretically the site one finds oneself in (Cain 1990: 132-133; see also Cain 1986).
the specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers to ruled, as it grows out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows out of production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form (Marx 1966: 791).
The point that follows from this is the simple fact that as researchers we give accounts of our work that are dependent upon the context in which our speaking positions are being evaluated. We are not arguing here that anything goes. We are simply saying that as researchers involved in political struggle we may find it necessary to take on strategic academic identities (Back and Solomos 1993: 194).
From the very beginning, the speaker expects a response from them, an active responsive understanding. The entire utterance is constructed, as it were, in anticipation of encountering this response (Bakhtin 1987: 94).
Well that's the beauty of it. It's a geographical place where there is this culture of speaking. And because there's a culture of speaking there's a culture of tolerance. Even though it may be expressed in intolerance, sometimes, you know, by homophobic ideas, by racist ideas, or sexist ideas, or whatever, there is a tolerance there. And that tolerance is a great thing in my opinion because it enables you to push the boundaries about things and to raise issues about things so that even if somebody comes out with a homophobic remark you can remark on it. If somebody comes out with a homophobic remark in a pub and you say you're gay, you're gonna get your face punched in. Whereas at Speakers' Corner I've never been attacked...which I consider either luck or it's part of this cultural acceptance (Interview 21st May 1996).
Abdul is a very good speaker, no doubt about it...You look at his rapport with the audience, a mostly black audience, but his rapport with the audience is fucking brilliant. His jokes are inversions of white racism. And I don't find them hostile because I know what he's going on about. He's doing the opposite (of white racism) and it's brilliant the way he does it (Interview 9th June 1996).
This government is committed to the rejuvenation of towns and cities. This is a small but constructive step in the best British tradition of free speech and public debate (The Independent, 16 November 1999).
No person shall commit any act in violation of public decency, or use profane, indecent, or obscene language to the annoyance of other people using the parks
No person shall deliver, or invite any person to deliver, any public address in a park, except in accordance with the rules of the park
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