Trees Don't Talk: a Methodological Account of a Forest Sociologist in Mexico
by Ross Mitchell
University of Alberta, Canada
Sociological Research Online, 9 (1) reviews
Received: 5 Sep 2003 Accepted: 13 Feb 2004 Published: 28 Feb 2011
This paper examines personal experience as both a sociologist and forester collecting data in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It builds on writings where researchers have taken an introspective or auto/biographical approach to problematizing their own involvement. My findings illustrate that demographic and social features such as gender, nationality, and language can both hinder and privilege social science research. Moreover, this paper disputes the contention that expertise in a given specialty automatically makes for good field research. Depending upon the type of research and the questions being addressed, previous professional experience may actually hinder the building of rapport in certain cases. Genuine efforts to engage in local discourse can ultimately serve to improve fieldwork, and contribute to mutual understanding.
Keywords: Community Forestry; Fieldwork; Methodology; Mexico; Oaxaca; Researcher Privilege; Sociology