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