Participating and observing: positionality and fieldwork relations during Kenya's post‐election crisis
Author: Bachmann, Veit
Source: Area, Volume 43, Number 3, 1 September 2011 , pp. 362-368(7)
Abstract:Changes in the research environment during the conduct of ethnographic‐style fieldwork often have a profound impact on the role of the researcher, her/his approach to the process of data acquisition as well as on the relations with the researched and the research environment. This paper deals with those implications in the context of a research project on EU development policy during the Kenyan post‐election crisis in early 2008. It highlights how they can pose considerable challenges but also open up new spaces and modes of inquiry. In so doing, this paper addresses issues of researcher positionality and illustrates how such unexpected changes often require (re)negotiating the balance between multiple roles in the ‘field’. I discuss how the Kenyan crisis impacted on the embodiment of the two roles as researcher and practitioner and on researcher/researched relations. Furthermore, the paper shows how the practitioner role largely mediated the effects of the Kenyan crisis on the conduct of fieldwork and thus enriched the research methodologically, thematically and spatially. At the same time, this raised a number of ethical issues. Finally, the paper concludes by highlighting how the spatiality of fieldwork, and the social constellations embedded in it, have significant impacts on such challenges and opportunities arising from unexpected changes in the research environment.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Human Geography, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Publication date: September 1, 2011