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Under the Microscope: Fieldwork Practice and Cuba's Biotechnology Industry: A Reflexive Affair?

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Abstract:

Abstract

Through a re-reading of my Ph.D. fieldwork on Cuba's biotechnology industry, I empirically pull apart the relationship between fieldwork practice and knowledge production as experienced in my research. I argue that reflexivity is an insufficiently critiqued concept and, as a result, that its widespread influence in contemporary fieldwork practice works to obscure the influence of “others”, not just on the “doing” of research but on the conceptual development of the methodology itself. I make this argument by focusing on the various strategies I employed to actualise my research methodology, the problems I met with and the subsequent pull of my research in new directions. I cover such issues as gaining access, working in multiple locales across antagonistic polities, what happens when fieldwork goes wrong and the notion of “empirical drift”. I use these issues to examine how I was actively constructing both my field and my research methodology at the same time and through others. I try to show how the fact that fieldwork can be simultaneously a lived experience, a socially constructed performance and an episteme accounts for much of its distinctive qualities as a milieu in which existing knowledge is put to the test, or added to. I argue that these same qualities allow it to be a deeply intertextual process, or a joint work between the researcher and the field. This, I suggest, warrants greater recognition.

Keywords: Cuba; biotechnology; fieldwork; fieldwork practice; knowledge production; reflexivity

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9493.00151

Affiliations: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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