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Following the Actors: mobilising an actor-network theory methodology in geography

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Methodological shifts in human geography, generally under the banner of the 'cultural turn', have seen an increased focus on methods such as interviews, discourse and textual deconstruction, and the recognition of notions such as reflexivity and intersubjectivity. Together these approaches argue that there is no logical natural order of things or notions of universality. These approaches argue that there is no such thing as objectivity in social research, but that research is informed by the experiences, aims and agency of those performing the research and that researchers should be written into the research environment. Drawing on these insights, the purpose of this paper is to explore a methodological approach centred on actor-network theory (ANT) and suggest how this approach could add value to research being undertaken in human geography. Within such an approach all research findings are created by the researcher through, first, the objectives and framing of a research project and, second, the methods used to create and follow the research network. Drawing on research into residential development and planning on the fringe of Sydney, Australia, this paper has three objectives: first, to position all research as partial and as the product of associations that stretch beyond the research field; second, to argue that all research is a process of translation; and, third, to explore the manner in which we as researchers construct ourselves in efforts to enter networks of research interest.

Keywords: Methodology; Sydney; actor-network theory; interviews; non-human actors; positionality; reflexivity; residential development

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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