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Positionality, subjectivity, and race in transnational and transcultural geographical research

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This article investigates the complexities of negotiating subject positions in transnational and transcultural research by focusing on the gendering of race and racialization. As more people claim to be of mixed ‘racial’ descent and Western researchers grow more diverse, it is increasingly important that this diversity is reflected within geographical research; however, much of the existing research on subjectivity and its role in the research process has focused either on ‘white’ researchers in Global South contexts or on researchers working in their ‘home’ country or community. Less visible are accounts from those who challenge conceptions of ‘white’ Western researcher or whose racial identity can be conceived as hybrid. Moreover, there is a tendency to conceptualize race/racialization and their effects on subjectivity and positionality in relatively narrow terms. This article draws attention to the changing subjectivities of a racialized gendered body as it moves into different contexts. I examine how conceptualizations of race and discourses of racialization constitute researcher subjectivity, and how different understandings of ‘race’ mediate relationships between researcher and research participants (and others). To understand the spatial (re)configurations of (race) subjectivities and how this affects researcher positionality, I offer an autoethnography of a bi/multiracial Western woman of New Zealand Māori/Pākehā descent interpellated as ‘insufficient Other’ in her home context of Aotearoa New Zealand, then reconstituted as white and ‘sufficient Self’ in the Philippines by her research participants and Filipino ‘family’ and friends.
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Keywords: Māori; mana wahine; posicionalidad; positionality; race; racialización; racialization; raza; subjectivity; subjetividad

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand

Publication date: April 21, 2015

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