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Flirting in the field: shifting positionalities and power relations in innocuous sexualisations of research encounters


Kaspar, Heidi; Landolt, Sara (2016). Flirting in the field: shifting positionalities and power relations in innocuous sexualisations of research encounters. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 23(1):107-119.

Abstract

In the last few decades, an engaged and sophisticated discussion about the production of data and power relations has developed within feminist methodology. Positionality, i.e. the set of relations constituting informants’ and researchers’ subject positions, has been widely used as an analytical tool to account for the complicated ways in which data are co-constructed in fieldwork. Based on our own experience of fieldwork conducted in the city of Zurich, however, we argue that sexuality is underrepresented in this debate. First, reflexive writing on fieldwork has been reluctant to consider sexuality as a category in the same way, for instance, as gender or race. Second, even apparently innocuous sexualisations have a considerable effect on the constitution of data and are therefore worth including in the analysis. In this article, we examine how flirtation as a part of the participant – researcher relation has re-shaped the research encounters in our respective research projects. We discuss the complex navigations between conflicting rationales that it entailed for us as researchers, depict the minor and major shifts in positionalities that emerge from the flirtation and examine the reasons why we sometimes embraced flirtation and sometimes rejected it. The objective of the article is to further enrich feminist methodological writing, and to suggest to the reader the potential for including various shades of sexual performances, such as apparently harmless flirtation, into our reflections on data collection.

Abstract

In the last few decades, an engaged and sophisticated discussion about the production of data and power relations has developed within feminist methodology. Positionality, i.e. the set of relations constituting informants’ and researchers’ subject positions, has been widely used as an analytical tool to account for the complicated ways in which data are co-constructed in fieldwork. Based on our own experience of fieldwork conducted in the city of Zurich, however, we argue that sexuality is underrepresented in this debate. First, reflexive writing on fieldwork has been reluctant to consider sexuality as a category in the same way, for instance, as gender or race. Second, even apparently innocuous sexualisations have a considerable effect on the constitution of data and are therefore worth including in the analysis. In this article, we examine how flirtation as a part of the participant – researcher relation has re-shaped the research encounters in our respective research projects. We discuss the complex navigations between conflicting rationales that it entailed for us as researchers, depict the minor and major shifts in positionalities that emerge from the flirtation and examine the reasons why we sometimes embraced flirtation and sometimes rejected it. The objective of the article is to further enrich feminist methodological writing, and to suggest to the reader the potential for including various shades of sexual performances, such as apparently harmless flirtation, into our reflections on data collection.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:19 Jan 2015 15:37
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 18:44
Publisher:Taylor & Francis Inc.
ISSN:0966-369X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2014.991704

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