Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Critical Reflections: Interpretation and Analysis of Japanese Women's Settlement Experiences

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Critical Reflections: Interpretation and Analysis of Japanese Women's Settlement Experiences

Article excerpt

In this paper, I discuss a reflective personal account of my research process. I explore how my positionality influenced analysis of my research interview data. It has been argued that positionality of researchers can influence the research process in various ways: the selection of research topics; relationships with the research participants; and data interpretation (Louis & Barton, 2002; Sanghera & Thapar-Bjorkert, 2008). The researcher's personal experience, values, and beliefs also have the potential to influence decisions made about the research process (Louis & Barton, 2002; Sword, 1999). Sanghera and Thapar-Bjorkert (2008) define positionality as "the way in which others position the individual identity and affiliations he/she may have" (p. 553). The concept of positionality situates race, gender, class, and other socially significant identities as markers of our relational position; positionality is not a fixed concept, but rather it is fluid and contextual (Alcoff, 1988). Understanding positionality sheds light on the way our knowledge is constructed and situated within power structures (Sanghera & Thapar-Bjorkert, 2008). Recognizing positionality allows researchers to be more conscious about how knowledge production is influenced by their own positionality (Chacko, 2004) intertwined with his/her own experience, values and beliefs. In my research, the way I analyzed and interpreted interview data were initially informed by my position as a Japanese male, with experience studying and living in western countries, and with values and beliefs influenced by the second-wave feminism.

I investigated the migration and settlement experience of Japanese women who are married to Australian men and dwell in Australia in my doctoral research. In analyzing settlement experiences of the participants of my research, it turned out that most of the participants in my research became full-time homemakers and even those who had paid employment outside the home worked only part-time after migration. There were no participants who had full-time jobs. In the understanding of gender equality as argued by second-wave feminists, the role of full-time homemaker is viewed as a disempowered status of women (Friedan, 2001). My initial analysis of the interview data was highly influenced by such ideology of "second-wave" feminism, which emerged in Western countries and called for women's liberation and emancipation. I was exposed to such western social values through living in western countries and I came to support the second-wave feminist notion of "gender equality" in the institution of marriage. My conviction was also influenced by masculine notions of power grounded from my male gender identity and values.

However as my research progressed I came to question the way I analyzed women's marriage and migration experiences. Reading Nicole Constable's (2003) book, Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and "Mail Order" Marriages, in which she investigated international marriage between women from Philippines and China, and American men, I came to a point where I needed to reconsider my positionality as a Japanese male, my values and beliefs influenced by second-wave feminism, and my understandings on "gender equality" in marriage. In her book, Constable (2003) points out how non-Western women, who are in an international marriage, and the legitimacy of their marriage, are scaled by the Western yardstick. She further continues to state the debate on being "liberated" amongst Western women; "the liberated women" in the West as ones who gain access to occupations, rights, and benefits. Such a concept of liberation of women was familiar to me as my social milieu of the Western women influenced my attitude toward women's liberation.

My way of understanding gender equality in the institution of marriage reflects a dichotomization of the Western and non-Western perspectives, oppressor and suppressed, empowered and disempowered, liberated and non-liberated and advanced and backward. …

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