Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Dancing in the Margins: Reflections on Social Justice and Researcher Identities

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Dancing in the Margins: Reflections on Social Justice and Researcher Identities

Article excerpt

I pull out the interview guide and information/consent form from my bag and turn on the audio recorder. Sitting at the kitchen table, I look at the stovetop with four pots of water coming to a slow boil. Tanisha asks if I would like a cup of tea. I graciously decline and thank her for the offer. "What are the pots for?" I ask. "Our gas and heat have been shut off for a couple of months. I have to boil the water so that the kids can have a warm bath. It was a tough weekend, reaching close to freezing. We were bundled up in jackets for most of the weekend trying to keep warm. Thank God summer is coming!"

My heart sinks and I feel a knot in my stomach. I am at a loss for words. My mind drifts to this past weekend and our camping trip. I remember shivering in the tent as I looked out at the snow falling on the lake. It was quite simply beautiful and breathtaking, but feelings of hypothermia made me question our sanity on that particular weekend. We had a campfire burning for the majority of the time just to keep warm and enjoy the occasional marshmallow and hot chocolate. I remember being annoyed that the weather had turned out to be such a disappointment.

My attention drifts back to the present. I had started my day with ill thoughts of the weekend and a dismal camping trip. In contrast, Tanisha had started her day thinking about how to keep her family warm and how she would give her children a bath. (Not to mention the additional labor associated with these tasks.) Although the distance between our respective homes was less than five kilometers apart, at that moment I felt the cold snow awaken my senses with guilt and shame. Tanisha and I had felt a chill in our bones that weekend, but our positionalities had framed our experiences in such vastly different ways.

I could not shake the feeling-how trivial and inconsequential my perceived problems were-and how I had overlooked my position of privilege and all the luxuries it afforded me. I had a reliable car that I could leave the city with. I had spent thousands of dollars in camping gear over the years. I did not have to face the difficulties of being a single mother of four children, nor was I hiding from my past as a victim of domestic violence. With this in mind, I look at my interview guide-shake my head with embarrassment-and toss it to the side. I begin, "Can you walk me through what a typical day looks like for you?"

As this special issue was announced on the intersections between social and environmental justice and leisure research, I once again thought of this narrative that I encountered almost seven years ago. It is a powerful memory, one that drifts through my thoughts from time to time and was the genesis to understanding my hidden privileges and the impact they have on my research projects. The process of reflexivity and being aware of researcher positionality was critical to this journey and is essential to the development of healthy relationships and a more empathetic understanding towards our fellow citizens (Dustin, 2011).

Similar to Watson and Scraton (2001), I now recognize my intellectual autobiography as a white, heterosexual, and able-bodied woman who is a mother, and as a feminist, starts from a privileged position of power (academically and personally). I also recognize that with this privilege comes responsibility. Watson and Scraton argued, "Those who hold a central position in the dominant discourse have a responsibility to engage in critical, reflexive research to support both theoretical and political change" (emphasis in original, p. 275).

Reflexivity can be a way to manage our identities in research settings: how we present ourselves and how we are perceived when working with participants (Daley, 2007). Several leisure scholars such as Dupuis (1999) and Johnson (2009) have also pointed to the importance of re- flexivity as an essential feature of qualitative inquiry that recognizes the researcher as a human being who embodies emotions and multiple identities. …

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