Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Fieldwork among Friends

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Fieldwork among Friends

Article excerpt

This paper raises some of the actual methodological concerns from a research study predicated on relations of friendship. It examines ideas about friendship, the role of friendship in organizations, the ties to individuals and consequence for ethical research conduct. The authors conclude that the research process, especially when undertaken under the auspices of the university, is inherently one of potential exploitation. Reflexive and continuous articulation of the ethical dilemmas of research rather than institutionalized ethics reviews is the best way to weight the potential consequence of fieldwork among friends.

Cet article souleve certaines des questions methodologiques courantes tirees. d'un travail de rechereche base sur les rap-ports d'amitiemi. I I examine les idees antourant l'amitie, le role que joue l'amitie au s ein d'organismes, les liens entre individus ainsi que les repercussions sur le fondement moral des procedes de recherche. Les auteures en arrivent a l a conclusion que le procede de recherche, surtout lorsqu'il est entrepris sous l'egide de l'universite, porte en lui la possibilite intrinsequ e d'exploitation. Elles proposent que l'autoreflectiuon ainsi que l'articulation continue des dilemmes morales de la recherche, plutot que des etudes de fondement moral institutionalisees, constitue la meilleure facon de mesurer les consequences possibles du travail sur le terrain entrepris parmis ses amies.

The feminist challenge to the artificial split in the researcher/subject relationship has encouraged researchers to reflect on their experiences in research and to make explicit the consequences of their presence and varying positions in the research process and product (Duelli Klein and Bowles, 1983). The understandings derived from research which recognize both professional (scientific) and personal (intimate) methods as "situated knowledges" integral to the creation of knowledge (Haraway, 1991), are no less problematic in a methodology than those that depend entirely on a scientific or objective stance. This understanding, however, does not leave us free from struggles with complicated boundaries of personal and professional friendship or questions about the ethics of research based on fieldwork among friends. They, however, make it possible for the conduct of legitimate research among friends both as research collaborators and subjects.

This paper reflects our methodological concerns on the most significant issues that surfaced for us in producing a case study of the work of women as board members in a feminist voluntary community organization. Both authors were familiar with the substantive questions raised about board membership from within the women's community, the communities of those who served on community boards, and the literature on voluntary organizations. Both understood that internal tensions and conflict often exist in these situations and that they are not new or unique to any one feminist organization (Adair, 1997; Lahey; 1997; Murphy and Levin, 1997). Both of us had been members of the organizations that were our potential research sites, though in different positions at different periods of time. Both of us had our own research agendas that highlighted collaborative work with others and were interested in how to develop sustainable and effective organizations.

Friendship was one of the rewards we had gleaned from feminist activist organizing. We, both made, drew on, and sustained numerous friendships as a result of board membership as did other women in these situations. And like many others, we also had unresolved feelings about our board experiences, in this case in one particular organization, which became our primary research site.

Positioned as friends in relation to each other and members of the organization we were studying was the way in which we formally began our research. Ironically, we were at the time both part of an academy which claims that good research is driven by a rational search for knowledge. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.