Researching the Unresearchable
It is not individuals who have experiences, but subjects who are constituted through experience.
j. Scott ‘Experience’, emphasis added
Researching the ways in which children (aged 8–11) make meaning from discursive repertoires of ‘race’ and ethnicity presented a particularly difficult set of methodological issues. In the first chapter, I showed how terminology relating to these issues is opaque and often used interchangeably. In addition, the relationships between what can be said about multiplicities is often a list of additive descriptors which brings us no nearer to understanding the experiences of mixedness, hi order to try to counteract the potential limitations of verbal accounts provided by interviews alone, I drew upon a range of methods for understanding children and families, including the use of visual methods. In this chapter I will outline the development of these epistemological and practical difficulties and how they affected the methods of research, particularly with children.
One of the most critical aspects of the research process was my own position within it and how it informed what I did. This and an awareness of my own representational power over the children (and parents and teachers) were the main elements of what I would loosely term ethical dilemmas. The research processes developed with a constant concern for the most sensitive way to access children's use of the discourses of ‘race’, ethnicity and culture as they worked them with and through their gendered, classed identifications. In the following sections I will show how accessing both schools and children in order to explore understandings and discussions of racialisation and identity was inflected by a range of theoretical issues. I will start by introducing the schools in which the research was carried out. Exploring meanings of ‘identity’ in young children meant encouraging them to speak for themselves. In order to achieve that I needed to develop a level of trust that facilitated open dialogue, yet I had a limited amount of time because of obvious pragmatic reasons.