Qualitative Research in Tourism: Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies

By Jenny Phillimore; Lisa Goodson | Go to book overview

6

(Dis)embodied experience and power dynamics in tourism research
Margaret Byrne Swain
Aims of the chapter
• To provide an overview of embodiment issues in qualitative tourism research methods.
• To give examples of good practice drawing from feminist analysis of embodiment in tourism studies.
• To raise questions about power dynamics in the intersections of researcher and the researched in terms of embodiment and reflexivity.

Introduction

This chapter addresses questions of embodied experience and power in qualitative tourism research, drawing on a litany of embodied power relations often recited in literature on the body: gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, nationality, class, age and (dis)able-bodiness. Naturally I see these questions from my own positions as a woman, straight, Anglo, white redhead, American middle-class and middle-aged, semi-dyslexic, lefthanded researcher. I rarely discuss all these aspects of my persona at once, and have written about my position in terms only of gender in past work. However, all of what I am affects the problems I see and the power dynamics I experience as a researcher. Don't worry, this chapter is not all about me. Qualitative (and I would argue quantitative as well) research must acknowledge the researcher's positionality intersecting with that of the researched in order to understand how our understandings are constructed. This is not a unique observation, as we all know that knowledge is not created in a vacuum. My question here is what might we learn from such observations to promote more equitable human conditions in the course of our research about tourism. Power relations in research, in terms of who controls what, how hierarchies are built, maintained and changed, and how equality occurs, all emanate out of these intersections within multiple contexts.

A focus on embodiment in qualitative research acknowledges the corporal selves of the researchers' as well as the researched 'subjects' as

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