Research Less Violent? Or the Ethics of Performative Social Science

Sabi Redwood


In this paper I construct an argument which positions research as an inherently violent activity in which the strange is made to appear familiar thereby forcing the otherness of the other into some kind of order, and transforming the unknown into the knowable. Through organising data and imposing an order—which is arguably the point of any analysis and representation—the wild profusion of things is tamed (to use a Foucauldian metaphor). Thus ambiguity and difference are flattened out, and indeterminacy is overlaid with "findings". Furthermore, research can also be seen as an activity in which the moral choices, ethical and analytical decisions, and personal investments of the researcher are secreted away and so are made to appear natural and innocent. I argue that there is an opportunity for performative social science research to remember the ethical consequences of analysis and representation and to take responsibility for the violence of taming the wild profusion of data. This opportunity resides in its potential to show, not tell; to be open to the future, another happening, another event rather than to settle for one final conclusion and close down other possibilities; and to provoke critique, resistance and political action rather than appeal for agreement, conformity and indifference.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802608


performative social science; research ethics; metaphysical violence; symbolic violence

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Copyright (c) 2008 Sabi Redwood

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