Relational Ethnography: Writing and Reading in Research Relationships


  • Gail Simon University of Bedfordshire



relational ethnography, writing, systemic, autoethnography, reflexivity, relational ethics, psychotherapy


This article introduces relational ethnography as a form of inquiry which emphasizes reflexive dialogical aspects of research relationships. I have found the use of autoethnography inspiring in speaking from within my practice as a therapist and teacher however it has limited my focus on areas of relationality in research relationships. In developing a relational ethnography, I have been able to show how all areas of ethnographic research involve relationality. I draw on systemic and social constructionist theory in understanding relational activities. I offer illustrations of reflexive, dialogical relationships between the voices of inner dialogue, the voices of outer dialogue—and between the two. By making available description of reflexive inner dialogue to readers and participants in research relationships, we increase opportunities for transparent communication and collaboration in those relationships.

First, I write about the relationships between researcher and texts reframing reading as dialogical activity. Afterwards, I explore the emergent relationship between writers and readers as they enter into an anticipatory-responsive dialogue with each other. Finally, I discuss how reflexivity is always relational and informs a relational ethics, and offer some ideas for an ethics of care and for an aesthetics of care as guiding principles for relational ethnography. I have found that teaching relational ethnography has improved students' reflexivity in their research and has enhanced the relational and aesthetic quality of their research writing



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Author Biography

Gail Simon, University of Bedfordshire

Gail SIMON, Professional Doctorate Systemic Practice, is Program Director for the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Practice at the University of Bedfordshire and teaches research at The Relate Institute. Gail co-founded The Pink Practice in London, UK, which pioneered relational social constructionist therapy for the lesbian, gay and queer communities. She has published papers on the social constructionism of the individual, writing as a relational practice, reflexivity and transgression in therapeutic practice. She researches and teaches systemic inquiry, collaborative research, writing as a form of inquiry, performative writing, relationships, interpersonal and organizational communications, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer asylum seekers and the politics of therapy.




How to Cite

Simon, G. (2012). Relational Ethnography: Writing and Reading in Research Relationships. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1).



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