Feminist Reflections on the Relation of Emotions to Ethics: A Case Study of Two Awkward Interviewing Moments

Amber Gazso, Katherine Bischoping


In Canada, social scientists are accountable to ethical guidelines, including the minimization of harm. Simultaneously, they are accountable to an academic community. But what of those moments in the researcher-participant relationship when these principles clash? They have at times done so resoundingly in our careers as qualitative interviewers, especially when we sought to ensure that information we implicitly understood and perceived as crucial would be duly stated by participants for the research record. Such attempts gave rise to deeply awkward interactions rife with emotions that even risked the premature termination of the interviews. In this article, we use methods from a feminist paradigm, and specifically standpoint and discursive positioning theory, to reflexively analyze the ethics in practice surrounding two of our own cases of awkward moments. Our analysis illustrates how the emotions of awkward moments can be symptomatic of everyday ethical conundrums. We particularly consider whether and how our engagement in reflexivity from these two vantage points can mitigate any real or imagined harm. We indicate how the understanding we develop from our analysis can lead to proactive recommendations for researchers to engage with their emotions and conduct themselves more ethically, both in the field and in analyses.


awkward moments; discursive positioning; emotions; feminist qualitative methods; interviews; standpoint; reflexivity; research ethics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.3.3118

Copyright (c) 2018 Amber Gazso, Katherine Bischoping

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