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

  • Amber Gazso York University
  • Katherine Bischoping York University
Keywords: awkward moments, discursive positioning, emotions, feminist qualitative methods, interviews, standpoint, reflexivity, research ethics

Abstract

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.

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Author Biographies

Amber Gazso, York University

Amber GAZSO (PhD, University of Alberta) is an associate professor of sociology at York University. Her main areas of research include: citizenship; family and gender relations; research methods; poverty; and the welfare state. She specializes in research that explores family members' relationships with social policies of the neo-liberal welfare state. Her current research explores how people living with addiction experience social assistance receipt. A passion of her is the study and practice of qualitative methods.

Katherine Bischoping, York University

Katherine BISCHOPING (PhD, University of Michigan), an associate professor of sociology at York University, studies the behind-the-scenes work of methodologists, gendered cultural narratives, and the role of narration in oral history and memory studies. Recently, Amber GAZSO and she coauthored "Analyzing Talk in the Social Sciences: Narrative, Conversation and Discourse Strategies" (2016, Sage), and Yumi ISHII and she co-edited a special issue of Oral History Forum d'histoire orale, entitled "Generations and Memory: Continuity and Change" (2017).

Published
2018-09-26
Section
Research Ethics in Qualitative Research