Exploring the Dynamics of Subjectivity and Power Between Researcher and Researched


  • Sarah Riley University of Bath
  • Wendy Schouten University of Bath
  • Sharon Cahill University of East London




reflexivity, power, subjectivity, feminism, post structuralism, social constructionism, gender, anger, childcare, masculinities


Three studies are described and examined in terms of the power dynamics created through the subjective positions made salient for both researchers and the participants by the research process. The reflexive accounts of these studies are informed by the poststructuralist critique of reflexivity as both a truthful representation of the research process and one that can be produced by stable and unitary authors. In this paper subjectivity and power are explored through the use of different narrative styles that work to highlight the contradictory and fragmented nature of reflexivity as a new construction of (a past) reality. In the first investigation a female researcher exploring women's experiences of anger describes the process of taking analysis back to her participants to enhance the researcher's understanding of her data. Taking the approach to reflexivity as one of introspection and collaboration a single narrator tells the tale of conflict and resolution between her subjective positions of feminist-researcher, feminist and researcher. In the second study, a female researcher who interviewed men working in professional employment creates a dialogical inquiry through polyvocality to produce an account of reflexivity as social critique. In particular, she explores the subjective positions created through identities attached to her gender and her role as a researcher. The third study approaches reflexivity as discursive deconstruction and employs non-dialogical polyvocality to explore the multiple and contradictory nature of reflexive understandings created through subjective positions derived from the research experience, nationality and motherhood. In examining the participant-researcher relationships that were enabled or dis-enabled when the researchers inhabited the subjective position of "researcher", the use of three different approaches to reflexivity with correspondingly different narrative styles, produced new understandings of subjectivity and power. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302400


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Author Biographies

Sarah Riley, University of Bath

Sarah RILEY is a lecturer at the University of Bath, with research interests in discourse analysis, gender, embodiment and recreational drug use.

Wendy Schouten, University of Bath

Wendy SCHOUTEN is a PhD student, also at the University of Bath who is investigating ideological dilemmas around childcare with Dutch and English mothers of children under two years.

Sharon Cahill, University of East London

Sharon CAHILL is a lecturer at the University of East London, her research interests include emotion, feminism, gender, and embodiment.




How to Cite

Riley, S., Schouten, W., & Cahill, S. (2003). Exploring the Dynamics of Subjectivity and Power Between Researcher and Researched. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-4.2.713