Negotiating identities: fluidity, diversity and researcher emotion.

Clarke, Caroline and Knights, David (2015). Negotiating identities: fluidity, diversity and researcher emotion. In: Clarke, Caroline; Broussine, Michael and Watts, Linda eds. Researching with Feeling: The Emotional Aspects of Social and Organisational Research. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 35–50.



In this chapter we discuss the relative ‘status’ of the researcher as well as the researched, and argue that researching is intricately and intimately tied to our and others’ gender, age, class, race, sexuality and thus to links between power, politics and the personal. Identities are bound up inextricably with certain signifying ‘characteristics’ – commonly our age, disability, ethnicity, gender and sexual preferences. There are other less physically visible (but equally important) signifiers of the self, such as religion and class that influence the degree to which we are considered ‘acceptable’ in any given organization or community, depending on how difference/diversity is either celebrated or rejected by the members of a particular group. In many instances the researcher may be constructed as ‘interlopers’ into another environment. Researchers may then have to ‘work’ on their identities (through the performance of identity work) in order to create connections with other members, and suppress much of what they feel in line with any prevailing cultural rules. This chapter explores how researchers can feel marginalised because of their position, often as ‘students’, a traditional and therefore comparatively ambiguous identity. Researchers are often young and can readily be patronized by the people whose behaviour they are seeking to understand. In such circumstances, and as evidenced in Chapter 2, researchers may be the butt of jokes because they are seen as naïve and unworldly (Collinson, 1992). Other times, researchers may be co-opted into the culture and be in danger of ‘going native’. This demonstrates how there is a fine line between the dispassionate and the over empathetic research self.

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