The performance of researching sensitive issues

Komaromy, Carol (2020). The performance of researching sensitive issues. Mortality, 25(3) pp. 364–377.



Within sociological and organisational literature much attention has been paid to the emotional labour and emotion work performed by care staff. By contrast, comparatively little attention has been paid to that which researchers perform and how it is shaped by the need to behave appropriately and in ways that are in keeping with the demands of the study setting. Existing literature focuses largely on the need for researchers to be aware of their emotions as part of being reflexive and thus, through acknowledgement, minimising any emotional impact (subjectivity) on research interpretations. In this paper, I draw on two research experiences, an ethnographic study into end-of-life care in care homes and an exploration into the role of the Anatomical Pathology Technologist in a hospital mortuary to explore the tensions between conducting sensitive research and managing emotions. I conclude by drawing on the theories of Goffman and Hochschild to explore the relationship between emotion management and sensitive research.

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