Becoming a Feminist-Activist Ethnographer: Generating Gender-Equal Democratic Practice

Smolović-Jones, Nela (2024). Becoming a Feminist-Activist Ethnographer: Generating Gender-Equal Democratic Practice. In Figiel, Kasia ed. Sage Research Methods: Diversifying and Decolonizing Research (In Press) Sage.

URL: https://methods.sagepub.com/

Abstract

This study is based on my feminist, longitudinal, and ethnographic research on the democratic practices enacted by a women’s organization in a context of corruption. I explore the process of becoming a feminist-activist researcher before, during, and after the fieldwork, sharing key insights for generating impactful and meaningful knowledge. First, I consider how identifying a research interest aligned with one’s values is key for sustaining motivation throughout the project. Being true to your values in research also means recognizing when your context and methods need to change. Second, I explore the role of the imagination in creating a research design. Imagining yourself in a research setting, among participants, immersed in the flow of their activities, can provide valuable hints for choosing a distinctive and relevant approach. Through my explanation of the process, some of the key features of feminist ethnography are made apparent and grounded in a context of practice. Third, I examine how learning in the field unfolds. Special attention is given to the role of ethics and empathy, demonstrating how in feminist-activist ethnography, we learn with others rather than about others. Finally, I focus on some of the challenges of undertaking feminist-activist ethnography. Here, I reflect on how to manage the unpredictability of conducting feminist-activist ethnography. I conclude by considering how feminist-activist research evolves after fieldwork, strengthening impact through continued commitment and adaptation.

Plain Language Summary

This study provides insight into the opportunities and challenges of conducting ethnographic research as a feminist-activist.

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