The outsider within:dilemmas of qualitative feminist research within a culture of resistance

Watts, Jacqueline H. (2006). The outsider within:dilemmas of qualitative feminist research within a culture of resistance. Qualitative Research, 6(3) pp. 385–402.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794106065009

Abstract

Feminist research practice is firmly established within the academy and is concerned to develop ways of understanding reality that place women at their centre. However, researching women who do not identify with feminist aims presents feminist researchers with particular challenges in relation to appropriate method and ethical practice. This article discusses these challenges focusing on the issues of ‘gatekeeper’ access, informed consent and the impact that the insider researcher role has on ‘truth telling’. Ideas offered are a critical reflection on qualitative research undertaken into the career experiences of women civil engineers in the UK. The extent to which the inside knowledge of the researcher gives rise to shared understandings and a ‘common’ language, and the ways this creates empathy across a ‘political’ and theoretical divide are discussed. An ethics of care model of feminist research practice that suggests that the line between empathy and exploitation is, in reality, a fine one, is considered. This article argues that researcher integrity is complex and dynamic; it functions along a continuum of practical constraint that involves mutuality, negotiation and re-negotiation of boundaries with participants.

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