This Special Issue follows from the recently completed ESRC Seminar Series on Emotion and Embodiment in Research, which explored issues around the methodological importance of taking a view of the researcher as an emotional and embodied being. We also considered the personal risks involved in carrying out research, the ethical dilemmas for researchers, their managers and funders, as well as the social relationships of power in these processes.
Sturdy (2003) discusses these issues in terms of ‘knowing the unknowable’, reviews the literature indicating knowability of these issues and how a focus on them can ‘also draw attention to methodological and related political concerns more generally.’
Knights and Thanem (2006) argue that, often, even research on emotions takes a disembodied form, with the body becoming just another object to organise and order, whereas – as Knights highlighted in his contribution to the Seminar Series – embodiment is both a point of departure and of destination but always a provisional condition.
The gap in training at doctoral level for both researchers and their supervisors was central to the series, as the training offered to doctoral students rarely covers the emotional and embodied nature of the process - such as guilt, fear, anger, fatigue - ignoring the potential methodological implications in the research process. Such emotions are often suppressed as being “unprofessional” or an untidy (and unwanted) consequence of fieldwork relevant only to the individual. Yet the fact that research is not purely a rational, objective activity and is also about politics, power, and morals is widely accepted. In an indirectly related discussion of gender in industrial relations research, Danieli (2006) argues that academics often pursue a strategy of simultaneous ‘acknowledgement and abdication’: acknowledging the importance of gender while arguing that gender does not need to be addressed.
So our understanding of the emotional and embodied nature of research(ing) has not kept pace with the increased attention paid to emotion and embodiment in organisational life. The focus on theoretical and empirical developments in this area in IJWOE requires a similar lens to be turned on the ways in which research is conducted.
What is important is not only to indicate that emotion and embodiment are involved in research processes but to explore what this means for the process of training as and working as a researcher, for what we research, how and why, and for what we write and how we write - that is, for the production of knowledge.
Despite the ‘reflexive turn’ in fieldwork-based academic disciplines, teaching and writing on empirical research often seems to ignore the role of researchers’ own emotions and embodiment in the collection of data and the creation of textual representations. The orientation of the research framework in terms of analysis may well be critically reflexive, but the conduct of the research itself is effectively positivist in treating the researcher as an ‘instrument.’
As emotion and embodiment are commonly individualised and time- and context-specific, must we necessarily adopt a conventional rational style of communication in academic texts, as otherwise such discussion would obscure rather than contribute to knowledge?
We invite papers which address these debates and which focus on the emotional and embodied nature of the research process.
We suggest the following themes, but stress that these are simply suggestions and that we encourage papers on whatever dimension of these issues interests you:
Research Training and Fieldwork
- How does research training deal with the emotional, embodied researcher?
- What are the expectations research students in carrying out fieldwork?
- Are they prepared for the emotional/ethical issues they may encounter?
- What are the methodological implications of considering the researcher as an embodied, emotional being?
- What are the empirical and analytical effects of emotional-embodied reactions?
- Ethical and political implications: risk to researchers is seldom considered. What ethical issues does this raise for funders, managers, supervisors, University Ethics Committees?
- How are the emotion/embodiment rules of academic disciplines learned and experienced?
- What are the roles of particular subgroups, substructures, in shaping the emotion rules associated with them?
- In exploring emotion/embodiment in research, what might we learn about the boundaries of, between, and within disciplines?
- Age, gender, race/ethnicity, impairment/disability, sexual orientation
- Power relations in research
- Fear and physicality
- Responses to fieldwork
- Working in groups and teams
- Differing methodologies
Deadline for submission: 11 June, 2010