Talking with difficult subjects; ethics, knowledge, relationships 
Keith Egan (National University of Ireland)
Fiona Murphy (Queen's University Belfast)
Stranmillis Conference Hall
Start time:
14 April, 2010 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Researchers often find themselves negotiating difficult topics or complicated research relationships. This panel explores strategies for the interview process to enhance interviewer/interviewee rapport in order to engage with, address and overcome potentially thorny research relationships.

Long Abstract

How should researchers use interviews when 'deep hanging-out' becomes politically, emotionally, and intellectually imperilled. How can the interview process provide a context for redressing research relationships? Such difficult moments in the field, reflected on and negotiated in the act of writing, are considerations for this panel. In addition, many words used to describe fieldsite relationships are fraught with darker edges (informants, hosts etc.). The space that anthropological methodology and academic writing allow permits a re-evaluation/confrontation with these 'negative' encounters. While the interview process has been understood as a legitimate means of data collection, this panel asks where the limits of objectivity lie when interviewers and interviewees become challenged by the lack of rapport; what difficulties result in gaining access to personal/emotionally laden information via formal interviews? The interview, a historically constituted and culturally circumscribed form of potentially constrained interaction between parties, often presents such a formal setting, one less conducive to establishing the valuable rapport long deemed so valuable. When faced with difficult subjects then, how, the panel asks, are interviewers to engage ethically/emotionally with subjects to bridge this gap? This panel seeks to explore the interview process through ethnographic examples showing researchers confronting/coping with disparities in education, outlook and interviewer/interviewee rapport. In sum, this panel invites papers to explore strategies for addressing 'difficult subjects' (topics, people, encounters). The panel also examines ways in which face-to-face interactions between researchers and the people they research may negotiate the politics and ethics of interviews as creative and productive encounters for both parties.

Accepted papers: