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Being True and Being You: Race, Gender, Class, and the Fieldwork Experience

  • Erica Townsend-Bell (a1)

Fieldwork advice has increased and improved over the years. Yet, the bulk of political science fieldwork advice is general; it assumes that the subject to whom advice is given is simply a political scientist—in training, perhaps—with no other salient identities that might intercede (but see Mazzei and O'Brien 2005 and the PS 2006 fieldwork symposium, The Methodologies of Field Research in the Middle East, for recent exceptions). Of course in reality it is not just the fieldwork setting that varies; the relationship of the researcher to the field matters a great deal—and that may be much more dependent on our specific identities than we have previously credited. It is not simply the subjects that we study, but us as well who have to negotiate sometimes sticky issues of race, class, gender, nationality, and so forth.

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Bays, Sharon. 1998. “Work, Politics, and Coalition Building.” In Community Activism and Feminist Politics: Organizing Across Race, Class, and Gender, ed. Naples, Nancy A.. Routledge: New York, 301–26.
Blee, Kathleen M. 2003. Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Mazzei, Julie, and O'Brien, Erin. 2005. “‘You Got It, So When Do You Flaunt It?’ Field Work Settings and the Strategic Deployment of Gender.” Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington D.C.
Murdock, Donna. 2003. “That Stubborn ‘Doing Good’ Question: Ethical/Epistemological Concerns in the Study of NGOs.” Ethnos 68 (4): 507–32.
Schwedler, Jillian. 2006. “The Third Gender: Western Female Researchers in the Middle East.” PS: Political Science and Politics 39 (3): 425–28.
Townsend-Bell, Erica. 2007. “Identities Matter: Identity Politics, Coalition Possibilities and Feminist Organizing.” Ph.D. diss. Washington University in St. Louis.
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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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