Researching a Taboo

  • Dawn Leeming (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Shame is a tricky experience to research as it is difficult for participants to acknowledge and speak about shame and difficult for researchers to witness the shame of others. Shame might be re-experienced through painful disclosure
of hidden episodes still considered taboo. Alternatively, if we conclude that others were wrong to have shamed us, shame itself can feel shameful. It is thus one of the most private and hidden emotions, despite being an experience
of our position in relation to others. Therefore, understanding how shame can shape experiences of healthcare requires empirical research methods which can attend sensitively to shame as both an experiential and relational phenomenon, though one that is not easily articulated. Drawing particularly on research in two areas (accessing mental health services and receiving breastfeeding support) I reflect on the value of varied methods (qualitative questionnaires, interviews, audio-diaries, secondary data analysis, observation) for exploring shame and related self-conscious emotions, whilst considering ethical and methodological issues and the agendas that researchers and participants may bring. I argue for the importance of not only exploring experiences labelled as ‘shame’, but also
using less direct methods to investigate the subtle ways in which the avoidance of shame can shape healthcare interactions.
Period28 Apr 2022
Event titleShame, Health and Lived Experience Workshop
Event typeWorkshop
LocationCopenhagen, DenmarkShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational