This chapter explores researcher reflexivity developed during an institutional ethnography (IE) (Smith 2005) of a primary school. It illustrates use of a narrative method, ‘The Listening Guide’ (Mauthner and Doucet 2008), in particular my production of an ‘I’ poem after being interviewed by research participants. This promotes an ethical approach to researcher reflexivity, enabling an explicit analysis of the researcher’s subjectivities in the use of ethnographic methods and a deeper understanding of privilege and power on the part of the researcher. The approach works to negate any researcher authority over the textual representations of the research participants and objectification of them.
Consideration is given to the tensions between the sociological basis of IE and how this is troubled by particular approaches to narrative production. The point of reflection in institutional ethnography is not to learn about the researcher per se, but to learn about the researcher’s location in the ‘relations of ruling’ (Smith 2005), that is, the researcher’s standpoint. There are particular tensions for institutional ethnographers in seeking to avoid objectification of participants through both ‘institutional capture’ and ‘privileged irresponsibility’, specifically; the imposition of researcher subjectivities in listening for, asking about and producing texts. A significant concern, for example, in this research context is the researcher’s place and privilege in the education hierarchy. I argue that it is precisely because of the troubling nature of the Listening Guide and ‘I’ poems that they can be utilised by institutional ethnographers in revealing and analysing the co-ordination of social relations.
|Studies in Qualitative Methodology