Researching others: Epistemology, experience, standpoints and participation

Barbara Fawcett, Jeff Hearn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the possibility and challenges of carrying out research, especially qualitative and ethnographically-orientated research, into areas such as gender, disability, ethnicity and racialization, without the researcher having direct experience of those specific social divisions and oppressions. Discussion of these questions is framed by four differential understandings of the concept of 'otherness' and linked with debates in the areas of research methodology, epistemology, ontology and research practices. Issues of experience, 'standpoint' and participation are specifically focused on. The resulting discussion leads to the conclusion that in 'researching others' attention has to be paid to historical context and to the maintenance of a critical relation to the research topic. A sustaining focus on the self-reflexivity of the researcher as author and the continual interrogation of the social bases of knowledge, together with a detail understanding of political agendas, are also important. In paying attention to these aspects of research, materialism and critical discourse analysis are to be seen as part of the same broad socio-political project rather than as opposing and mutually exclusive perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-218
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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