Primary themes in reflexive accounts of fieldwork have arisen around accessing fieldwork sites, negotiating gatekeepers, the balance between insider and outsider positionality, and the covert and overt nature of the researcher status and research focus. Despite this, such reflexive accounts prioritise the emotional and practical challenges for the researcher and the research, and what is more neglected is deepening this to consider how the knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the research topic is shaped and informed by the personal embodied sensory experiences of the researcher in the field. In this chapter I explore how I subjectively experienced doing ethnographic research in a Probation Approved Premises with residents who had been convicted of a sexual offence, considering how I became sensorially embedded within the physicality and inter-personal relationships of the research site. As a result, I had emotional reactions to the sense of place that meant I was able to not only understand my participants’ accounts or behaviours in the abstract (as an onlooker), but also empathically: as one who feels some of the same impacts of place and space as they do. This sharing and analysing of the holistic sensory experience of place was able to bridge some of the social and psychological distances between us, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of life for residents and staff as a consequence of analysing the physical and emotional feel of the place.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSensory Penalities
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the Senses in Spaces of Punishment and Social Control
EditorsKate Herrity, Bethany E. Schmidt, Jason Warr
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
ISBN (Electronic)9781839097263
ISBN (Print)9781839097270
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2020

Publication series

NameEmerald Studies in Culture, Criminal Justice and the Arts
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd


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