Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 83–106

A feminist revisiting of the insider/outsider debate: The “outsider phenomenon” in rural Iowa

  • Nancy A. Naples

DOI: 10.1007/BF02393249

Cite this article as:
Naples, N.A. Qual Sociol (1996) 19: 83. doi:10.1007/BF02393249


This article draws upon findings from an ethnographic study of two towns in rural Iowa to examine the adequacy of the insider/outsider distinction as a guideline for evaluating and conducting ethnographic research. Utilizing feminist standpoint and materialist feminist theories, I start with the assumption that, rather than one “insider” or “outsider” position, we all begin our work with different relationships to shifting aspects of social life and to particular knowers in the community and this contributes to numerous dimensions through which we can relate to residents in various communities. “Outsiderness” and “insiderness” are not fixed or static positions, rather they are ever-shifting and permeable social locations illustrated in this case study by the “outsider phenomenon.” Community processes that reorganize and resituate race-ethnicity, gender and class relations form some of the most salient aspects of the “outsider phenomenon.” These dynamic processes shaped our relationships with residents as ethnographic identities were repositioned by shifts in constructions of “community” that accompanied ongoing social, demographic, and political changes.

Key words

ethnography feminist standpoint methodologies materialist feminism rural community studies racialization economic and social change 

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy A. Naples
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Women's StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvine

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