Positionality and intersectional gender identities are critical to the experience and outcomes of research. Van den Boogaard argues for a more reflexive and self-critical approach to research design and fieldwork, drawing on her research experiences in Ghana and Sierra Leone. She describes how gender identity may be both a limiting factor and an opportunity for female researchers, and addresses two ethical considerations that are insufficiently addressed by the current methodological literature. First, what are the implications of remaining passive in the face of dynamics between a researcher and research participant that reinforce inequality and a conventional gender hierarchy? Second, can a research participant give informed consent while at the same time believing that the researcher is powerless on account of their position and/or gender identity? She further argues for more reflexive research methods as a manner to improve research outcomes and the personal safety of researchers in the field.
- Improve Research Outcomes
- Self-critical Approach
- powerPower Dynamics
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Acker, J., I. Barry, and U. Esseveld. 1999. Objectivity and Truth: Problems in Doing Feminist Research. In Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship as Lived Research, ed. M.M. Fonow and J.A. Cook, 133–153. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Alcalde, M.C. 2007. A Feminist Anthropologist’s Reflections on Dilemmas of Power and Positionality in the Field. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 7 (2): 143–162.
Arendell, T. 1997. Reflections on the Researcher-Researched Relationship: A Woman Interviewing Men. Qualitative Sociology 20 (3): 341–368.
Bhutta, Z.A. 2004. Beyond Informed Consent. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 82: 771–777.
Blumer, H. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bucerius, S.M. 2013. Becoming a ‘Trusted Outsider’: Gender, Ethnicity, and Inequality in Ethno-Graphic Research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 42: 690–721.
Cook, J., and M. Fonow. 1990. Knowledge and Women’s Interest: Issues of Epistemology and Methodology in Feminist Sociological Research. In Feminist Research Methods: Exemplary Readings in the Social Sciences, ed. J. McCarl Nielsen, 58–68. San Francisco, CA: Westview Press.
Crenshaw, K. 1991. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43 (6): 1241–1299.
Crissman, H.P., R.M. Adanu, and S.D. Harlow. 2012. Women’s Sexual Empowerment and Contraceptive Use in Ghana. Studies in Family Planning 43 (3): 201–212.
Cumming, J.F., A.R. Sahni, and G.R. McClelland. 2006. The Importance of the Subject in Informed Consent: A Common Set of Rules for Ensuring a Two-Way Flow of Information and Addressing Subjects’ Needs. Applied Clinical Trials 15 (3): 64–70.
de Beauvoir, S. 1949. The Second Sex, trans. H. Parshley. New York: Knopf.
Denny, C.C., and C. Grady. 2007. Clinical Research with Economically Disadvantaged Populations. Journal of Medical Ethics 33: 382–385.
Denzin, N. 1992. Symbolic Interactionism and Cultural Studies. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.
Denzin, N., and Y. Lincoln (eds.). 1994. Handbook of Qualitative Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Dowling, Robyn. 2000. Power, Subjectivity, and Ethics in Qualitative Research. In Qualitative Methods in Human Geography, ed. Iain Hay, 23–36. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
England, K.V.L. 1994. Getting Personal: Reflexivity, Positionality, and Feminist Research. Professional Geographer 46: 80–89.
Fitzgerald, D.W., C. Marotte, R.I. Verdier, W.D. Johnson, and J.W. Pape. 2002. Comprehension During Informed Consent in a Less-Developed Country. Lancet 360: 1301–1302.
Flax, J. 1989. Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory. In Feminist Theory in Practice and Process, ed. M. Maslon, J. O’Barr, S. Westphal-Wihl, and M. Wyer, 51–74. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Flory, J., and E. Emanuel. 2004. Interventions to Improve Research Participants’ Understanding in Informed Consent for Research: A Systematic Review. Journal of American Medical Association 292: 1593–1601.
Gatrell, C. 2006. Interviewing Fathers: Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. Journal of Gender Studies 15 (3): 237.
Gold, L. 2002. Positionality Worldview and Geographical Research: A Personal Account of a Researcher Journey. Ethics, Place and Environment 5: 223–237.
Gurney, J.N. 1985. Not One of the Guys: The Female Researcher in a Male-Dominated Setting. Qualitative Sociology 8 (1): 42–62.
Hancock, A.M. 2007. When Multiplication Doesn’t Equal Quick Addition: Examining Intersectionality as a Research Paradigm. Perspectives on Politics 5 (1): 63–79.
Harding, S. 1991. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking About Women’s Lives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Hermanowicz, J.C. 2002. The Great Interview: 25 Strategies for Studying People in Bed. Qualitative Sociology 25 (4): 479–499.
Hertz, R. 1995. Separate But Simultaneous Interviewing of Husbands and Wives: Making Sense of Their Stories. Qualitative inquiry 1 (4): 429–451.
Jones, J.P., H. Nast, and S. Roberts. 1997. Thresholds in Feminist Geography. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.
Kelman, H.C. 1972. The Rights of the Subject in Social Research: An Analysis in Terms of Relative Power and Legitimacy. American Psychologist 27 (11): 989–1016.
Kleinman, S., and M. Copp. 1993. Emotions and Fieldwork. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Krosin, M.T., R. Klitzman, B. Levin, J. Cheng, and M.L. Ranney. 2006. Problems in Comprehension of Informed Consent in Rural and Peri-Urban Mali, West Africa. Clinical Trials 3: 306–313.
MacLean, L. 2013. The Power of the Interviewer. In Interview Research in Political Science, ed. L. Mosley, 67–84. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
McDowell, L. 1992. Doing Gender: Feminism, Feminists and Research Methods in Human Geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17: 399–416.
Meadow, T. 2013. Studying Each Other: On Agency, Constraint and Positionality in the Field. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 42: 466–481.
Mies, M. 1991. Women’s Research or Feminist Research? The Debate Surrounding Feminist Science and Methodology. In Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship as Lived Research, ed. M.M. Fonow and J.A. Cook, 60–84. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Molyneux, C.S., N. Peshu, and K. Marsh. 2004. Understanding of Informed Consent in a Low-Income Setting: Three Case Studies from the Kenyan Coast. Social Science and Medicine 59: 2547–2559.
Moss, P. 1993. Feminism as Method. Canadian Geographer 37: 48–61.
Nast, H. (ed.). 1994. Women in the Field: Critical Feminist Methodologies and Theoretical Perspectives. Professional Geographer 46: 54–102.
National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. 1978. The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research. DHEW Publication (OS) 78-0012. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Oduro, A.R., R.A. Aborigo, D. Amugsi, F. Anto, T. Anyorigiya, F. Atuguba, A. Hodgson, and K.A. Koram. 2008. Understanding and Retention of the Informed Consent Process Among Parents in Rural Northern Ghana. BMC Medical Ethics 9: 12.
Ortbals, C.D., and M.E. Rincker. 2009a. Symposium: Fieldwork, Identities, and Intersectionality: Negotiating Gender, Race, Class, Religion, Nationality, and Age in the Research Field Abroad. PS: Political Science and Politics 42: 287–290.
Ortbals, C.D., and M.E. Rincker. 2009b. Embodied Researchers: Gendered Bodies, Research Activity, and Pregnancy in the Field. PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (2): 315–319.
Pierce, J. 1995. Reflections on Fieldwork in a Complex Organization: Lawyers, Ethnographic Authority, and Lethal Weapons. In Studying Elites Using Qualitative Methods, ed. R. Hertz and J. Imber, 94–110. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Reinhardt, G.Y. 2009. I Don’t Know Monica Lewinsky, and I’m Not in the CIA. Now How About That Interview? PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (2): 295–298.
Reinharz, S. 1993. Neglected Voices and Excessive Demands in Feminist Research. Qualitative Sociology 16 (1): 69–75.
Reinharz, S., and L. Davidman. 1992. Feminist Methods in Social Research. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sankar, A., and J. Gubrium. 1994. Introduction. In Qualitative Methods in Aging Research, ed. J. Gubrium and A. Sankar, xii–xvii. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Sayer, A., and M. Storper. 1997. Ethics Unbound: For a Normative Turn in Social Theory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15: 1–17.
Shehata, S. 2006. Ethnography, Identity, and the Production of Knowledge. In Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, ed. D. Yanow and P. Shwartz-Shea, 209–227. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Smyth, M., and R. Gillian (eds.). 2001. Researching Violently Divided Societies. Ethical and Methodological Issues. London: UN University Press and Pluto Press.
Sundberg, J. 2003. Masculinist Epistemologies and the Politics of Fieldwork in Latin Americanist Geography. The Professional Geographer: The Journal of the Association of American Geographers 55 (2): 180–190.
Thapar-Björkert, S., and M. Henry. 2004. Reassessing the Research Relationship: Location, Position and Power in Fieldwork Accounts. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 7: 363–381.
Thompson, M. 2009. Research, Identities, and Praxis: The Tensions of Integrating Identity into the Field Experience. PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (2): 325–328.
Thomson, S. 2013. Academic Integrity and Ethical Responsibilities in Post-genocide Rwanda: Working with Research Ethics Boards to Prepare for Fieldwork with ‘Human Subjects’. In Emotional and Ethical Challenges for Field Research in Africa: The Story Behind the Findings, ed. Susan Thomson, An Ansoms, and Jude Murison, 139–154. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Townsend-Bell, E. 2009. Being True and Being You: Race, Gender, Class, and the Fieldwork Experience. PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (2): 311–314.
Vanderbeck, Robert M. 2005. Masculinities and Fieldwork: Widening the Discussion. Gender, Place and Culture 12 (4): 387–402.
Warren, C. 1988. Gender Issues in Field Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Wax, R.H. 1979. Gender and Age in Fieldwork and Fieldwork Education: No Good Thing Is Done by Any Man Alone. Social Problems 26 (5): 509–523.
Wood, E.J. 2006. The Ethical Challenges of Field Research in Conflict Zones. Qualitative Sociology 29: 373–386.
Editors and Affiliations
Rights and permissions
© 2019 The Author(s)
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
van den Boogaard, V. (2019). Gender and Positionality: Opportunities, Challenges, and Ethical Dilemmas in Ghana and Sierra Leone. In: Jackson, R., Kelly, M. (eds) Women Researching in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94502-6_13
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-319-94501-9
Online ISBN: 978-3-319-94502-6
eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)