The dilemmas and passions in intercultural field research – a female pedagogue’s ethnographic notes
The field research which I conduct has a dynamic and “mobile” character and entails the duality of the term field, as it becomes not merely a “peculiar space of a researcher’s experience” (Kaniowska), but the female researcher– nomad’s temporary “home”.
This research is done in environments outside Europe (African countries and the countries of the Caucasus), in socially, culturally and normatively distinct worlds of children and adults. It is conducted in places which are difficult due to external factors (natural environment, climate, social, political conditioning, etc.) and internal factors (the hermetic character of the studied community, difficult memory, poverty, children’s malnutrition, illnesses, discrimination and marginalisation). At the same time,it is research in “sensitive” contexts (among communities affected by war, conﬂicts, rebellions and the burden of difficult history).
My own difficult experiences and reflections focused on (and emerging from) women (both researchers and participants) coping with difficult research situations, have led me to reflect on the need to decolonise approached in research about/with female migrants and refugees in research concerning them (Gatt et al. 2016).
I draw attention to selected explicit and implicit problems and dilemmas appearing in research with women and children (migrants and refugees) from countries of the Global South conducted by researchers from the Global North.
As a field researcher who conducted multiple female field research (Markowska-Manista 2017), I analyse the causes of these problems and ask to what degree and how researchers’ reflexivity and ethical principles (international perspective) can be help them cope with and overcome these problems so as not to exacerbate inequality and avoid unconscious victimisation.
My research is conducted in so-called fragile (sensitive) contexts and among groups affected by marginalisation, discrimination, and exclusion. In this type of research in particular, researchers have to search for the possibility of applying ethical symmetry and an inclusive perspective – oriented towards research participants’ participation (Bertozzi 2010; Vacchelli 2018) and protection of their human rights.
My journeys in the field, loneliness, young age, visual distinctness, the fact that I belong to the European cultural circle and come from a country of the Global North do not only make me “exotic” in the eyes of those I reach and study. They also entail the baggage of psychologically and physically negative experiences, difficult research situations, and at times border situations.
– the challenges and dilemmas of non-discrimination and ethic
While conducting research among and with children from the Ba’Aka indigenous community I applied methods based on engaging the participants in tasks to be carried out, in other words, engaging their voluntary involvement, opinions and knowledge in research activities. Visual ethnography was one of these methods.
of developmental and aid projects. They very often work with children from indigenous communities and – either consciously or unconsciously – appropriate the children’s images, voices and hand-made products.