“As long as you’re easy on the eye”: Reflecting on issues of positionality and researcher safety during farmer interviews
Chiswell, Hannah Marie
Reason for embargo
This reflective paper explores gendered experiences of fieldwork encounters with farmers. Specifically, the paper considers how the particularities of farmer interviews – including the geographical remoteness of many farm holdings, the strength of tradition in farm families and the male-dominated nature of the industry – pose a unique and challenging prospect for the young and relatively inexperienced female researcher. Drawing on a number of the authors’ own fieldwork experiences, we consider some of the ethical and safety challenges we have faced, and offer some practical strategies for addressing these. The paper also reflects on the implications of our positionality – specifically the intersection of our age, gender and non-farming status – on our own, and participants’ interview performances. Although, as we discuss, we found these aspects of our identity broadly advantageous in securing and conducting successful farmer interviews, we also recount how they invited a number of unwelcomed behaviours, and often left us vulnerable to emotional risk. In sharing such experiences, we raise a number of questions concerning the ethical responsibility of negotiating or conforming to the identities conferred on us during farmer interviews and hope to prompt further discussion around these challenges. The paper concludes that young female researchers face a number of ethical and safety challenges during fieldwork in the rural and farming context and highlights the need to consider the impact of researcher positionality on the researcher, the participant(s) and the overall research process. By stimulating such a debate, we aim to bring the issue of gendered experiences of rural research to the fore, and hope to provide some reassurance and support to others working in similar areas.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Article first published online: 11 February 2016
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