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date: 10 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

Reflexivity can be regarded as part of a continuous research practice. Qualitative researchers work within and across social differences (e.g., cultural, class, race, gender, generation) and this requires them to navigate different layers of self-awareness—from unconscious to semiconscious to fully conscious. Because researchers can be aware on one level but not on others, reflexivity is facilitated by using an eclectic and expansive toolkit for examining the role of the researcher, researcher-researched relationships, power, privilege, emotions, positionalities, and different ways of seeing. Over the past fifty years, there has been a progression of reflexive practice as well as disciplinary debates about how much self-awareness and transparency are enough and how much is too much. The shift can be traced from the early practitioners of ethnography who did not reflect on their positions, power or feelings (or at least make these reflections public), to those who acknowledged that their emotions could be both revealing and distorting, to those who interrogated their multiple positionalities (mostly in terms of the blinders of Western/race/class/gender/generation), to those calling for the mixing and blurring of different genres of representation as important tools of reflexivity. Reflexivity is not a solitary process limited to critical self-awareness, but derives from a collective ethos and humanizes rather than objectifies research relationships and the knowledge that is created.

Keywords: reflexivity, qualitative research methods, ethnography, narrative inquiry, autoethnography, research relationships, participatory action research, feminist social research, research ethics, decolonizing research methods

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