Title

Care and Critique: Ethical Imperatives in Qualitative Research

Location

1054

Format Type

Paper

Format Type

Paper

Start Date

12-1-2017 3:40 PM

End Date

12-1-2017 5:00 PM

Abstract

Qualitative work in sociology, especially ethnography, often focuses on those who are pushed to the margins of society. While sociologists enter the field with plans to spur societal change, their policy recommendations often revolve around changes in large social structures, which may take years or decades. Therefore, we are left to ponder, how can qualitative research produce change and care for research participants in other ways? In this presentation, I use my own ethnographic research at a welfare motel to argue that caring involves two important considerations. First, we must embrace opportunities to make a difference in daily life. In my work, this involved helping motel residents with moving, giving them loans, and even adopting a cat. Second, we must embrace taking a critical stance toward entities most directly responsible for participants' circumstances. This should involve using our power to speak on our participants' behalf. For me, this involved deciding how to engage the public when the motel was shut down due to code violations. I spoke with local media on the day of the closing, and in my forthcoming book, I call out local agencies and policymakers for failing to provide proper oversight of the motel. While it may scare us to expose ourselves with public critique, this exercise of power is crucial to making a difference. Our participants open themselves up to scrutiny, so it is ethically imperative that we do the same and not tip-toe around the injustices that we observe.

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Jan 12th, 3:40 PM Jan 12th, 5:00 PM

Care and Critique: Ethical Imperatives in Qualitative Research

1054

Qualitative work in sociology, especially ethnography, often focuses on those who are pushed to the margins of society. While sociologists enter the field with plans to spur societal change, their policy recommendations often revolve around changes in large social structures, which may take years or decades. Therefore, we are left to ponder, how can qualitative research produce change and care for research participants in other ways? In this presentation, I use my own ethnographic research at a welfare motel to argue that caring involves two important considerations. First, we must embrace opportunities to make a difference in daily life. In my work, this involved helping motel residents with moving, giving them loans, and even adopting a cat. Second, we must embrace taking a critical stance toward entities most directly responsible for participants' circumstances. This should involve using our power to speak on our participants' behalf. For me, this involved deciding how to engage the public when the motel was shut down due to code violations. I spoke with local media on the day of the closing, and in my forthcoming book, I call out local agencies and policymakers for failing to provide proper oversight of the motel. While it may scare us to expose ourselves with public critique, this exercise of power is crucial to making a difference. Our participants open themselves up to scrutiny, so it is ethically imperative that we do the same and not tip-toe around the injustices that we observe.