This paper extends further research on being both a volunteer and ethnographic researcher and intends to offer some insights on the emotional challenges of adopting this dual role when conducting research on sensitive topics and with vulnerable populations. The discussion presented here draws upon an ethnographic participant observation study of a food redistribution organization (Re-food) held in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The paper builds awareness on the emotional challenges in the field and discusses potential self-reflective strategies for researchers to cope with the extraordinary demands posed on them by specific circumstances and subjects. The volunteer ethnographer, when developing their work, is subject to a wide range of emotional challenges that are related to the functions that they had to develop in the research context itself due to their dual role, as well as to the vulnerability of participants and the sensitivity of the topic addressed.
Volunteer Ethnographer, Sensitive Topics, Vulnerable Subjects, Emotions, Food Poverty
The PhD project leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement n° 337977 and from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the Human Capital Operational Programme (POCH) supported by the European Social Fund (ESF) and national funds of the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (MCTES) with the reference SFRH/BD/130072/2017.
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Recommended APA Citation
Augusto, F. R., & Hilário, A. P. (2019). “Through the Looking Glass”: The Emotional Journey of the Volunteer Ethnographer when Researching Sensitive Topics with Vulnerable Populations. The Qualitative Report, 24(13), 17-30. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2019.4118