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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Volunteer Ethnographer, Sensitive Topics, Vulnerable Subjects, Emotions, Food Poverty

Author Bio(s)

Fábio Rafael Augusto is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa (ICS-ULisboa) and currently holds a PhD grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). His doctoral research seeks to characterize and analyze food aid initiatives operating in Portugal. He had been a guest lecturer at Escola Superior de Saúde, Instituto Politécnico de Santarém (ESSS-IPSantarém) and has been involved in two research projects (“TRANSE-AC: Social and Environmental Transition – Alternatives and Commons” supported by Programa Pessoa/FCT and “FFHT: Families and Food in Hard Times” funded by the European Research Council). He holds a MSc in Sociology: Exclusion and Social Policies and a BSc in Sociology (UBI, Universidade da Beira Interior). His research interests include food (in)security, poverty and social exclusion. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: fabio.augusto@ics.ulisboa.pt.

Ana Patrícia Hilário holds a junior research position at Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa (ICS-ULisboa) with the project “Making visible the invisible: an exploration on family experiences and management of chronic pain in childhood”, under the Scientific Employment Stimulus 2017 funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). Previously, she held a post-doctoral position under the framework of the project TRANSRIGHTS: “Gender citizenship and sexual rights in Europe: Transgender lives in transnational perspective”, funded by the European Research Council, at ICS-ULisboa. She had been a guest lecturer at Instituto Piaget and at Escola Superior de Saúde, Instituto Politécnico de Santarém (ESSS-IPSantarém). She had also worked as a research assistant at Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, ISCTE-IUL, Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas (ISCSP-ULisboa) and Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa (ICS-ULisboa). She holds a PhD in Sociology (Royal Holloway, University of London) and a BSc in Sociology (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, ISCTE-IUL). Her current main research interests focus on the Sociology of Health and Illness, Sociology of Diagnosis, Sociology of Gender and Sociology of Childhood and Youth. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: patriciahilario@gmail.com.

Acknowledgements

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.

Publication Date

4-14-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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