Wishing to be reflexive, to critically examine our assumptions, is easy. Doing it is less so. For researchers doing a study in their own professional field, it represents a particular challenge. In this essay, I explore this challenge using my own study as exemplar. I am researching workplace inclusion of workers with intellectual disability. As a professional, I have worked with and for people with intellectual disability for many years. The knowledge I bring to my inquiry – about the inabilities, vulnerabilities and needs ascribed to persons labelled thus – is deeply entrenched in common culture, as well as in my professional training. How can I handle this knowledge in my research? To what extent may, or must, it command my perceptions and interpretations? How may I challenge and look beyond it? Exploring this, I consult a handful of researchers who have examined pitfalls of involving informants with intellectual disability in research. I also call upon four giants of social science – Hans-Georg Gadamer, Charles Taylor, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault – as well as Brian Eno, British musician and producer extraordinaire. Departing from a concrete situation, the essay winds its way through nine discussions, each generating a “rule of engagement.” Although the discussions are specific to my project, these nine methodological suggestions, ranging from seemingly trivial to decidedly non-trivial, are not. My belief is that they may hold some interest for any qualitative researcher.


Intellectual Disability, Heterotopias, Philosophical Hermeneutics, Reflexivity, Qualitative Research

Author Bio(s)

On leave from his position as Lecturer in Welfare and Participation at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Thomas Owren is currently a Research Fellow at the University’s Mohn Centre for Innovation and Regional Development. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Education, a Master’s Degree in Community Work and is currently pursuing doctoral work on creating cognitive accessibility for workers with intellectual disability in ordinary workplaces, focusing especially on implications for management. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: tow@hvl.no.

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