Embodying The Least Adult Role: Reflections On Youth Research

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Lindsey GARRATT , Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
The aim of this paper is to emphasize the embodied root of reflexivity, fieldwork and intellectual activity within the youth studies field. This paper will begin by arguing that academic research is not a separate form of action, placing the researcher in a position of epistemological privilege, but is an embodied capacity developed through practical activity. The particular importance of this for youth research will be explored through an exploration of qualitative ‘least-adult’ (Mandell 1988) research with children, which this author engaged in for a longitudinal ethnography, which explored the inter-ethnic relations between primary school children in the academic years of 2007/2008 and 2008/2009.  Through a description of the fieldwork process and challenges, conventional notions of reflexivity within youth research will be highlighted and the desirability of reflection in its intellectualist definition will be questioned. Taking Allison James (2000) contention that any account of children or childhood must be rooted in an embodied perspective, as the process of growing up places the body at the heart of a child’s identity, this paper will argue that ethical research with children must acknowledge the somatic process of research or fall into a Cartesian trap that reflective research exists as something other than an embodied manner of being. This paper will conclude by arguing that ‘intellectual activity’ is ultimately practical and engaged and that reflexivity within the youth studies field is better understood as a ‘reflexive habitus’ developed through practical activity within the fields of research, academic literature and the embodied linguistic schema of the habitus.