A Researcher’s Intentions – Nuancing the Question of Outsider-Insider Relationships in Social Movement Research.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Deborah SIELERT, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
Catharina PEECK-HO, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Germany
Methodological debates on social movement research deal with ethical dimensions and tensions of outsider–insider relationships in a certain way: researchers frequently feel a sense of solidarity with the goals of the movements they research. Social movements, considering the risks associated with political dissent, may expect or even demand such affinities with its ideas. Consequently, decisions relating to research design and methodological approaches are considerably linked to the political beliefs and intentions of the researcher(s). We propose to include them as research strategies into a self-reflexive approach to the question of insider-outsider relationships in social movement research.

Insider relationships range between a position of “Outside but Along-Side” (Haiven & Khasnabish 2015) and potential role conflicts arising when members of a group conduct research on the very same (e.g. Corbin Dwyer & Buckle 2009). Outsiders are less affected by role conflict but may lack trustworthiness from the point of view of the social movement. Researchers navigate this highly contested field that touches on basic normative and theoretical assumptions of social scientific research. We draw on our empirical research on anarchist activists in the Netherlands and Germany, as well as on Muslim women activists in Britain, to show in what way research on social movements is influenced by the intentions researchers bring to their work. Our examples, guided by feminist theory and methodology, present different methodological programs as a result of our specific positions towards the groups. In the analysis, the poles of insider and outsider positioning do not appear to be mutually exclusive, but as a dialectic ambivalence that ought to be actively handled. We thereby go beyond ways of approaching the topic as a question of choosing (quantitative and qualitative) methods and the understanding of a specific process involved in the interaction of researchers’ social positions and research projects.