Seminar Series

COVID-19 brings a myriad of challenges for scholars around the world. In rising to these challenges, many of us need to think creatively about our research design and our methodologies. Within CISRUL, the ensuing discussions resulted in the creation of a series of events dedicated to discussing and critically reflecting on how we approach our research objects/subjects more broadly.

How do we deal with researcher positionality and the power relations it entails? What does it mean to do “theoretical research” or “empirical research”? Are methods only relevant to empirical studies? How do scholars from different disciplines use case studies in their research and what must be considered when doing so?

The Methodologies (in) Conversations are a place for academics of diverse disciplines and backgrounds to discuss these and more questions and to deal with issues such as reflexivity, reciprocity, research ethics, fieldwork, technology and research, or knowledge extraction. This series of seminars aims to foster the sharing of thoughts, reflections, experiences, and “tricks” regarding methodological questions among scholars at different stages of their research.

Session 1 – Fieldwork & Interviews

Fri 09/10/2020 | Organized by Valentin Clavé-Mercier 

This session will be focused on two concrete, and often interconnected, methods: fieldwork and interviews. In it, we aim to share reflections and experiences concerning good and bad practices, as well as potential advice that may help others. The processes of conducting fieldwork and interviews will be examined and common concerns, pitfalls, and potentialities will be addressed. Through the reading of 4 short excerpts from different works on methods, we aim to engage especially with issues such as: the construction and maintenance of rapport; the question of access to the field and to interviewees; the way we symbolically and semantically construct our interlocutors; and the role of informal conversations in fieldwork and their relation to interviews. We ask all the potential participants to think ahead of the seminar about their experiences, doubts or questions about these issues. Other related issues are also obviously welcome. Please, do not feel deterred by the four texts as they are short (35 pages in total) and easy to read. Hopefully, this material will help sparking your own reflections and the collective conversations.

Suggested readings:

  • Excerpt of Yin, Robert (2011), “Doing Fieldwork”, in Qualitative Research from Start to Finish, pp.114-121
  • Fujii, Lee Ann (2019), “Selecting, Finding, and Approaching Interviewees”, in Interviewing in Social Science Research: A Relational Approach, pp.35-52
  • Morse, Janice (1991) “Subjects, Respondents, Informants and Participants?”, Qualitative Health Research, pp.403-406
  • Hammersley, Martyn & Atkinson, Paul (2007), “Unsolicited and Solicited Oral Accounts”, in Ethnography: Principles in practice, pp.99-103

The meeting will take place in the MS Teams channel.

Session 2 – Positionality & Reflexivity

18 November 2020 | Maxim van Asseldonk & Jorg Meurkes

This session aims to provide reflections for scholars using both empirical and non-empirical methods about the role and impact of the researcher on and within their research. It may addresses questions such as the power relations existing between researcher and researched, the position of researchers in relation to the social world in which they work and live, the connections between activism and research, or and how to articulate socially empowering ways to do research.

Possible texts/authors (tbc):

  • Gaudry, Adam (2011), “Insurgent Research”
  • Tuhiwai-Smith, Linda (1999), Decolonizing Methodologies
  • Rose, Gillian (1997), “Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics”
  • Alison Wylie (2003), “Why Standpoint Matters”
  • hooks, bell (1991), “Theory as Liberatory Practice”
  • Poets, Désiréé (2020), “Failing in the Reflexive and Collaborative Turns: Empire, Colonialism and the Impossibilities of North-South Collaborations”, in Fieldwork as Failure
  • Maczynska, Eva (2020) “Reproducing the European Gaze through Reflexivity: The Limits of Calling out Failures”, in Fieldwork as Failure

Session 3 – Case Studies

27 January 2021 | Stephan Ritscher & Tam Nguyen

This session will deal with a method deployed both in empirical and non-empirical research: case studies. Beyond addressing the differences and commonalities between the use of specific cases in both these strands, we aim here to have a productive interdisciplinary conversation about what case studies are, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to best use them.

Possible texts/authors (tbc):

  • Gerring, J. (2004). What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good for? American Political Science Review, 98(2), 341–354. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055404001182
  • Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). The power of example. In S. Sampson (Trans.), Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again (pp. 66-87). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511810503.006
  • Ragin, Charles C.; Becker, Howard S. (Eds.) (1992): What is a case? Exploring the foundations of social inquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sjoberg, G., Williams, N., Vaughn, T. R., Sjoberg, A. F. (1991). The case study approach in social research: Basic methodological issues. In Feagin, J. R., Orum, A. (Eds.), A case for the case study (pp. 27–79). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Session 4 – Ethics & Care in Research

10 March 2021

Our fourth session will address the role, necessity, and impact of both ethics and care in all stages of research. What are good ethical practices and non-ethical practices in research? What are the differences and overlaps in ethical considerations between working empirically or theoretically? How do we care for the people we do research on/with/for and for ourselves as researchers? These are some of the questions that may be approached.

Session 5 – Empirical and Theoretical Research

9 June 2021 | Sophie Lauwers

Finally, we would like to close this series with a broader reflection on an underlying theme which cuts across all of the other sessions: the distinction between “empirical” and “theoretical” research. As an interdisciplinary cohort, it is our intention here to question what these terms mean, how they are reflected in our work, and whether and how they are useful. After weeks of debates on methodologies across the board, this session aims to reflect on the binary distinction between “empirical” and “theoretical” and how we can bridge the divide that is often presumed.