The importance of relationships

This morning, we had a meeting with our group on the performance we will do this week for our course on postmodernism. I forgot to tell you this in my previous post, but the setup of the course is that the group is divided into three subgroups, which each have to perform one of the articles every week. The articles of this week are all about the importance of relationships in inquiry.

In an article from 1994, McNamee explains how we traditionally look at research: “If we accept a traditional view of research, we assume it to be an objective endeavour whereby features of everyday life can be discovered and examined if the right theory and corresponding method are employed.”  (McNamee, 1994). We see the researcher as the subject that tries to study his object in order to produce an objective representation of reality. However, as we have seen last week, postmodernists argue that we do not represent reality, but rather “construct particular views of the world — and these processes are rooted in what we do together  — our situated, joint activities.” (McNamee, 1994). The things we learn are for instance guided by the things we already know, by our own background as a researcher. Moreover, “the viability of research results and the ethics of any given research procedure can only be locally determined.” (McNamee, 1994). Thus, ones relationships with a wider community of scholars and the values of that community also influence the way in which one does research and how an inquiry is valued.

My group has to perform an article of Ceglowski (2002) in which she reflects on her study at the Wood River Head Start. In her reflection she shows that she not just made a plan for her study, looked at the object of her study and then made an objective representation of reality. Instead, she shows to what extent different self-other relationships have influenced the process of her inquiry. There are three relationships that are crucial in that sense: “the relationships among researchers’ multiple community memberships when conducting research”, “relationships with mentors that guide them (the researchers, red.) in how they conduct their research” and “relationships with the Wood River staff and children” (Ceglowski, 2002, p. 7). In the rest of the article Ceglowski describes how the process of inquiry is formed by these different relationships. She tells us for instance how she has contact with her adviser when she does not know how to handle a situation. She also tells that she feels troubled to stay in her role as a researcher when a kid is treated in a way that she personally does not like: “The finicky eater incident raises for me the difficulty in separating my researcher Self from my other Selves (e.g. teacher, parent, consultant)”. Her multiple identities urge her to do different things, making it hard to choose how to act in relationship with the staff and the children. This last relationship was also different than Ceglowski had expected. “This is not something that you read in a journal. It is a “my-connection” to the children and the staff”. (p. 15). Ceglowski speaks about the way she struggles with hiding her research from the staff. Moreover when reporting on the actions of the staff, she also questions her power position towards the people she has studied, but also build a personal relation with: “I take my power as a researcher/writer and share my story. This is the traditional power identity of researchers. I miss the opportunity to acknowledge my power as a researcher and question how I use it” (p.20).

I was quite thrilled by Ceglowski’s article. She explains how she was always told that you should stay neutral and objective and that’s what I’ve always been told as well. But I can very well imagine how this turns out to be rather impossible in real life. I feel like Ceglowski is finally someone who is open and honest about the difficulties she encountered during her inquiry. The question is of course how you deal with these kind of difficulties!

During the meeting with my group today, we came up with the idea to give the rest of our class a similar experience on Wednesday. We will perform a play in which a manager fires an employer. Our fellow students will be sitting in the same room as they are studying the HRM-policy of the company. We will give each of them a text with information about their own background and relation with the manager or employer. Hopefully this will result in an interesting discussion about the different ways people would act in this kind of situation.

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4 Responses to The importance of relationships

  1. Lily says:

    I can see that these relationship matters, but you said it yourself: how can you deal with these kind of difficulties?! I don’t think that modernists would deny that it is hard to stay objective and neutral, but from a modernist point of view you have to keep trying it to come as close as possible to the truth. I wonder if you Robin or any other readers of this blog have an idea how postmodernists would deal with the different relationships that might influence your research.

    • Robin says:

      Hello Lilly. I can see what you mean. Interesting question and I think when you read my next blog it will explain a bit more about these different relationships and how it affects the research.

  2. Ted says:

    I like your idea for the performance, let me know how it went!

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