Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A Call for Decolonizing Research

  • Annette Alfina LaRocco (a1), Jamie E. Shinn (a2) and Kentse Madise (a3)

Abstract

In this article, two white, Western female researchers reflect on the methodological, ethical, and practical dilemmas experienced while conducting social science fieldwork in Botswana for their doctoral degrees. In addition, their shared research assistant examines her role as a social and cultural interlocutor, which was essential to the researchers’ successful navigation in their various field sites. Drawing on distinct but common experiences conducting research in northern and western regions of rural Botswana, the authors reflexively consider a series of interwoven issues tied to their positionalities: the disparity in benefits and return on research investment between the researcher and research participants; the nature of commodified or transactional relations, especially in an impoverished region highly dependent on foreign tourists; the complex nature of researcher–research assistant relationships; and the contradictory dynamics of being female researchers in a patriarchal society while also embodying privileges of whiteness and Western nationality. Building on these reflections, the authors engage with current debates in the social sciences to argue that researcher reflexivity is not an adequate end point and should result in engagement with ethical and epistemological questions regarding the decolonization of research practices more broadly.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A Call for Decolonizing Research
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A Call for Decolonizing Research
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A Call for Decolonizing Research
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

References

Hide All
Amit, Vered. 2004. Constructing the Field: Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Contemporary World. London: Routledge.
Asselin, Hugo, and Basile, Suzy. 2018. “Concrete Ways to Decolonize Research.” ACME An International Journal for Critical Geographers 17 (3): 643650.
Bauer, Gretchen. 2010. “‘Cows Will Lead the Herd into a Precipice’: Where are the Women MPs in Botswana?Botswana Notes and Records 42 (2010): 5670.
Bauer, Gretchen. 2011. “Update on the Women's Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?African Studies Review 54:2346.
Bauer, Gretchen. 2016. ” ‘What Is Wrong with a Woman Being Chief?’ Women Chiefs and Symbolic and Substantive Representation in Botswana.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 51 (2): 222237.
Berg, Bruce L. 2001. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Branch, Adam. 2018. “Decolonizing the African Studies Centre.” Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 36 (2): 7391.
Brown, Leslie Allison, and Strega, Susan, eds. 2005. Research as Resistance: Critical, Indigenous and Anti-Oppressive Approaches. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Caretta, Martina. 2015. “Situated Knowledge in Cross-Cultural, Cross-Language Research: A Collaborative Reflexive Analysis of Researcher, Assistant, and Participant Subjectivities.” Qualitative Research 15 (4): 489505.
Caretta, Martina A., and Jokinen, Johanna C.. 2016. “Conflating Privilege and Vulnerability: A Reflexive Analysis of Emotions and Positionality in Postgraduate Fieldwork.” Professional Geographer 69 (2): 275283.
Cassidy, Lin. 2001. Improving Women's Participation in CBNRM in Botswana. IUCN Botswana. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/252567141_Improving_Women's_Participation_in_CBNRM_in_Botswana. Accessed February 12, 2019.
Chacko, Elizabeth. 2004. “Positionality and Praxis: Fieldwork Experiences in Rural IndiaSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography 25 (1): 5163.
Chilisa, Bagele. 2012. Indigenous Research Methodologies. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Chilisa, Bagele. 2017. “Decolonising Transdisciplinary Research Approaches: An African Perspective for Enhancing Knowledge Integration in Sustainability Science.” Sustainability Science for Meeting Africa's Challenges 12:813827.
Clark, Imogen, and Grant, Amanda. 2015. “Sexuality and Danger in the Field: Starting an Uncomfortable Conversation.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 7 (1): 114.
Clark, Tom. 2008. “‘We're Over-Researched Here!’ Exploring Accounts of Research Fatigue within Qualitative Research EngagementsSociology 42 (5): 953970.
Clifford, James, and Marcus, George. 1986. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Oakland: University of California Press.
Coleman, Simon, and Collins, Peter. 2006. Locating the Field: Space, Place and Context in Anthropology. Oxford: Berg.
Datta, Ranjan. 2018. “Decolonizing Both Researcher and Research and its Effectiveness in Indigenous Research.” Research Ethics 14 (2): 124.
Denzin, Norman K. 2009. “The Elephant in the Living Room: Or Extending the Conversation about the Politics of Evidence.” Qualitative Research 9 (2): 139160.
England, Kim V. L. 1994. “Getting Personal: Reflexivity, Positionality, and Feminist Research.” Professional Geographer 46 (1): 8089.
Haraway, Donna. 1988. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14 (3): 575599.
Heuser, Eric A. 2012. “Befriending the Field: Culture and Friendships in Development Worlds.” Third World Quarterly 33 (8): 14231437.
Hirtenfelder, Claudia Towne. 2017. “Strength, Mobility, and Variety: Central Discourses Which Undermine Tourism's Ability to Subvert Broader Gender Orders in Botswana.” African Studies 76 (1): 6485.
Hovorka, Alice. 2005. “The (Re) Production of Gendered Positionality in Botswana's Commercial Urban Agriculture Sector.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95 (2): 294313.
Hovorka, Alice. 2006. “The No. 1 Ladies’ Poultry Farm: A Feminist Political Ecology of Urban Agriculture in Botswana.” Gender, Place and Culture 13 (3): 207–25.
Hovorka, Alice. 2012. “Women/Chickens vs. Men/Cattle: Insights on Gender–Species Intersectionality.” Geoforum 43 (4): 875884.
Johansson, Leanne. 2015. “Dangerous Liaisons: Risk, Positionality and Power in Women's Anthropological Fieldwork.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 7 (1): 5563.
Kapiszewski, Diana, MacLean, Lauren M., and Read, Benjamin L.. 2015. Field Research in Political Science: Practices and Principles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kloß, Sinah T. 2016. “Sexual(ized) Harassment and Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Silenced Aspects of Social Research.” Ethnography 7 (1): 119.
Kobayashi, Audrey. 1994. “Coloring the Field: Gender, ‘Race,’ and the Politics of Fieldwork.” Professional Geographer 46 (1): 7380.
MacDougall, Susan. 2015. “Will You Marry my Son? Ethnography, Culture, and the Performance of Gender.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 7 (1): 2538.
Mandel, Jennifer. 2003. “Negotiating Expectations in the Field: Gatekeepers, Research Fatigue and Cultural BiasesSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography 24 (2): 198210.
Mayorga-Gallo, Sarah, and Hordge-Freeman, Elizabeth. 2017. “Between Marginality and Privilege: Gaining Access and Navigating the Field in Multi-ethnic Settings.” Qualitative Research 17 (4): 377394.
Mbaiwa, Joseph E. 2003. “The Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts of Tourism Development on the Okavango Delta, North-Western Botswana.” Journal of Arid Environments 54 (2): 447467.
Mbaiwa, Joseph E. 2005a. “Wildlife Resource Utilisation at Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai Community Area in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.” Journal of Environmental Management 77 (2): 144156.
Mbaiwa, Joseph E. 2005b. “Enclave Tourism and Its Socio-Economic Impacts in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.” Tourism Management 26 (2): 157172.
Mbaiwa, Joseph E. 2008. “The Problems and Prospects of Sustainable Tourism Development in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 13 (3): 203227.
McDowell, Linda. 1992. “Doing Gender: Feminism, Feminists and Research Methods in Human Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17 (4): 399416.
Medie, Peace A., and Kang, Alice J.. 2018. “Power, Knowledge and the Politics of Gender in the Global South.” European Journal of Politics and Gender 1 (1–2): 3754.
Miller, Theresa. 2015. “‘Listen to Your Mother’ Negotiating Gender-Based Safe Spaces During Fieldwork.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 7 (1): 8087.
Mitchell, Audra. 2013. “Escaping the ‘Field Trap’: Exploitation and the Global Politics of Educational Fieldwork in ‘Conflict Zones.” Third World Quarterly 34 (7):12471264.
Molony, Thomas, and Hammett, Daniel. 2007. “The Friendly Financier: Talking Money with the Silenced Assistant.” Human Organization 66 (3): 292300.
Moseley, William. 2007. “Collaborating in the Field, Working for Change: Reflecting on Partnerships between Academics, Development Organizations and Rural Communities in Africa.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 28 (3): 334347.
Moser, Sarah. 2008. “Personality: A New Positionality?Area 40 (1): 383392.
Mutua, Kagendo, and Swadener, Beth Blue, eds. 2004. Decolonizing Research in Cross- Cultural Contexts. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Nast, Heidi J. 1994. “Special Section: Women in the Field: Critical Feminist Methodologies and Theoretical Perspectives.” Professional Geographer 48 (1): 5466.
Neal, Sarah, Mohan, Giles, Cochrane, Allan, and Bennett, Katy. 2016. “You Can't Move in Hackney without Bumping into an Anthropologist’: Why Certain Places Attract Research Attention.” Qualitative Research 16 (5): 491507.
Neumann, Cecilie B., and Neumann, Iver B.. 2015. “Uses of the Self: Two Ways of Thinking about Scholarly Situatedness and Method.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 43 (3): 798819.
Richmond, Oliver P., Kappler, Stefanie, and Björkdahl, Annika. 2015. “The ‘Field’ in the Age of Intervention: Power, Legitimacy, and Authority Versus the ‘Local.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 44 (1): 2344.
Robson, Colin. 2002. Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Rose, Gillian. 1997. “Situating Knowledges: Positionality, Reflexivities and Other Tactics.” Progress in Human Geography 21 (3): 305320.
Rhodes Must Fall Movement, The. 2018. Rhodes Must Fall: The Struggle to Decolonise the Racist Heart of Empire. London: Zed Books.
Schatz, Edward, ed. 2009. Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Shinn, Jamie E. 2016. “Adaptive Environmental Governance of Changing Social-Ecological Systems: Empirical Insights from the Okavango Delta, Botswana.” Global Environmental Change 40:5059.
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press.
Sukarieh, Mayssoun, and Tannock, Stuart. 2012. “On the Problem of Over-Researched Communities: The Case of the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in LebanonSociology 47 (3): 494508.
Taylor, Ian. 2003. “As Good as It Gets? Botswana's ‘Democratic Development.’Journal of Contemporary African Studies 21 (2): 215231.
Temple, Bogusia, and Edwards, Rosalind. 2002. “Interpreters/Translators and Cross-Language Research: Reflexivity and Border Crossings.” International Journal of Qualitative Methods 1 (2): 122.
Thapar-Björkert, Suruchi, and Henry, Marsha. 2004. “Reassessing the Research Relationship: Location, Position and Power in Fieldwork Accounts.” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 7 (5): 363381.
Turner, Sarah. 2010. “Research Note: The Silenced Assistant: Reflections of Invisible Interpreters and Research Assistants.” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 51 (2): 206219.
World Factbook. 2017. “Central Intelligence Agency.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bc.html. Accessed May 4, 2017.

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed