Chapter

Researching identities and communities: key epistemological, methodological and ethical dilemmas

Basia Spalek

in Communities, identities and crime

Published by Policy Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9781861348043
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447301899 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781861348043.003.0004
Researching identities and communities: key epistemological, methodological and ethical dilemmas

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This chapter explores some key methodological questions, including ethical ones, when researching communities and when focusing upon identities as a way of understanding the social world. Crime and criminal justice constitute the background context to the issues raised here. The chapter argues that researchers, whilst documenting specificity of experience, and acknowledging differences between people, should not lose sight of power relations that generate and reproduce inequalities and injustices. Thus, discourses that claim no knowledge beyond that which is local and situated cannot challenge forms of social organisation that are unjust, and localisms do not produce discourses that are absent of power, as power is inherent to all knowledge claims, no matter how nomadic they may be. First, some of the important questions raised by the subject of social identities are discussed. A social ontology of fragmentation alongside political engagement is then considered. The chapter concludes by suggesting a research approach that has a deep commitment to ethics based on self-reflexivity and a critical engagement with those oppressive structures to which one's own identities can be linked.

Keywords: criminal justice; social identities; research; ethics; social world; crime; inequalities; injustices; power relations; social ontology

Chapter.  9784 words. 

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