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Volume 7, Issue 1 June 2010

Graduate Journal of Social Science June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1


Gwendolyn Beetham, Gender Institute, LSE, London, UK

Melissa Fernndez Arrigoita, Sociology, LSE, London, UK

Book Review Editor:

Katherine Harrison, Linkoping University, SE,

Caroline Wamala, Lule University, SE

Robert Kulpa, Birkbeck College, London, UK

Liaison and Board Coordinator Officer:

Richard Bramwell, LSE, London, UK

Financial Officer:
Lia Kinane, Lancaster Univeristy, UK

Design and Layout:

Melissa Fernndez and Gwendolyn Beetham, Co-Editors GJSS

The Graduate Journal of Social Science (ISSN: 1572-3763) is an open-access online

journal focusing on methodological issues of interdisciplinary relevance. The journal
publishes two issues per year, one of which is thematic and one of which groups innova-
tive and instructive papers from all disciplines. GJSS welcomes submissions from both
senior and junior academics, thus providing a forum of publication and exchange among
different generations engaged in interdisciplinary research. GJSS is published by EBSCO

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Contact-us/Graduate-Journal-of-Social-Science.html. or Email:

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2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved.


Contributors 4

Editorial : Inter/Trans/Post-Disciplinarity: Explorations of Encounters

Across Disciplines
Gwendolyn Beetham and Melissa Fernndez 7

Interdisciplinarity: Desire and Dilemma in Contemporary

European Gender Studies.
Marina Franchi  14

Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy. A Metalogue on

Delia D. Dumitrica 18

Are we all on the same page?: The Challenges and

Charms of Collaboration on a Journey through
Emily Bruusgaard, Paula Pinto, Jennifer Swindle,
Satomi Yoshino 39

Imperial Plants: Modern Science, Plant Classification

and European Voyages of Discovery
Rachel ODonnell 59

Book Reviews
Hilde Jakobsen
International focus group research: a handbook for
the health and social sciences, by Monique M. Hennink.  73

Agata Ignaciuk
Medicina, historia y gnero. 130 aos de investigacin feminista,
by Teresa Ortiz Gmez.  78

Beatriz Revelles Benavente

Re(con)figuring the ethico-onto-epistemological question of matter
Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the
Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, by Karen Barad  83

Franois Briatte 
Ways of Knowing. Competing Methodologies in Social and Political
Research, by Jonathon W. Moses and Torbjrn Knutsen,  87
Gwendolyn Beetham is a PhD candidate at the Gender Institute
(LSE), where her project seeks to unpack understandings of gen-
der equality in contemporary international development discourse.
Gwendolyn has been a contributing author to the Gender and Poverty
Handbook (Edward Elgar), The Womens Movement Today: An
Encyclopedia of Third Wave Feminism (Greenwood Press), Gender
& Development Journal (Oxfam), and a special edition editor for The
Scholar & Feminist Online. email:

Melissa Fernndez Arrigoita is a PhD candidate at the Cities

Programme, Sociology Department (LSE). She is currently inter-
ested in work that relates broadly to gender; post-colonialism; so-
cio-technical approaches to urban formations and processes; and
qualitative and visual methodologies. Melissa recently co-edited the
Writing Cities publication (MIT,LSE,Harvard) and contributed to the
upcoming book Edges (Routledge). email: M.Fernandez1@lse.

Marina Franchi is a PhD student at the Gender Institute (LSE).

Her current work analyses the Italian media discourse with particular
reference to the debate on the rights of cohabiting couples. She is
particularly interested in the role that media plays in reproducing the
heteronormativity of the Italian contemporary society. She holds an
MSc in Gender and Media (LSE). email:

Delia D. Dumitrica is a PhD student in Communication Studies at

the University of Calgary. Her dissertation looks at the role of ideolo-
gy in the social construction of new media. Her research interests in-
clude the social context of the internet, technology and ideology, and
communication approaches to nationalism. She has previously used
autoethnography in a collaborative project, published in the Journal
of Virtual Worlds Research and in the edited collection Gendered
Transformations: Theory and Practices on Gender and Media (2010,
The University of Chicago Press). email:

Emily Bruusgaard is a doctoral candidate in English at Queens

University and holds a SSHRC-funded Canada Graduate Scholarship.
Paula Pinto has a doctoral degree in Sociology from York
University. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Disability
Rights Promotion International - Canada (a SSHRC-funded proj-
ect) and a Research Associate with the Centro de Estudos para a
Funcionalidade Humana, Fundao LIGA (Portugal). email: ppin-

Jennifer Swindle has a doctoral degree in Human Ecology from

the University of Alberta. She is currently a research coordinator in
the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta. email: jennifer.swin-

Satomi Yoshino is a doctoral candidate in the department of

Human Ecology, at the University of Alberta. email: satomi.yoshi-

Rachel ODonnell is a PhD candidate in the department of Political

Science at York University, Toronto, Canada. She is interested in
feminist approaches to knowledge production, natural history, de-
velopment and biotechnology, especially in Guatemala, where she
has lived and worked. Her current research investigates the re-
lationships among historical perspectives on nature, the develop-
ment of the European sciences, and contemporary bioprospecting
in Latin America. email:

Hilde Jakobsen is a Ph.D. student at the Centre for Gender and

Development at the University of Bergen, Norway. She has conduct-
ed focus group evaluations for humanitarian agencies in Guinea,
Kenya, Tanzania and Chad. Her doctoral research analyses how
people talk about violence against women and political corruption in
focus groups in Tanzania. She read Henninks book while writing an
article (forthcoming) on how she adapted the method to deal with
issues of positionality, alterity, power and difference in Tanzania.

Agata Ignaciuk is a PhD student at the Womens Studies Centre,

University of Granada, Spain. Her thesis focuses on the analysis
of the social aspects of hormonal contraception during the dictator-
ships and democratic transitions in Spain (1965-1978) and Poland
(1964-1997). Research interests include history of contraception
and abortion in Europe and the United States. email: agata_ig-

Beatriz Revelles Benavente is a second-year student of the

GEMMA program at the University of Utrecht. She has a degree
in English language and literature, and has spent time at Granada
University (Spain) and Rutgers University (U.S.A.). Her current
project is concerned with gender politics and New Materialism as
framework. Beatriz especially wants to thank Iris Van der Tuin and
her classmates for their support in the accomplishment of this re-
view. email:

Franois Briatte is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Political

Studies, University of Grenoble, and an Assistant Lecturer at the
Faculty of Health and Law, University of Lille. His research interests
lie within comparative health policy and research methods. email:

I n t e r / Tr a n s / P o s t - D i s c i p l i n a r i t y :
Explorations of Encounters Across
What is needed are respectful engagements with different disciplin-
ary practices, not ... portrayals that make caricatures of another dis-
cipline from some position outside it.
- Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway

As new editors of the GJSS, we GJSS out of the conviction that

would like to use this editorial not different tools for the acquisition of
only to introduce ourselves and to knowledge should be confronted,
discuss the themes of the current is- compared and brought together
sue, but also to take the opportunity in order to analyse the most com-
provided with a change in editorial plex aspects of our social reality
leadership to provide a retrospec- (Leonelli 2004: iii). Six years on,
tive of sorts. In the course of this the GJSS continues to work with
introduction to the first issue of the this conviction, as it explores the
new decade, then, we will explore: transformatory implications of in-
Where has the GJSS been? Where terdisciplinary dialogues, work and
is it today? Where is it going? In so research on issues as wide-ranging
doing, we hope to provide the read- as environmental policy, gender and
er with an overview of some of the mental health issues, and transla-
important and reoccurring themes tion practices (of both the language
of the journal, including the current and disciplinary variety) in Europe
issue on the broad topic of interdis- and beyond. The journal has cov-
ciplinary methods and methodolo- ered the disciplines that are inher-
gies. ently interdisciplinary (gender stud-
ies, queer studies and genomics)
Interdisciplinary Foundations as well as the more traditional dis-
ciplines to which an interdisciplinary
In 2004, frustrated by the lack of focus is more challenging (criminol-
institutional space for interdisciplin- ogy, economics and biology).
ary exploration, graduate students Over the course of the six years
at several universities formed the of GJSS dialogue it has become
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
8 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

clear that when we are talking about secluding tendencies of traditional

inter-/trans-/post-disciplinary meth- academic practice by critically ad-
odologies, we are not only talking dressing the possible difficulties or
about speaking across languages, incongruities that turned them so in
but also through and among onto- the first place; embracing those ten-
logical and epistemological founda- sions as sites of potential opportuni-
tions (Bruusgaard et al, this issue; ties and correspondences.
Peireria et al, 2009). We are con-
cerned with reflecting upon the polit- Challenges and Charms:
ical and social implications of knowl- Entering the Second Decade of
edge production and its relations to Interdisciplinary Investigation
action and social change Liinason
and van der Tuin, 2007: 1). We are We open the issue with Marina
recognizing the need for a transfer Franchis review of the semi-
from dichotomizations such as disci- nar, Interdisciplinarity: Desire
plinarity/interdisciplinarity, empirical/ and Dilemma in Contemporary
theoretical as well as quantitative/ European Gender Studies. The
qualitative into a thematic organi- seminar, held at the Gender Institute
zation of research and exploration of the London School of Economics,
(Liinason and van der Tuin, 2007: featured several up-and-coming
8). And we are drawing from an un- academics in the field of European
derstanding that, at its very root, in- Gender Studies, including former
ter-/trans-/post-disciplinary practice GJSS editor Mia Liinason. The
is about the willingness to express questions posed and themes ex-
a plurality of viewpoints, to mediate plored at the seminar on the ongo-
between different perspectives in a ing debates around the meanings
context-sensitive and overtly goal- and practices of interdisciplinarity
directed way (Leonelli, 2005: 1). If echo those posed by this and for-
we take these gestures to their ul- mer issues of the GJSS: Is there a
timate conclusion, we are talking limit to interdisciplinarity? What are
about alliance politics building al- the political and social implications
liances across barriers. In working of interdisciplinary practice? How
with and across such boundaries can the (feminist) objectives of in-
through a recognition of what dis- terdisciplinarity in gender studies be
tinct standpoints have to offer, the recognized in todays (neo-liberal)
GJSS is not masking the chasms political climate? Beyond these im-
that lie between them. Instead, the portant questions, the review also
goal is to acknowledge how those reminds us of the need to critically
divisions may become sites for examine the ways in which we la-
productive inter-/trans-/post-disci- bel interdisciplinary practice, as
plinary dialogue; to challenge the the panellists pointed out one of the
Editorial 9

paradoxes of interdisciplinarity in Further, in exploring academic pow-

its use as a buzzword in European er through the intersections of dis-
higher education policy; a rhetorical ciplines, departments, universities,
integration which, in practice, can and individuals, Dumitrica marks
cement powerful divisions. Franchi the method of autoethnography
relates such concerns to an essay as a site of struggle for and against
by Sabine Hark in Vol 4 (2) of the power in terms of knowledge pro-
GJSS, viewing the use of inter- or duction (Dumitrica, this issue), and
transdisciplinarity as a magic sign highlights the complexities, difficul-
or empty signifier whose meaning ties and possibilities of engaging
is dictated according to positional- with interdisciplinarity.
ity and power of interdisciplinarity in Exploring the complexities, dif-
the academic setting (Hark, 2007). ficulties and possibilities of inter-
The review which commends the disciplinary research is the goal
challenging framework of the con- of Emily Bruusgaard, Paula Pinto,
ference therefore suggests a press- Jennifer Swindle, and Satomi
ing and persistent need in academia Yoshinos article, Are we all on
to similarly engage and question the the same page? The Challenges
terms through in which interdiscipli- and Charms of Collaboration on a
narity is being debated and put to Journey through Interdisciplinarity.
practice. A reflection on the practice of in-
In the first essay of the issue, terdisciplinarity research in a group
Delia Dumitrica explores the power setting, Bruusgaard et al use their
struggles inherent in the very prac- experience in a Social Sciences
tice of choosing a methodology as and Humanities Research Council
a graduate student, in Choosing of Canada (SSHRC) funded project
Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy: as a valuable starting point for the
A metalogue on autoethnography. production of knowledge about the-
The innovative use of the nascent ories and concepts, as well as about
method of auto-ethnography allows the social practices and relations
Dumitrica to present a metalogue that we study (Peiria et al, 2009: 4),
between a graduate student and much like the editors and contribu-
advisor in which she explains the tors of the last GJSS Special Issue,
importance of auto-ethnography as Lost (and Found) in Translation,
an interdisciplinary practice. Here, who looked beyond viewing issues
Dumitricas work draws important of translation (including translation
links between method and writing, across disciplines) as a problem
as it highlights how concerns with to be solved. The authors, hailing
writing form and style, including lan- from different disciplines themselves
guage of dialogue and reflexivity (Human Ecology, Nursing, Sociology
become part of the overall method. and English), transform their experi-
10 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

ences into lessons learned that and their functions in the formation
would be valuable in embarking on of subjectivities mak[ing] visible
any project that seeks to take inter- and put[ting] into crisis the struc-
disciplinarity seriously. Among other tural links between the disciplining
aspects necessary for engagement of knowledge and larger social ar-
across disciplines, Bruusgaard et al rangements [citing Hennessy 1993:
cite the acknowledgement and ac- 12]. Similarly, Bruusgaard et als
ceptance of differences from the understanding of transdiscipinarity
outset as crucial to an interdisci- is that it transcends the traditional
plinary effort built on mutual trust boundaries of interdisciplinarity by
and respect. This trust and respect putting the humanities into a natu-
is called for by Karen Barad (see the ral, social and health sciences con-
opening quote to this editorial), and text and vice versa. And, while the
is akin to that called for by Donna authors close by noting that such
Haraway, in her concept of situated an element was not present in their
knowledges (1988) and her more own project, they agree that this is
recently- elaborated practice of dif- something that they aspire to in fu-
fraction (1997; 2008). ture cross-disciplinary interactions.
These authors are important to Working in the tradition of
mention here not only for their dedi- Haraway and other feminist sci-
cation to engaging across disciplines ence scholars (notably Londa
with mutual trust and respect, but Schiebinger), Rachel ODonnells
because they are both dedicated to essay Imperial Plants: Modern
broadening interdisciplinary work Science, Plant Classification and
beyond the traditional focus in the European Voyages of Discovery
social sciences and humanities and offers an interdisciplinary review
into the natural sciences, something of literature on botanical classifica-
that Bruusgaard et al note was lack- tion and European colonialism. In
ing in their own engagement, as all so doing, ODonnell explores the
project team members were from ways in which science, nature, and
the humanities and social sciences. gender were co-constituted during
Barad (2007: 93) offers transdis- the height of European colonialism.
ciplinarity as a possible avenue to ODonnells review makes clear
achieve a more profound interac- that, in exposing the connections
tion between disciplines, suggesting between politics and science, what
that unlike multidisciplinary or inter- is at stake is nothing less than the
disciplinary approaches, a transdis- power to create knowledge (and who
ciplinary approach does not merely has it and who does not). Further,
draw from an array of disciplines ODonnell argues that recognizing
but rather inquires into the histories such connections is not only histori-
of the organization of knowledges cally important, but critical in light of
Editorial 11

contemporary biotechnological ef- Knutsens, Ways of Knowing.

forts and international development Competing Methodologies in Social
practice (ODonnell, this issue). and Political Research (2007), fo-
The charms and challenges of cuses on the distinctive historical
interdisciplinarity are taken up in approach to methodological inquiry
four book reviews that close out the advanced by this text. Specifically, it
issue, expertly edited by Katherine underscores the relevance of trac-
Harrison. Hilde Jakobsen reviews ing the intellectual and philosophical
Monique Henninks International lineage of social science disciplines,
focus group research: a handbook and their associated methodolo-
for the health and social sciences gies, in order to situate the current
(2007), providing a useful overview divisions, connections and debates
of the ways in which focus groups emanating from them.
can be used to their potential, while
noting some of the methods short- Beyond Interdisciplinarity?
comings. The next two reviews take
a look at recent work from a more As the founding editor of GJSS
transdisciplinary approach. First, stated six years ago, Discourse
reviewing Teresa Ortiz Gmezs over interdisciplinarity is thus an
Medicina, historia y gnero. 130 essential, if largely unrecognised,
aos de investigacin feminista part of academic life, insofar as it
(Medicine, history and gender: 130 encourages the necessary flexibil-
years of feminist research) (2006), ity of boundaries and connections
Agata Ignaciuk offers a review of among disciplines (Leonelli 2004:
the work of one of the pioneers in iii). As we have seen in this and past
applying and teaching feminist inter- issues, the boundaries between
disciplinary methodology in the field disciplines are indeed unclear. This
of history of medicine and science issue continues to blur the remain-
in the Spanish context. Second, ing boundaries, asking: how can we
Beatriz Revelles Benavente re- make cross-disciplinary encounters
views Karen Barads Meeting more productive? What new meth-
the Universe Halfway: Quantum ods might lend themselves more
Physics and the Entanglement of readily to cross-disciplinary engage-
Matter and Meaning (2007), of- ment? And finally, should we move
fering readers a brief glimpse into past interdisciplinarity into a trans
the complex work of the feminist or post disciplinary world?
physicist philosopher and examin- Bruusgaard et al. conclude their
ing the ways Barads work has been essay by stating that we do not yet
taken up in new materialist theory. consider ourselves to be transdisci-
Finally, Francois Briattes review of plinary, but we do believe that this is
Jonathon W. Moses and Torbjrn the path on which we are headed.
12 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

Like the members of the SSHRC York, and the other members of the
team, we hope this issue of the Spring 2010 feminist theory read-
GJSS takes us further along on our ing group of which she was a part,
voyage toward this goal. We also and whose discussions of Donna
want to acknowledge that there is Haraways and Karen Barads work
no clear path on this road, and that led to many fruitful and animated
we might not even want to move to- conversations on ways in which the
ward yet another category even hard and soft sciences can bet-
one as seemingly flexible as trans- ter intra-act with one another. Both
disciplinarity. Ultimately, however, Melissa and Gwendolyn thank the
we are eager to continue toward a London School of Economics, not
place where all interactions across only for being a wonderful institution-
disciplines have as their base mu- al home, but for offering institutional
tual trust and respect. We open this support for the journal by hosting
issue, then, with the words of Gloria the editorial email account and pro-
Anzalda, one border-crosser who viding many other small but impor-
has inspired us both: tant day-to-day necessities. Last,
but certainly not least, we thank our
Caminante, no hay puentes, former editor, Mia Liinason for her
se hacen puentes al andar. guidance during our initial time as
editors here at the GJSS. We are
(Voyager, there are no inspired by the work of Mia and the
bridges, one builds them as other GJSS members who have
one walks). come before us and we hope that
we can continue on in the tradition
Acknowledgements that has made the GJSS a home
for graduate students who seek to
We would like to thank both the critically engage with inter/trans (or
editorial board and the reviewers. post!) disciplinary methodological
We are indebted to the entire GJSS inquiry in the social sciences. Any
Editorial team for their commitment, editorial mistakes are ours alone.
dedication and hard work. We also
offer enormous gratitude to the Gwendolyn Beetham, New York
anonymous student reviewers and Melissa Fernndez, London
academic reviewers, who offer their May 2010
time and energy to help ensure that
articles submitted to the GJSS are
reviewed to the highest standard.
Gwendolyn would like to acknowl-
edge Max Tremblay, at the New
School for Social Research in New
Editorial 13


Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the universe

halfway: quantum physics and
the entanglement of matter and
meaning. Durham, NC; London,
England: Duke University Press.
Haraway, D. 1988. Situated Knowledg-
es: The Science Question in Fem-
inism and the Privilege of Partial
Perspective. Feminist Studies,
14(3), 575-599.
- 1997. Modest_Witness@Second_
_OncoMouseTM: Feminism and
Technoscience. New York: Rout-
- 2008. When Species Meet. Minne-
apolis: University of Minnesota
Hark, S. 2007. Magical Sign: On the
Politics of Inter- and Transdiscipli-
narity, Graduate Journal of Social
Science, 4(2)
Leonelli, S. 2004. Introducing the
GJSS: Why a graduate journal
about interdisciplinary methodol-
ogy? Graduate Journal of Social
Science, 1(1).
Leonelli, S. 2005. Pluralism and Nor-
mativity in Interdisciplinary Re-
search. Graduate Journal of So-
cial Science, 2(1).
Liinason, M. and Van der Tuin, I. 2007.
Practising Feminist Interdiscipli-
narity Graduate Journal of Social
Science, 4(2).
Pereira, M., Marhia, N., and Scharff,
C. 2009. Interrogating Language
Difference and Translation in So-
cial Science Research: Towards
a Critical and Interdisciplinary Ap-
proach. Graduate Journal of So-
cial Science, 6(3).
Desire and Dilemma in Contemporary
European Gender Studies.
Thursday 21 January 2010
Gender Institute Research Seminar

Marina Franchi
Key Words: interdisciplinarity, gender studies, Bologna process, Higher
Education, research, GJSS

On January 21st the Gender Journal dedicated a special issue

Institute1 at the London School of to feminist interdisciplinarity. In the
Economics (LSE) held a seminar editorial of that edition, she and co-
titled Interdisciplinarity: Desire and editor Iris Van der Tuin reflected on
Dilemma in Contemporary European the importance of interdisciplinarity
Gender Studies. Interdisciplinarity is within womens and gender stud-
one of the current key terms within ies. Sabine Grenz holds a PhD in
the field of Feminist, Women and Gender Studies and her research
Gender Studies. Although the term interests include feminist criticism
is ubiquitous, a single definition re- of science, the history of sexuality,
mains elusive, and debates around prostitution and masculinity. The
the meanings and practices of in- discussion was led by Maria do Mar
terdisciplinarity are ongoing. The Pereira, PhD student at the Gender
structure of the research seminar fit Institute at London School of
perfectly within these contemporary Economics whose research focuses
and contested understandings. on the epistemic status of womens,
A glance at the curricula of the gender, feminist studies in Portugal.
three scholars on the panel, Maria The three scholars engaged in
do Mar Pereira, Sabine Grenz and a rich and full hour of discussion,
Mia Liinason, shows how they have pushing the audience to reflect
all thoroughly engaged with the is- upon the term and practice of in-
sue. Mia Liinason is a PhD student terdisciplinarity. Never missing the
at the Centre for Gender Studies at wider picture, the panel guided the
Lund University. She was one of the audience through their personal
editors of GJSS in 2007, when the career trajectories highlighting the
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
Franchi: Interdisciplinarity 15

point at which the concept of inter- cally, used both by critical scholars
disciplinarity became relevant both and neo-liberal inspired European
for their work and for their definition Higher Education Reforms. Hence,
as scholars. Academia operated as one could indeed argue that inter-
both the site in which one shapes and transdisciplinarity function like
her own expertise, and where one magical signs (Katie King 1994),
meets the criticism to a given set of that is, as empty signifiers meaning
practices. whatever their users want them to
From the beginning, the panel mean. (Hark 2007). The panellists
tried to unpack the buzz word of made clear how the neo-liberal defi-
interdisciplinarity, a term not con- nitions and aims produced through
fined within methodology chapters the Higher Education policy debates
but which, as Liinason has previ- hugely contrast with the definitions
ously pointed out, has become a and practices of interdisciplinarity
buzz-word in the current higher that flourished within Queer Studies
education policies of the European or Postcolonial studies.
Union (Liinason, 2009: 52). The When the discussion moved to
panel provided the audience with an the core of the topic: the field of
interesting panoramic view of how Gender Studies, the audience was
interdisciplinarity became valued presented with another paradox of
within the European Union policy- interdisciplinarity. The panel provid-
making process. Focusing on the ed insightful examples of practicing
Bologna process of harmonization interdisciplinary research, while at
of higher education in Europe, they the same time discussing the para-
discussed how different countries doxical position of disciplining a field
coped with the request for interdis- of research and education we have
ciplinarity that the European Union proudly dubbed inherently interdis-
put forward. During this process, the ciplinary (Holm 2003). In what I per-
buzz word became a necessary sonally consider the most appealing
skill for maintaining a competitive part of an utterly intriguing talk, the
position in the research market2. focus on Gender Studies led to a in-
After an overview of the policy teresting reading both on the prac-
use of interdisciplinarity, Maria do tices of the field, and on the narra-
Mar Pereira invited the panel to tives that permeate those practices.
think through interdisciplinarity as The speakers explained that, in the
a paradox. As described by Sabine last few decades, Gender Studies -
Hark in Magical Sign: On the Politics the discipline that used to occupy a
of Inter- and Transdisciplinarity space within various departments,
(published in the above mentioned and hence was inherently interdis-
issue of GJSS), the magical sign ciplinary- acquired a physical in-
of interdisciplinarity is, paradoxi- dependent status through the con-
16 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

tinuing growth of departments and of the leading European institutions in the

programs. Disciplinary boundaries field of Gender Studies in Europe. Along
side the vibrant post graduate teaching pro-
were produced as those physical grammes it is characterized by a diverse
spaces were defined, leading to research tradition. The latter is mirrored in
the ultimate paradox: the interdis- the Research Seminar Series that the GI
ciplinary Gender Studies becom- runs throughout the academic year. The
ing a discipline. As a result, Gender Series provides the academic community
with the chances to meet and discuss the
Studies is beginning to face many of later work of scholars both from within and
the same disciplinary constraints of outside the Institute. Looking at the 2009/10
the traditional disciplines. These programme it appears evident how the top-
constraints resonate with the patri- ics addressed in the series reflect the key
archal organization of knowledge, a contemporary debates within the field of
Gender Woman and Feminist Studies.
foundational critique of gender stud-
ies itself. 2
The Bologna process has been at the
Overall, the panellists demon- core of speculation within Gender and
strated amazing command of the Womens studies. Clare Hemmings in 2006
literature, which allowed them to in the European Journal Of Women Studies
(EJWS) discussed the opportunities that
avoid the often-observed short-cut the Bologna process was holding for UK
of giving ready-to-use answers to Women and Gender Studies. In the same
the recurring questions within the issue Mary Evans appeared more scepti-
field. Instead, the panellists provided cal and less optimistic (2006). In 2008 on
an appealing picture to the debate, EJWS Clare Hemmings resumed the de-
bate and published a interesting note on
while also challenging the audience the Bologna Process in which she suggest-
to nail and unpack the above-men- ed ways forward for womens and gender
tioned paradoxes. Those present studies in its negotiation with European in-
were left with stimulating questions stitutionalization of the field (2008:119).
to reflect upon, questions which References
resonate with those posed by many
of the contributions to the Graduate Hark, S. 2007. Magical Sign. On the
Journal of Social Sciences: Does Politics of Inter- and Transdiscipli-
one need to be grounded in a dis- narity Graduate Journal of Social
cipline before moving to interdisci- Science, 4(2).
plinarity? Is there a limit to interdis- Hemming, C. 2006. Ready for Bologna?
ciplinarity? Is it accidental that these The Impact of the Declaration on
debates are primarily taking place in Womens and Gender Studies in
Gender Studies? the UK European Journal of Wom-
ens Studies, 13(4), 315-323.
The debate is, luckily, still open.
Hemmings, C. 2008. Tuning Problems?
Notes on Womens and Gender
Endnotes Studies and the Bologna Process
The Gender Institute GI at the London European Journal of Womens
School of Economics is undoubtedly one Studies,15(2): 117127
Franchi: Interdisciplinarity 17

Holm. 2003. Interdisciplining Gender

Studies in Sweden a Mission
King, K. 1994. Theory in its Feminist
Travels. Conversations in U.S.
Womens Movements. Blooming-
ton: Indiana UP.
Liinason, M. and Van der Tuin, I. 2007.
Practising Feminist Interdiscipli-
narity Graduate Journal of Social
Science, 4(2).
Liinason, M. 2009. Why Interdisciplin-
arity? Interdisciplinarity and Wom-
ens/Gender Studies in Europe in
Waaldijk et al. 2009. The Making
of European Womens Studies Vol
IX Athena.
Choosing Methods,
Negotiating Legitimacy.
A Metalogue on Autoethnography
Delia D. Dumitrica

For a doctoral student, choosing a research method is not a simple, rational

act. It is an act that involves an assessment of our position and power within
the academic setting, as well as a negotiation of the legitimacy of the method.
It is also an act of expressing our values and political commitments. Thus,
this choice becomes an opportunity to investigate the ways in which power
relations may come to shape both our understandings of legitimate research
and our performance of that legitimacy. This paper looks into these issues
by means of an imagined dialogue (a metalogue) between a student and a
supervisor on the possibility of choosing autoethnography as a method for a
doctoral project. As a contested method located within the qualitative para-
digm, autoethnography allows me to explore the question of what makes a
method a legitimate way of inquiry within the academic context. My interest
here is to show how the networks of power within which I am positioned as
a doctoral student, with a particular set of values and committments, come
to play into the negotiation and performance of the legitimacy of the method.
Using Foucaults discussion of power/knowledge, I am arguing that such net-
works of power are both external to me, constituting the institutional context
within which I am acting, and part of my own self, shaping my values and my
performance as an authorized speaker within the academic setting.

Key Words: autoethnography, methodology, qualitative research, doc-

toral dissertations, legitimacy, power/knowledge

As a graduate student, I have of- your beliefs about the nature of so-
ten been advised to choose a meth- ciety and the ways in which it can be
od that is able to tackle the research known. But acknowledging this is of-
question I am asking. Yet, this choice ten at odds with the regime of truth
is something that reaches into the (Foucault 1977/1980b, 1997/1995)
assumptions about reality that we of our modern world that equates
bring to our work (Crotty 1998, 2). truth with science. In this equation,
In other words, this choice is not the latter stands for rational and rig-
only a simple, rational act of match- orous testing that can explain the
ing your research question to the nature of things (Fay 1992; Hamilton
ways in which you will investigate 1992; Hollis 2002). To the extent that
it. It also involves your worldview, this regime of truth has become part
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 19

and parcel of the network of power nography or performance narrative

in modern societies, the choice of (Denzin and Lincoln 2002), auto-
a method within the framework of ethnography is different from them
a doctoral dissertation becomes in- in that the only empirical data used
terwoven with the politics of the dis- to trigger the critical analysis is the
ciplines and of the wider academic researchers own experience.
setting. The purpose of this paper is As a method, autoethnography is
to look into this process by means of also contested primarily for its lack
an imaginary metalogue on autho- of theory, its relation to subjectivity
ethnography. It is contended here and its forms of writing (Denzin &
that such an enterprise may be able Lincoln 2002; Ellis 2004; Holt 2003;
to shed some light on the ways in Sparkes 2000, 2002). It is mostly
which academic settings (schools of the charge of being too personal
thought, disciplines, departments, that challenges autoethnographys
universities) and personal contexts legitimacy as proper academic
intersect, marking a method such as research (Sparkes 2000, 2002).
autoethnography as a site of strug- These accusations are also made
gle for and against power in terms of against other qualitative meth-
knowledge production. ods, such as ethnography, in what
Autoethnography is a qualita- Alexander has described as residu-
tive research method that takes the al ideas of truth and objectivity [that]
researcher/ author as the subject remain stubborn features of much
of research (Denzin and Lincoln ethnographic research and writing
2002; Ellis 2004; Richardson 2000, on ethnicity in Britain (2004: 137).
2002). Autoethnographers reflex- As such, contesting autoethnogra-
ively examine their own feelings, phy may be seen as part of the wid-
meanings and understandings of er ongoing debates between quan-
the social world in order to connect titative and qualitative approaches.
the autobiographical and personal Autoethnographers respond to such
to the cultural, social and political accusations by relying on the reper-
(Ellis 2004: xix)1. Thus, research- toire provided by constructivist epis-
ers are both the subject of their own temologies, building on established
analysis, and the analysts examin- critical reflections on the status of
ing the data to understand wider knowledge and the role of the re-
social dynamics. The method is searcher vis-a-vis the production of
firmly rooted in a constructivist epis- (academic) knowledge.
temology (Crotty 1998), retaining a A possible reason why the legiti-
strong commitment to critical social macy of the method is more problem-
science. Although related to a vari- atic in the case of autoethnography
ety of qualitative methods, such as (as compared to, say, ethnography)
critical ethnography, reflexive eth- may have to do with autoethnogra-
20 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

phys relative newness. While a his- and borrow from a variety of theo-
toriography of the method remains retical frameworks to legitimize their
to be written, autoethnography has choice of method and to frame their
been established as an academic approach to the research problemat-
method primarily through the work ic. Most importantly however, these
of Carolyn Ellis and Art Bochner in scholars perform the legitimacy of
the early 1990s (Anderson 2006; the method, by submitting their work
see also Ellis 2004)2. Although to peer-review processes and pub-
now autoethnographers often draw lishing it in academic journals and
from feminist epistemologies (e.g. books (Bochner 2002; Denzin 2006;
Code 1991; Collins 1990; Haraway Ellis 1993, 1997, 1998, 2004; Holt
1988; Harding 1991), postcolonial 2002; Richardson 2002; Sparkes
theories (e.g. Bhabha 1994; Spivak 2000, 2002). In this process, auto-
1999; for a discussion of autobiog- ethnographys contested position
raphy and postcolonial theory, see presents an opportunity to inquire
Huddart 2008), sociology of illness into the power dynamics through
(e.g. Frank 1991, 2004) and the which the academic norm becomes
cultural turn in anthropology (e.g. constructed and perpetuated.
Geertz 1983; Clifford and Marcus In this paper, I offer a personal
1986), Ellis and Bochner were locat- account of what the choice of au-
ed within the field of sociology and toethnography as a method may
thought of autoethnography in the look like from the point of view of
context of symbolic interactionism a doctoral student. My own take to
(see Anderson 2006; Ellis 2004). the method cannot be divorced from
The history of autoethnography is both the politics of the method3
also intrinsically connected to meth- (Frank 1983; Clifford and Marchs
odological debates in anthropology 1986; Eisner 1988; Gitlin et al.
and to the use of personal narra- 1989) and my own position within
tives in traditional social science the academic system. Informed
(particularly anthropology and soci- by Foucaults discussion of power,
ology); the word autoethnography discourse and authority (Foucault
was coined by an anthropologist, 1966/1970, 1972, 1976/1980,
while the term autobiography was 1977/1980, 1977/1995), I begin by
used in literary studies to designate asking what is autoethnography
a specific writing genre (Ellis 2004). and why is it such a contested meth-
Thus, it is fair to say that autoeth- od?, only to realize that this ques-
nographers reclaim historical origins tion should be situated within a larg-
that often disregard (and thus chal- er context of inquiry which includes
lenge) disciplinary boundaries. This asking: what constitutes academic
trend continues, as autoethnogra- knowledge; who grants it legitimacy;
phers cross disciplinary boundaries and how am I, as a student, relating
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 21

to these processes in my own work? is not an experience located entirely

My methodological choices, as well within the student arena: I am also
as my ambivalence on autoethnog- a sessional instructor, teaching my
raphy appear as part and parcel of own courses. In this position, I am
the networks of power within which required to constantly shift between
I am trying to position myself as an being a student and teaching stu-
academic in the hopes of gaining dents. This may be interpreted as
access to the higher-education pro- a self-disciplining process, through
fessions and to positions of author- which I internalize the norms of aca-
ity within disciplines or departments. demic scholarship and evaluation
Such networks of power are at the as both a student and an evalua-
same time external to me (such as tor. Yet, just as Foucault has noted,
the relation with supervisors, profes- such processes of self-disciplining
sors, reviewers etc.) and part of my are never smooth: they are also the
own self (such as my professional moments of resistance, or, in my
goals, values and worldviews). case, of ambivalence, uncertainty
Instead of tackling these ques- and questioning. In this sense, au-
tions within the format of the tradi- toethnography has allowed me to
tional academic paper, I propose to both acknowledge and reflect upon
look at them by means of a personal this process, and preserve its emo-
- yet imagined - narrative: a metal- tional depth.
ogue between a student and a su- The discussions presented here
pervisor4. It is fair to point out from have been part of my academic ex-
the beginning that the two charac- perience. My own graduate back-
ters come to be quite unequally con- ground is interdisciplinary, which
structed: while the student is filled may be one of the reasons why I
with doubts and uncertainties, the have not engaged here with a spe-
supervisor appears to have moved cific social science discipline. In my
beyond such dilemmas, express- own doctoral research, I am located
ing only a pragmatic attitude to the within a communications studies
dissertation writing process. My department. The field of communi-
intention was not to pit an enthusi- cation is itself contested and inter-
astic and ethically troubled student disciplinary, drawing its theoretical
against a pragmatic supervisor, positions from a variety of social
worn out by the vicissitudes of the science thinkers (see Craig 1999).
system. Rather, these characters Many of the discussions below rest
should themselves be understood on insights from this field, along with
as part of my own position in (as well cultural studies, sociology and an-
as understanding of) the power net- thropology. Of course, this is also a
works within the academic system. major limitation: trying to keep the
In my case, being a doctoral student discussion on a more general level
22 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

leads to glossing over the particu- part follows some of the rules of
larities of methodological debates academic writing, such as resting
in specific disciplines. Yet, I do not a case upon prior academic litera-
think this undermines the validity ture or the citation style. Where tra-
of this autoethnographic exercise: ditional academic writing insists on
the major contemporary theoreti- the separation of the author/ text,
cal and epistemological debates logical sequencing and (linear) flow
in social theory have a meta-disci- of the argument, a metalogue is a
plinary aspect (e.g. Delanty 2000)5. personal story where the argument
As already indicated, the historical does not necessarily follow a well-
contexts reclaimed by autoethnog- rehearsed path (from premises to
raphers, as well as the use of au- conclusions). Its role is to reveal
toethnography has always involved the complexity of the problematic,
such meta-disciplinary theories and provoking readers to make sense
epistemological debates. This does of it through their own frames. This
not preclude the fact that autoethno- is by no means something new; for
graphic projects are employed and instance, post-modernism has chal-
legitimized within the context of spe- lenged the traditional author/ reader
cific disciplines6. positions, arguing for the need to
While this paper deals with the develop a new aesthetic of aca-
networks of power within which I demic writing that takes all texts as
find myself as a doctoral student, oriented by the intentions and con-
it also represents an act of direct texts of its producers and readers
engagement with them. After all, I (e.g. Hutcheon 1983).
am writing a paper for the purpose By taking this form, the paper al-
of publishing it within an academic lows me to follow more closely my
journal and my ability to do so comes thinking flow, which often times has
from being part of this expert sys- a tree-like structure simultaneous-
tem (Giddens 1990). For this rea- ly branching in various directions.
son, the paper takes the form of a It also allows me to bring forward
metalogue, which is a conversation the values that accompany spe-
about some problematic subject cific ideas, exposing the feelings,
(Bateson 1972, 1) in which both the questions and uncertainties brought
topic and the form invite the writer along by the act of choosing a suit-
and the reader to navigate between able method. This personal struggle
layers of understanding and order. is an often- ignored aspect in aca-
As a submission to a peer-reviewed demic publications on methods7.
journal, I also had to compromise Yet, the selection of a method re-
on the metalogue: although part of mains an important mechanism of
the paper is written in a nonconven- situating oneself within particular
tional, dialogical format, the other schools of thoughts and disciplines.
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 23

The metalogue is thus able to con- ally work for me, because my own
textualize a reflection about au- research is driven by my personal
toethnography within a view from background. I should acknowledge
below of the politics of the method that, shoudnt I? My project deals
(Clifford and Marcus 1986; Eisner with identity issues. Doesnt it seem
1988; Frank 1982; Gitlin et al. 1989) strange to talk about identity as if
and the specific emotional space its something that the researcher
that accompanies such politics. The can study, without her own identity
choice and understanding of the to come under microscope? Many
method, together with the emotions autoethnographic projects deal
that accompany these processes, with identity questions, precisely
are means by which we insert our- because this method gives the re-
selves with the complex networks of searcher an avenue to question how
power that make up the social world their own identity comes into play
in which we exist. in the research process and then
connect this to wider social struc-
*** tures (Ellis 1998; Richardson 2000;
Student: I have finally found a Sparkes 2000, 2002; Stapleton and
method for my dissertation that re- Wilson 2004).
ally suits me. I would like to do an I read this autoethnographic piece
autoethnography! about Asian women who married
US servicemen after the Second
Supervisor: Autoethnography? World War and came to live in the
Let me remind you that you will US. Initially, the researcher wanted
present this work to a defense com- to map the problems these women
mittee. You need to be cautious of encountered in the US. But she was
such highly subjective methods... also the daughter of one of them, so
they may be inspirational, but they she was afraid that her own identity
are hard to defend. Besides, if you would bias her research. Her fear
want to become a scholar, you have made her overlook[] the pos-
to learn to distance yourself from sibilities for exploring what a more
your own beliefs. With an autoeth- self-reflexive ethnographic rep-
nography, you can only talk about resentation might look like one
your own beliefs, your own views. based upon a lifetime of talk story
And thats the problem right there: with [her] mother and her circle of
if its about you, it cannot be empiri- friends. (Creef 2002, 80). In the
cally falsifiable (Popper 1965). end, she did an autoethnographic
project where her own life became
Student: Why is it such a bad the lens through which the stories
thing if I am the object of my own of these women were linked to the
inquiry? Autoethnography would re- wider social structures in which they
24 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

lived. It was this personal lens that Not to mention that it will be very
allowed her to tell the story of how hard to get any funding for such a
identity and race feel like within project. Grant-giving agencies want
those structures. This also allowed to see reliable results, that can be
her to question her own relation, as extended and used. You have to
both a researcher and a daughter, be more strategic here and think in
to the subjects of her research. She terms of your final goals: to write a
did not produce yet another account defendable dissertation that will get
where identity was reduced to num- you what you need for now, the doc-
bers and cases to be examined. toral title.
With her mother becoming her
most willing chief informant, both Student: I know, I do want to write
author and readers are prompted a good thesis. But I feel I owe it to my-
to question their own ethics of re- self to stay true to who I am and how
searching and consuming the oth- I insert myself in my own research,
er. As she narrated identity and because to know an object without
race, we, as readers, re-construct- considering the way [I] participate in
ed and lived them through her. The the production of that knowledge
personal lens forced her to question (Gitlin et al 1989, 245) seems a bit
the ways in which writing as an out- unfair to me8. I do not want to write
side researcher transformed these a thesis fearing the committee wont
women into cases and objects of like it. I want to write a thesis that
research, further denying them their I feel brings something new, and
individuality and agency. most importantly, addresses so-
cial inequality and structural op-
Supervisor: Well, it seems like pression. I am motivated by strong
an interesting story. But this is also feelings here. I start from a political
the source of the problem: it sounds position, and it seems only fair to
more like a story and less like a acknowledge it and incorporate it in
piece of research. Unless autoeth- a reflexive manner in my research,
nographers are part of your commit- dont you think? Why is it that if its
tee, this may get you in trouble. The a personal story, it is suddenly less
committee members may not share defendable? What makes a thesis
your enthusiasm for this method. defendable anyway? Just because
What will you do when they will ask you follow the standard research
about the generalizability of your re- steps it doesnt mean your personal
sults? What can you do to defend story is not inserted into the whole
a project where the method through research project. Its not as easy as
which your results are reached is coming up with a research question
under question? No, I do not think that can be investigated, defining its
autoethnography is a good idea. terms and building a methodological
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 25

design that can address the ques- sat on any committee evaluating an
tion; making sure the design is repli- autoethnography. Yet, in my experi-
cable to ensure results are reliable. ence, the method is one of the most
Then, crafting a clever argument as scrutinized aspects of your research
to why only this research design re- project. You may position yourself
ally works for my specific question as a qualitative researcher, but you
(hence, why others do not work). are still doing a research project and
And finally, doing the research and you are still writing an academic dis-
presenting the findings in a concise sertation. A thesis where you are
and clear manner, by connecting both the author and the object of in-
them to the theory I have used (Iowa quiry seems self-indulgent (Sparkes
State University n/a). As long as the 2002). It comes into conflict with
method is rigurous, the conclusions some of the most entrenched val-
are defendable! ues of academic work: the ability
I am a qualitative researcher to arrive at conclusions by means
and I am espousing a particular of a rational argument that can be
political stance. I think this is how I explained and then tested by logi-
can defend the method if the com- cal means. Autoethnography may
mittee and I do not see eye to eye be a qualitative research method,
on the legitimacy of this method9. but it remains contested even with-
Autoethnography is only another in (qualitative) ethnography (see
form of the reformist movement in Anderson 2006; Atkinson 2006).
social science research introduced Ethnography is in fact a good ex-
by qualitative research from the ample here. Ethnographic accounts
1970s on (Denzin and Lincoln 2002). existed before the method itself be-
If I position myself firmly within this came accepted as scientific. But
paradigm and within a constructivist scholars persuaded the academic
epistemology, then shouldnt this be communities that ethnography can
enough to make a strong case for be done in a scientific manner if it
my choice of method? uses narrative realism. To the extent
that a description remained true to
Supervisor: There is a differ- what people were doing, then eth-
ence between making a strong case nography was a reliable and sci-
for your method and the accep- entific method. Thus, the earlier
tance of that method as legitimate. accounts were dismissed as litera-
Remember that legitimacy is con- ture and the author became absent
textual: you try to establish it in rela- from the descriptive account he pro-
tion to the prevailing forms that are vided (Clifford and Marcus 1986;
considered legitimate. Writing auto- Gitlin et al. 1989). Thus, the quali-
ethnographies for doctoral projects tative shift you talked about earlier
remains quite rare, and I have never also affected debates on ethnogra-
26 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

phy. From the 1960s on, we have being constructed? To what extent
witnessed an increased recognition will the committee members see it
that no description is independent as an established method or reject it
from its interpretation and that the as non-academic or self-indulgent.
author/ researcher is always using Should I understand that, in spite
her own perspective in describing of the qualitative turn, the debate is
something (Gitlin et al. 1989). In this still one about objectivity, reliability
shift from description to questioning and validity?
how people make sense of things -
and how researchers intervene in Supervisor: It is a question of
this process- - ethnography moved legitimacy. You know, each society
from being considered a descrip- has its regime of truth [...] the type
tive method to being evaluated on of discourse which [society] ac-
the basis of the thick descriptions cepts and makes function as true
and constant symbolic translation (Foucault 1977/ 1980b, 131). It is
it achieved (Geertz 1983). Yet not this regime of truth that provides us
even these discussions completely with the criteria for deciding what
opened the door to embracing au- can count as truth. Or, in our case
toethnography, as the question of here, as a method to access the
analysis remains a contentious is- truth about social reality. To a cer-
sue (on similar questions around tain extent, the legitimacy of a meth-
the evaluation of ethnography, see od is still measured against this re-
also Clifford and Marcus 1986). gime of truth. Of course, what one
How is analysis to be done? What takes to be the regime of truth de-
constitutes a good, academic auto- pends on ones epistemologic and
ethnography? Is autoethnography disciplinary position. For example,
to be used in an evocative man- an understanding of race as a bio-
ner, to emphasize the journey and logical category is considered as a
to expose the flow of lived experi- fallacy from a constructivist point of
ence, without engaging in its direct view. These regimes are not some-
analysis (Ellis and Bochner 2006)? thing immutable. They do change
Or should autoethnography be an as they have to always respond to
analytical tool, committed to an an- criticism stemming from new social
alytic research agenda focused on circumstances.
improving theoretical understand-
ings of broader social phenomena Student: In my thesis and in my
(Anderson 2006, 375)? defense, I need to prove that I know
Student: The legitimacy of this the regime of truth and the criteria
method is what seems to be in my it imposes. This would authorize me
way here. How legitimate is auto- as a speaker within the academic
ethnography? How is this legitimacy setting (Foucault 1972). To a cer-
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 27

tain extent, this is what I think the about legitimacy: what counts as
defense is all about: prove I master academic work and why?
the rules of the game, the intellec- Lets take what you said that au-
tual legacy of my discipline and the toethnography may read just like lit-
debates around my chosen method. erature. The good part of it is that
And that I am able to combine them, it makes academic research more
so that I come up with something accessible to people. Geertz said
new and original. I should be honest that the power of a text comes from
and admit that I do want to get the its ability to move the reader, its
doctor title! horror as a lived case and the mo-
rality it carries (Geertz 1983, 36).
Supervisor: That is exactly what I Academic texts are not supposed to
am trying to tell you: that you need to make you cry, organically scare you
think in advance about your defense or psychologically disturb you! But
and about your career. I may be too it is precisely those pieces that are
harsh on autoethnography here, be- able to move us while at the same
cause there is a lot of room for the time bringing up the social dynam-
author/ researcher in the qualitative ics in which we live that make us
paradigm, especially when com- more critically engaged with these
pared to positivist epistemologies. dynamics (Ellis 1997). Some schol-
But with autoethnography its almost ars want to recuperate this evoca-
like the boundaries of this qualita- tive power, and this is where they
tive paradigm are being pushed a locate the strength of the method
bit too far. I guess it reads too much (Ellis and Bochner 2006). For oth-
like literature (Richardson 2002, 39- ers, this evocative power has to be
50; see also Clifford and Marcus accompanied by a theoretical re-
1986)! Nobody says you should not flection that enables us to simulta-
be reflexive about your own position neously construct and question our
as a researcher . Insert a section on own meanings, as well as the prob-
this in the methods chapter! But to lems they bring to light (Anderson
make it into the method itself, I am 2006; Atkins 2006). The personal
not sure about that. narrative layer is like a drawing in
which you produce line upon line
Student: Its true that Ive also thus creating layered accounts
wondered about the whole literary [which] leave traces of a play of dif-
aspect. I mean, I have a hard time ferences for other selves who read
confronting my own academic self, to apprehend. This, in turn, makes
whispering in my ear that my writing it possible for selves to identify with
doesnt even count as poorly written other selves, bringing us closer to-
fiction, let alone academic work! But gether in the understanding that we
then Im back to my earlier question are all the same, located in different
28 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

positions in the play of difference my authority!

that is existence (Ronai 2002, 123). Maybe I am a hypocrite because
just the other day I was talking to
Supervisor: Well, you are not a fellow doctoral student in politi-
writing a novel here, but a piece cal science and I was arguing for
of research. How will the commit- the need to have a clear and valid
tee evaluate it? Aesthetic qualities method of analysis. My colleague
aside, a thesis is about research. wanted to do a discourse analysis,
We come back to the question of and I was clearly advocating for an
what counts as legitimate research analytic method that will spell out
and what are the means through in detail how the text was to be as-
which it can be evaluated. sessed, and based on what criteria.
I was pushing for a design that was
Student: I have to say you struck to be evaluated in terms of reliability
a chord here. In spite of the case and validity. When I disagreed with
I am making for authoethnogra- the interpretation of a certain phe-
phy, I am also ambivalent towards nomenon, I wanted to know how
it. I think my ambivalence stems she has observed the phenomenon,
precisely from this problem of the what were the criteria she used in
evaluation: how can autoethnogra- analyzing it. In retrospect, I realize
phy be assessed? Particularly when that whenever one disagrees with
I am in the position of the instruc- a political position, questions of the
tor, evaluating student assignments, validity of the analysis tool become
the question of evaluation becomes foregrounded as more important.
more important. I am not sure why, Autoethnographers make the
but when I am the evaluator, I feel case that there are criteria that can
more compelled to reinforce the be used for evaluation, even if they
boundary between academic think- see the concept of criteria as posi-
ing as skilled research and fiction tivist, as something that is beyond
(or any type of knowledge and writ- culture, beyond ourselves and our
ing not based primarily on empirical conventions, beyond human choice
proof, logical arguments, and criti- and interpretation (Bochner 2002,
cal thinking). Now that I think of it, it 259). For instance, instead of look-
is precisely this boundary between ing for validity, reliability and gener-
academic research and other forms alizability, autoethnographers look
of knowing and writing that gives me for reflexivity, impactfulness, aes-
the authority to be an evaluator; and thetic merit, substantive contribu-
when I evaluate, I find myself es- tion and degree to which the text
pousing more strongly the regime of clarifies a lived reality (Holt 2003).
truth we were talking about earlier, The merit of such a piece lies in
because this is partly the source of the level of detail or thick descrip-
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 29

tion, in the complexity of the writ- evaluate such work, it is hard to es-
ing and the emotional credibility and cape my own feelings towards the
honesty of the author. I know we piece. If I disagree with the interpre-
want to avoid simplistic descriptions tation, it becomes more difficult to
and that we need to to question in- evaluate it, and I find myself looking
tuitive or ready-made explanations, for the coherence of the argument,
but I think autoethnography allows for the proof provided by the au-
for this in providing a space for thor.
our many selves or contradictory I feel very ambivalent on auto-
selves to become visible in the text ethnography now. And I wonder if it
(Ellis 1997). Finally, autoethnogra- has to do with the fact that I have
phy espouses a particular political to identify with the position of the
goal, that of addressing inequali- evaluator. The pressures I face
ties and injustice. In this sense, its now are different: I want to ensure
evaluation could consist of asking that the arguments and the ensuing
whether the narrative speaks about knowledge they propose are indeed
empowerment and resistance to op- valid. To consider them as such, I
pressive norms (Bochner 2002). need to make sure they are based
So, a good autoethnography on a rigorous observation or logical
needs not indulge in the cozy space argumentation. At the same time, I
where the self thinks highly of her/ know that in the social sciences,
himself (Sparkes 2002). A good au- we have never overcome our inse-
toethnography is one that contrib- curities about our scientific stature.
utes to understanding the society In our hearts, if not in our minds,
in which we live. Its value lies in we know that the phenomena we
the ability to render the complexity study are messy, complicated, un-
of issues and make it appealing to certain, and soft. Somewhere along
the reader, because the knowledge the line, we became convinced that
we gain through empathy is just as these qualities were signs of inferi-
important as the knowledge we get ority which we should not expose
from numbers. And a good autoeth- (Bochner 2002, 258). When I do my
nography needs to be reflexive and own research, I feel more inclined
to make us want to engage in the di- to acknowledge this messiness and
alogue (Ellis 2004; Sparkes 2002). the results of my own position in
filtering it. I think of this as reflexiv-
Supervisor: How do these crite- ity and I tell myself it is an impor-
ria measure up when you try to use tant part of the critical interpretation
them in evaluating student work? (Richardson 2002). But when I eval-
uate other peoples research, things
Student: You are right, its not are not always the same. Yes, I still
very easy because whenever I try to ask questions around the position
30 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

of the researcher, but the way I ask your point about legitimacy and
such questions sounds more as if the networks of power behind it. It
the researcher can get to the es- makes me think that, to a certain
sence of things if her own biases do extent, autoethnography is so ap-
not get in the way. pealing and yet so problematic pre-
cisely because it has not achieved
Supervisor: On the one hand, full legitimacy. Its marginal posi-
you are talking about criteria for tion is both a promise of expanding
evaluating autoethnographic work. what counts as academic research,
On the other, you are talking about and a threat to it. I can see how the
the politics of the profession. Lets whole discussion about criteria of
get back to the question of the le- evaluation is in fact one in which the
gitimacy of the method: its hard to boundary of academic work is both
think of what counts as a method challenged and reinforced; for in or-
without considering the politics of der to legitimize autoethnography,
the discipline in which you are writ- I borrow from the vocabulary and
ing. It matters a great deal if you are tactics of the established method-
positivist or constructivist; if you are ological corpus, whether quantita-
interested in causal relations and ef- tive or qualitative (Ellis 1997; Ellis
fects, or if you are more interested and Bochner 2006; Sparkes 2000).
in understanding meaning-making The discussion we have here is of a
practices. In terms of authority, if quite different nature from the act of
you are a famous scholar like Bruno reading autoethnographic pieces. In
Latour, presenting your theory by many published autoethnographies,
means of a funny dialogue between the legitimacy of the method is not
a student and a professor, you can necessarily put under question,
say things in a quite different man- but performed by the fact that the
ner than if you are only a graduate pieces are published in academic
student doing an autoethnographic outlets. In my case, I am doing an
dissertation20. Your future depends autoethnography from a different
on how you are evaluated in the position: as a doctoral student, wor-
defense! The way in which you es- ried about my own defense; thus my
tablish yourself as a scholar within choice of a method becomes crucial
a particular discipline and using a to my professional future. I need to
specific method will matter a lot in be strategic here, not only on my
terms of what kind of departments method, but on my politics as well.
will want to hire you and what re-
search funds you can access. ***
The choice of autoethnography
Student: Maybe I am not think- as a method is neither a simple
ing very strategically here. I see nor a purely rational act. It involves
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 31

my worldview, my political commit- largely defined along the lines of rea-

ments but also my position within son and demonstration (Fay 1996;
the various networks of power per- Hamilton 1992). A leading figure of
meating the process of academic this paradigm, Francis Bacon once
research. Through the metalogue observed that there are and can be
above, I wanted to reveal how this only two ways of searching into and
choice looks like from my perspec- discovering the truth. The one flies
tive as a doctoral student and how, from senses and particulars to the
through my choice, I become the most general axioms [...]. The other
node where various lines of power derives axioms from sense and par-
intersect. The choice thus becomes ticulars, rising by a gradual and un-
the mechanism through which I broken ascent, so that it arrives at
claim my authority as an aspiring the most general axioms last of all
academic. (in Hollis 2002, 23). As Bacon tells
Because autoethnography is us, there can only be two forms of
a method at the margins of aca- scientific knowledge - induction and
demic research, constructing its le- deduction. Thus, the question now
gitimacy is a very important stage becomes: where may autoethnog-
in this process of claiming author- raphy fit here and what elements
ity. Autoethnography is a contested can be of use in claiming legitimacy
method not only from the vantage for this method?
point of positivist methodologies, As discussed above, theres also
but also from within the qualitative a need to construct the legitimacy of
paradigm. Thus, constructing its le- autoethnography in relation to con-
gitimacy needs to be done contex- structivist paradigms. In such cas-
tually and planned strategically. For es, autoethnography would rely on
example, by virtue of its full embrace other type of criteria like credibility,
of subjectivity, autoethnography rep- transferability, dependability, and
resents a clash between method- confirmability (Lincoln 2002, 329)
ologies that assume the separation and on the intellectual frameworks
between the scholar and the social provided by an array of critical theo-
world (Denzin & Lincoln 2002; Ellis ries such as feminism, post-mod-
2004; Holt 2003; Sparkes 2000, ernism, post-structuralism and cul-
2002). In such cases, autoethnog- tural studies. Interestingly enough,
raphy may be evaluated through autoethnographys embrace of sub-
traditional positivist criteria, such jectivity is also a point of contention
as validity, reliability and generaliz- within the field of autoethnography,
ability (Neuendorf 2002, 11-13). As with some scholars trying to coun-
an author, I need to build the legiti- ter its emotional aspect with an
macy of my autoethongraphic work emphasis on the analytical dimen-
in relation to the scientific paradigm, sion (Anderson 2006; Atkins 2006).
32 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

Such attempts make an explicit ef- ticular disciplinary/ institutional net-

fort to justify this method by situat- works of power. Drawing on mul-
ing it within the tradition of symbolic tiple conversations and experiences
interactionism and by distinguishing as a doctoral student in the interdis-
between evocative (concerned with ciplinary field of communications,
producing compelling descriptions) the metalogue above tries to cap-
and analytic forms of autoethnogra- ture the ways in which my position
phy. The latter are then positioned as as an imagined student facing an
the viable and valuable (Anderson imagined supervisor and an imag-
2006, 378) forms of this method. In ined doctoral committee becomes
this process, analytic autoethnog- part and parcel of this negotiation
raphys subjectivity is being tamed of my authority as a speaker. As
and the method is made consistent Crotty argues, at the same time, it is
with the regime of truth of academ- connected to my position within the
ic research: the defining character- academic system; a system that,
istic of analytic social science is to implicitly or explicitly constructs le-
use empirical data to gain insight gitimacy based on where you are lo-
into some broader set of social phe- cated within the hierarchy, what type
nomena than those provided by the of research you are doing and who
data themselves (Anderson 2006, is reading your paper.
387). By espousing this analytic Last, but not least, the choice of
goal, subjectivity becomes enlisted a method and the ways in which the
under and reduced to theoretical author may need to construct its le-
development, refinement, and ex- gitimacy are also affected by the fact
tension (ibid). that this paper is a submission to a
The shifts within the autoethno- peer-review journal. Thus, through
graphic movement and its connec- this paper, I enter into a relation with
tions to other fields and power dy- the potential reviewers, the institu-
namics suggest that the legitimacy tional format of the journal and its
of a method is never a given thing. take on academic writing. To what
Instead, the process of choosing extent will the format of this paper
criteria of evaluation and intellectual will be accepted as a potential sub-
legacies becomes a performance of mission? Will it upset the imagined/
legitimacy in itself, an act through potential reviewers/ readers who,
which I establish myself as an au- while sympathetic to autoethnogra-
thoritative speaker. As a student - phy, may remain unconvinced about
and particularly in the context of a its scientific status or contribution
doctoral thesis - this performance is (as Holt (2003) describes)? I would
crucial: the method acts as a way like to suggest that the autoethno-
of inserting myself within particular graphic nature of this paper and its
schools of thought and within par- metalogue format are soliciting the
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 33

reader to actively engage with the tative research tradition (Denzin

established norms and expecta- 2006, 422) and to open a new space
tions of academic research. In fact, for analysis which is not tied to the
the compromise of this paper - part explicit arguments, but rather stems
metalogue, part incipient analy- from how stories work (ibid.).
sis - reflects the ongoing exchange This form of analysis resists
between the author and the (imag- reaching some conclusion about
ined and real) reviewers, who often the human condition or something
require the re-writing of autoethno- that holds true for all people at all
graphic pieces so that they clearly time (Ellis and Bochner 2006, 438).
outline these works expected con- Where does this leave my status,
tribution to knowledge (Holt 2003; as an aspiring academic? While this
Sparkes 2000). By contrast, auto- intellectual effort of opening new
ethnographic contributions by al- spaces is appealing, its implications
ready established scholars are often are also problematic. I am trying to
published in dialogical or even po- enter this profession precisely be-
etic formats (e.g. Denzin 2006; Ellis cause, in the end, I do espouse the
and Bochner 2006; Pelias 2005). Enlightenments argument on rea-
These various dimensions of son as the means through which we
power networks are, of course, both can oppose dogmatism and taken-
contingent and contextual. But so is for-granted beliefs. While I find that
my own position on autoethnogra- our values and politics are always
phy. I have tried to capture this by with us and therefore in our work, I
referencing my own ambivalence also believe that there is a universal
towards autoethnography, an am- quality to reasoning that can tran-
bivalence that I link to my varied scend them. In particular instances,
position within the academic sys- I do see that the methods of scien-
tem. On the one hand, I am not yet tific inquiry are only one out of many
a legitimate member of this system. possible modes of inquiry, a rhe-
On the other hand, in certain roles torical style and that other forms of
(such as being an instructor or a re- inquiry, focused on emphasizing the
viewer), I am asked to act on behalf human dimension rather than caus-
of the system. Doing an autoeth- al logic, are also possible (Pelias
nography may challenge the pro- 2006, 417-8). Yet, on the whole, I
cesses through which the boundary remain committed to forms of rea-
of the academic system (and par- soning drawing from logic as well as
ticularly the boundary between aca- from the ongoing questioning of the
demic knowledge and other forms proof (Popper 1965).
of knowledge) is being maintained. As much as I may protest against
What autoethnography seeks to do some of the totalizing aspects of the
is precisely to create a new quali- established regime of truth, I am
34 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

not entirely against it. Indeed, I am ect, a negotiation that brings togeth-
part of it. Thus, when I have to act er my values and my position within
as an evaluator of academic work, the academic system, as well as the
for instance, my ambivalence to au- networks of power within which I am
toethnography is heightened. This trying to insert myself.
ambivalence has also been noted
by previous autoethnographers, Endnotes
particularly in instances where they
realized that their own defense of
Other qualitative methods also bring the
researcher to the forefront of the research
the legitimacy of the method bor- process, retaining this commitment to re-
rows from the established norms of flexivity and critical engagement. In the
academic argumentation (e.g. Ellis case of feminist inspired reflexive ethnog-
and Bochner 2006; Holt 2003). In raphies, Suki Ali notes that researchers
my case, I try to rationalize it as an have to be reflexive not only in terms of
how their identity comes to intersect with
indicator that the regime of truth- or the research process, but also in terms of
the hegemonic claim over what can how that relates to issues of power, and
constitute knowledge - is never fully impacts on research and respondents
dominant, but also resisted. In my (2006: 476). However, unlike autoethnog-
case, I both challenge and internal- raphy, they are still using other peoples
experiences as data.
ize and use it to establish myself as
an authoritative speaker. Therefore, 2
Other prominent advocates of autoeth-
this regime of truth, which support- nography are sociologists Laurel Rich-
ed the various lines of power ex- ardson and Norman Denzin. The latter is
posed in the metalogue, should not an important figure in the legitimation of
autoethnography as a qualitative method
be understood simply through the through his work on qualitative methodol-
conceptual binary enforcement/ ogy in social sciences (see for instance
submission, but as a node through Denzin and Lincoln 2002).
which power flows which involves
processes of internalization and
The politics of the method refer to the ar-
gument that methods cannot be separated
resistance (Foucault 1977/1980). from particular worldviews - or discourses,
Ironically, it is in those nodes that the in Foucaults formulation - which are part
hegemony of the regime of truth is of the social distribution of power. Foucault
being both re-established and con- argued that some scientific methods (such
tested, keeping this regime flexible as those characterizing medicine or psy-
chology) are an intrinsic part of the modern
enough to be able to deal with new forms of social control (Frank 1982, 66).
contingencies, contexts and posi- Similarly, Clifford and Marcus (1986) have
tions. Choosing a method is not discussed the impossibility of separating
merely a logical deduction from the ethnography, as a method, from interpreta-
research question I am asking; it in- tion. The latter always implies our position
and worldview.
volves a negotiation of what counts
as a legitimate method for my proj- 4
The two characters presented here (the
Dumitrica: Choosing Methods, Negotiating Legitimacy 35

supervisor and the student) are both reflec- 8

In fairness, a certain degree of reflection
tions of my own persona. They do not rep- on how researchers become inserted into
resent any specific people; they grew out the research process has always been
of my own struggles with academic work. present, even in quantitative methods.
I should point out that my own doctoral For instance, concepts such as nation,
project is not an autoethnographic one, al- ethnicity or identity have always been
though I have been using autoethnography recognized as connected to the research-
in a collaborative project (detailed in Dumi- ers personal values and political commit-
trica and Gaden 2009). tments. Nevertheless, this did not prevent
scholars from trying to develop models
I am thinking here of theories such as that would limit the subjective aspect of
post-structuralism or post-modernism, these concepts and provide an objective
which cannot be confined to disciplinary definition that would make them ame-
boundaries. Similarly, feminist or post- nable to proper inquiry (see for instance
colonial epistemologies are often used to Karl Deutschs attempt to build a scientific
formulate research projects in specific dis- model of nationalism, modelled after cyber-
ciplines. For a more detailed discussion of netic theory). However, for the purposes of
meta-theory in social sciences see Delanty this argument, I have not engaged with this
(2000). problematic here.

I have been introduced to autoethnogra- 9
Andrew C. Sparkes describes these
phy within the context of a course on re- hardships in two different settings: in the
search methods in communication studies. defense of an autoethnographic thesis
Within this disciplinary field, autoethnog- (Sparkes 2002) and in the review of an
raphy may be seen as a means to access autoethnographic journal article (Sparkes
meaning-making processes. This marks 2000). For Sparkes, the question of how to
autoethnography as a method able to ad- judge a piece that does not fall within the
dress concerns specific to communication traditional boundaries of academic work
scholars (such as how we make sense of needs to be accompanied by an aware-
the world around us). For example, my col- ness and willingness on the part of review-
league and I have used autoethnography ers/ defense committee to move outside
as a method of research in virtual worlds. their own particular paradigmatic position
We argued that this method allows us to (Sparkes 2000, 29).
tackle the dynamics of online gender con-
struction and performance, and we made a 10
I am refering to the section in Latours
case for its legitimacy by using both femi- book Reassembling the Social (2005),
nist theories and previous work on gender where a student meets a professor to talk
in virtual worlds (see Dumitrica and Gaden about doing an actor-network research
2009). project.

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Are we all on the same page?:
The Challenges and Charms of
Collaboration on a Journey through
Emily Bruusgaard, Paula Pinto, Jennifer
Swindle, Satomi Yoshino

Over the last decade, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
has been actively working to encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative
approaches to acquiring and disseminating knowledge in Canada. How inter-
disciplinarity is understood and how it is translated into practice has been a
source of debate, however. In this paper, we examine how we problematised
interdisciplinarity and collaboration and how we learned from this process
as a student group in the context of Hidden Costs / Invisible Contributions, a
large multi-university research project based at the University of Alberta.

Students have been involved at a number of levels in this project: our MA,
MSc and doctoral research have become intertwined with and integral to the
project; we have authored and co-authored papers and presentations, we
have assisted in other members research, and we have been involved in
the SSHRC mid-term review. As emerging scholars, in a project which has
combined the research and knowledge of both the social sciences and the
humanities, we have had to develop our own strategies for negotiating differ-
ences. In this paper, we will investigate four key areas that we have identified
as potential challenges to successful collaboration: conceptual, methodologi-
cal, pragmatic and personal differences. In our examination of the difficulties
and rewards that we faced as students in each area, we will argue that suc-
cessful collaborative and interdisciplinary work across the social sciences and
humanities requires a reconfiguration of the ways that we are taught to see
our particular disciplines. We have had to challenge how we understand the
language, practice and function of our disciplines and the manner in which we
approach this work as individuals. This has been a transformative process for
each of us, but also one that has lent a renewed rigour and expanded scope
in our own individual work.

Key Words: interdisciplinarity, collaboration, multidisciplinarity,

SSHRC, MCRI, student research, translation, relationship-building,
power, personal epistemology

Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1

2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
40 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

The real voyage of discovery con- the charms and challenges of trans-
sists not in seeking new landscapes, lating a SSHRC policy of interdis-
but in having new eyes. ciplinary collaboration into practice
-Marcel Proust (quoted in Clark, by relating our own student experi-
2006) ences working on a SSHRC-funded
program of research, Hidden Costs/
Invisible Contributions (HCIC)1. We
Introduction are going to explain why we believe
Since its inception in 1977, the that interdisciplinary collaboration
Social Sciences and Humanities is important for student training and
Research Council of Canada how this process has given (and
(SSHRC), a Canadian government- continues to give) depth and rich-
funded agency which supports ness to our individual work, without
Canadian and international scholar- glossing over the difficulties inher-
ship, has been actively working to ent to interdisciplinary collaboration
encourage interdisciplinary and col- or the challenges that we face going
laborative approaches to acquiring forward from this project.
and disseminating knowledge in the Our collaborative journey offi-
research it funds (Klein 1996). How cially began in January 2003, with
that interdisciplinarity is under- the start-up of the HCIC program of
stood and how it is translated into research. Drawing upon research
practice has been a source of de- and knowledge from the social sci-
bate, however. In the academy, the ences and humanities, this program
term, interdisciplinarity, has mul- considered both the costs of care-
tiple meanings, with different risks giving for older adults and adults
and implications for each stake- with disability and the contribu-
holder in the research project (Klein tions of these individuals to soci-
2005). For student researchers, in ety. The HCIC team drew together
particular, whose future careers are various researchers, practitioners,
closely tied to SSHRC funding, and NGO partners, policymakers and
often dependent on research posi- students from across Canada and
tions within SSHRC-funded initia- internationally, who were united in
tives, collaborative interdisciplinarity their interests in aging and disabil-
can be new and difficult terrain to ity, and who were willing to work
negotiate. Surprisingly, while there collaboratively with others. HCIC
has been a significant body of re- posed several major research ques-
search on interdisciplinarity and tions: What are the hidden costs
collaboration within the academy, of care to caregivers and what are
there is almost nothing that focus- the invisible contributions made by
es exclusively on student perspec- older adults and adults with disabil-
tives. In this paper we will examine ity? How do we define care and
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 41

contribution in modern society? Our MA, MSc and doctoral research

Are these definitions limiting or ex- work became intertwined with and
clusionary in any way? HCIC re- integral to the project; we assisted
search has included an annotated in other members research; we au-
bibliography of the representations thored and co-authored papers and
of care in Canadian literature, his- presentations (locally, nationally
torical studies of Canadian and in- and internationally); we were fully
ternational government programs involved in annual team meetings
for older citizens, a study of media and symposiums; and we had a stu-
representations of disability, and a dent representative on the execu-
policy review on caregiver compen- tive committee.
sation for 10 countries, among oth- In his seminal text, The Reflective
ers. Although all stakeholders were Practitioner, Donald Schn argues
equally significant, this paper repre- that, in real-world practice, prob-
sents the experiences of HCIC stu- lems do not present themselves to
dent members, whose involvement practitioners as givens. They must
SSHRC explicitly encourages. be constructed from the materials
SSHRC is the largest single of problematic situations that are
source of funding for social sci- puzzling, troubling, and uncertain
ences and humanities research in (1984, 308). From the first HCIC
Canada. One of SSHRCs objec- meeting, the student group was
tives is to provide unique opportu- concerned with the issue of how we
nities for training students and post- were going to work together across
doctoral fellows in a collaborative, disciplines and research interests.
interdisciplinary research environ- We had a strong desire to work with
ment (SSHRC). In addition, the for- others and to learn how our work
mal application for major research could both complement and be com-
projects requires that researchers plemented by other team members.
address the number of students We also had a concern for self-re-
involved in the project, the overall flection, were always thinking about
quality of the proposed training ac- interdisciplinary work, and would
tivities, career development oppor- get others talking about collabora-
tunities, and the potential to provide tion. As a result, the student group
student training in a well-struc- took a lead throughout the course of
tured, cross-disciplinary research HCIC research in studying interdis-
environment (SSHRC). As HCIC ciplinarity and collaborative practic-
students, we were a diverse group es within the larger group. For most
from different universities, different of the project, however, this interest
disciplines, and were at different was more practical, intuitive and
stages of our own personal careers hands-on, than research-centred.
when we became involved in HCIC. We wanted to know how we, as in-
42 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

dividuals and as a group, changed Our journey will begin by exploring

and adapted through the process how our way of working together has
of collaboration and interdisciplinar- transformed conceptually, method-
ity. It was not until much later in the ologically, and pragmatically areas
project that we began to corroborate which we recognise are interdepen-
our findings with other research in dent and may have some overlap-
interdisciplinarity. This paper exam- ping ideas and themes. Further on
ines how we problematised inter- in the paper, we will suggest that
disciplinarity and collaboration as a beyond our conceptual, method-
student group and how we learned ological, and pragmatic training, we
from this process. have also developed as individu-
In all our various conversations als. Our involvement in this project
with HCIC student participants, we has taught us what it feels like to
found that three key areas stood be valued and to know good men-
out as being potential challenges or torship and it has also significantly
charms to collaboration. We identi- changed how we approach learning,
fied these areas broadly as concep- teaching, and relationship building.
tual, methodological and pragmatic Finally, we will also examine closely
differences. We also noted that the significance of student involve-
personal experiences were often in- ment, what we have learned about
cluded in discussions of the collab- the process of collaboration, and
orative process. To further explore how it may facilitate the evolution of
the challenges and charms resulting future collaborative work. The les-
from these areas, we questioned sons we learned are useful to any-
current and former HCIC students one thinking about or exploring the
about their experiences in each of possibilities of collaboration, wheth-
these four areas. Eight of eleven er student, professor or researcher
students contributed their opinions, of any kind, both inside and outside
which were then amalgamated for the academy.
review and discussion. Although
this was a self-reflective exercise, Interdisciplinary collaboration a
we felt that these views and expe- brief review of the research
riences were important to share,
and we draw upon some of these Julie Thompson Klein argues that
thoughts throughout this paper. interdisciplinarity is neither a sub-
Given SSHRCs interest in col- ject matter nor a body of content.
laborative approaches and student It is, she suggests, a process for
training, and the gap in the litera- achieving an integrative synthesis,
ture, research on the experiences of a process that usually begins with
students working in the context of a a problem, question, topic, or issue.
large project is timely and relevant. Individuals must work to overcome
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 43

problems created by differences lenges most often discussed as

in disciplinary language and world posing significant difficulties to the
view (1990, 188). Before we reflect integration of multiple disciplines
on our own journey through this pro- and methodologies in a research
cess, let us briefly flag what the lit- project include differences among
erature says about interdisciplinarity researchers in terms of worldviews
and how it works. and approaches to field practice,
A growing body of research on this and the lack of a common vocabu-
topic addresses the benefits or ad- lary (Klein 1996).
vantages of collaborative research. Slatin et al. (2004), for instance,
Scholars investigating these issues describe difficulties in communicat-
highlight that collaboration among ing across disciplines due to unfa-
different disciplines fosters creativ- miliarity with disciplinary language.
ity (Levine & Moreland 2004), and Qin and colleagues made similar
promotes innovation (Cummings comments a decade ago, suggest-
and Kiesler 2005) by bringing to- ing that particular attention in col-
gether ideas, tools and people from laborative projects should be paid
different domains. Others argue to differences in disciplinary termi-
that the need to address increas- nologies and working norms (1997,
ingly complex problems in nature 914). And Fairbairn and Fulton im-
and society calls for interdisciplinary portantly argue that the responsi-
approaches (Massey et al. 2006, bility of the individual participant in
Beers et al. 2006) as these are bet- interdisciplinary projects is not so
ter equipped to integrate depth with much to learn the disciplines of the
breadth of interests, visions and others, but to interpret ones own
skills (Committee on Facilitating discipline to the others (2000, 35).
Interdisciplinary Research et al. All these scholars underline the
2004, 2). importance of quality communica-
While support for interdisciplin- tion in interdisciplinary research
ary approaches is on the rise, espe- processes, although we recognize,
cially among funding agencies and as do Pereira, Marhia and Scharff
policymakers (Massey et al. 2006), (2010), that communication across
there is also widespread recogni- disciplines is neither straightforward
tion of a particular tension between nor a simple one for one translation.
the benefits to innovation of working To ensure that communication
across disciplinary and organiza- barriers do not affect the success
tional boundaries versus the risks of collaboration, several studies
that arise from the costs of coordina- recommend that differences are
tion and relationship development acknowledged and respected from
in these collaborations (Cummings the onset and that a common con-
and Kiesler 2005, p.704). The chal- ceptualisation of key concepts and
44 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

understandings is also achieved that there are socio-emotional fac-

(Massey et al. 2006; Larson 2003). ets to the interdisciplinary process
As Beers and colleagues (2006) ar- that are integral to a successful
gue, in order to function as a group outcome. Indeed, in their examina-
and bridge their differences in per- tion of seven-year research collab-
spective, team members need to oration, Engebreston and Wardell
negotiate a common ground. The (1997) note that acceptance, vali-
more individual members identify dation, commitment, synergy, and
themselves, their goals, and their having fun are fundamental char-
perceptions about the outcome of acteristics of thriving partnerships.
their work, the more successful the In the absence of mutual trust and
group becomes. In short, effective respect, they conclude, research
communication can help teams to projects are less likely to reach their
develop shared ideas and concepts potential.
(Klein 1994), and allow the estab- The emphasis on flexibility and
lishment of connections among re- openness as components of suc-
searchers from different disciplines cessful collaboration further sug-
and sites. gests that epistemological transfor-
Other studies have pointed out mation may be a part of the cognitive
that being flexible to a diversity of makeup of interdisciplinary process-
perspectives rather than judge- es. The study of personal epistemol-
mental or prejudicial are useful skills ogy (or conceptions that individuals
when working with people from a have about knowledge and know-
variety of disciplines and cultures ing), a flourishing area since William
(Stead & Harrington 2000). Slatin Perry published his first study in the
et al. (2004) specifically link the is- 1960s, has more often examined
sue of power and disciplinary dif- the relevance of these constructs
ferences, and point out that not all for teaching and learning (e.g.
team members view all disciplines Schommer-Aikins, Duell and Barker
involved in their project as equally 2003; Schommer-Aikins 2004;
important. They explain that some Hofer and Pintrich 1997; King and
members place greater emphasis Kitchener, 1994; Khun 1991), but it
on concepts and methods of spe- seems reasonable to similarly con-
cific disciplines over others and, sider their potential in the context of
intentionally or unintentionally, cre- interdisciplinary work. Citing a num-
ate a hierarchy of values. Failing to ber of authors in the field, Barbara
establish the sense of shared pow- Hofer (2004) maintains that beliefs
er discourages facilitation of trust about the nature of knowledge in-
among team members and their fluence comprehension, cognitive
commitment to the project (Stead processing and conceptual change
& Harrington 2000). This indicates learning, but also appear to promote
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 45

epistemological development by epistemological development.

fostering ones competency to criti- Studies in interdisciplinarity have
cally evaluate information, resolve also examined the role of organiza-
competing knowledge claims and tional issues in collaboration. Two
coordinate theory and evidence. factors reappear several times in
Along similar lines, we would ar- this literature: physical distance
gue that interdisciplinary work, by and time. In a study examining suc-
engaging a dialogue among re- cessful coordination of collabora-
searchers of different disciplines tive research, Cumming and Kiesler
both calls upon and stimulates the (2005) found that multi-university
development of more sophisticated projects tend to be less successful,
perspectives on knowledge. Studies on average, than projects located at
that have addressed interdisciplinar- a single university. They also argue
ity in the context of post-secondary that multi-university projects require
education (Newell 1992; Fairbairn more complex types of communica-
and Fulton 2000) seem to provide tion systems, including workshops
support to this claim. For instance, and meetings, because distance
William Newell (1992), in his discus- and organizational boundaries tend
sion of undergraduate interdisciplin- to interfere with such coordination
ary education, argues that students mechanisms that involve frequent
exposed to interdisciplinary work and spontaneous conversation
learn to go beyond logical skill sets and/or problem-solving. And finally,
and become strong critical think- while some studies pointed out time
ers, reflexive of self and discipline. issues as a barrier to collaborative
Fairbairn and Fulton (2000) assert research (Fox & Faver 1985; Katz &
that in contrast to the oft-repeated Martin 1995), others view time, par-
observation that established aca- ticularly for relationship-building, as
demics are able to take more risks a necessary element of element of
than less-established academics team work (Larson 2003).
and are therefore more likely to be- In sum, an emphasis on qual-
come interdisciplinary, it is, in fact, ity communication and the socio-
junior academics that are most of- emotional aspects of collaboration
ten open to learning newer, more in- as foundational axes of successful
terdisciplinary approaches to teach- interdisciplinary work, a growing in-
ing and learning. While this is an terest in personal epistemological
area certainly deserving further at- processes in the context of interdis-
tention in the literature, these stud- ciplinarity, and attention to organi-
ies begin to offer some evidence on zational aspects of multi-site, multi-
the multiple intersections at the in- disciplinary research are some of
dividual level between participation the critical issues raised in the lit-
in interdisciplinary processes and erature on interdisciplinarity. These
46 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

broad topics roughly correspond to tions asked and the things asked
the four areas (conceptual, person- of them are informed by the theory
al, methodological and pragmatic) central to each discipline. In think-
that the student group in our project ing about care and caregiving, for
identified as crucial to our journey example, where a literature scholar
toward interdisciplinarity. We now asks questions about the depictions
turn to the analysis of this experi- of older adults in fiction over the last
ence. twenty years, a sociologist might ask
questions about the statistical data
A journey through collaboration: of a particular segment of the popu-
expanding the conceptual land- lation. Each approach is perfectly
scape valid for their individual disciplines,
and indeed, the questions they each
The first area identified in our pose of their subjects might be quite
discussions around interdisciplin- similar, but the questions are limited
ary collaboration, the conceptual, to a particular class of objects, which
was also the most difficult to isolate in turn circumscribes and limits how
and define clearly. Paradoxically, each individual sets up a research
however, it was also the area where project.
students felt the most profound Students were integrated into the
changes in the course of the re- HCIC project from the earliest stages
search project. The Oxford English of development. Much of our anxiety
Dictionary defines a concept very at the beginning revolved around
loosely as an idea of a class of ob- how were going to work together
jects; a general notion; an invention across these disciplinary boundar-
(OED). The concept is what lies be- ies and much of our time was spent
hind the research project: it is si- in thinking conceptually about how
multaneously the idea or invention we were going to build working rela-
around which the research project is tionships with each other. How were
built and the main research question we going to communicate, express
that becomes the framework of the ideas, and work across our very dif-
project. At the conceptual stage we ferent disciplines?
look at and think about all the given These anxieties were very real
data on a particular subject and ask and appeared at first almost insur-
ourselves, What is missing? mountable. Since we were all, more
It is important to note, however, or less, thinking within a discipline,
that the concept behind a research it was difficult to think conceptually
project is also in large part that idea outside of those boundaries. Would
of a class of objects. In the con- it not be a challenge to balance all the
ceptual stage disciplinary foci are ideas and viewpoints of the student
most apparent, because the ques- group and then synthesize them into
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 47

one research project? Would it not developed within the student group
be difficult for each of us to find an as a discrete entity within HCIC.
individual place within the research, Perhaps, as Fairbairn and Fulton
and would it not be even more diffi- (2000) suggest, because we were
cult to focus to not be so inclusive students, at an early stage in our
that the work would lose its impact? academic careers, and able to im-
Or would one form of research, one merse ourselves fully into an experi-
discipline, take precedence over the ence like HCIC, we were able to try
others? Where would we draw the on and discard new ideas and new
line? Consequently, student pre- approaches without inherent risk to
sentations, in these early stages of our academic futures. It may also be
HCIC research, tended to focus on that we were individually very open
how the lines of communication and to the process of collaboration and
responsibility between researchers found that it fit our own personali-
might operate over the course of the ties and learning styles. It likely also
project. has a lot to do with the leadership
What we were really modelling, of more senior colleagues on this
as it turns out, was how to build project; colleagues who welcomed
trust. Paramount to a successful student ideas and student input and
working relationship was to under- enthusiastically supported our initia-
stand, at the conceptual level, how tives. We believe that the SSHRC
we each approached a problem, funding for graduate research as-
how we defined that problem, how sistants and the ability to work long-
we communicated it to the rest of the term on this project also helped.
group, and how we could use this The students within HCIC were all
productively as a group. As the stu- involved with the project for two or
dent group began to work together more years, while the authors of
collaboratively on posters and panel this article were involved, whether
presentations, and with other team directly or indirectly, for 3 or more
members on HCIC research and in- years.
dividual dissertation work, we had It is important to recognize, too,
to come up with our own practical that HCIC included only disciplines
strategies for overcoming our seem- from humanities and social scienc-
ing differences. Somewhat ironical- es. Engineering and science, which
ly, the students we interviewed said Biglan (cited by Schommer-Aikins,
that the more the students worked Duell and Barker 2003) calls the
together, the more they trusted each hard disciplines, were not a part
other and the more they trusted of the collaboration team. According
each other, the more faith they put to Alexander (1992), in the humani-
into the process. It was surprising ties and social sciences, answers to
how quickly and how fully that trust problems are often incomplete, and
48 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

naturally encompass multiplicity. As to. We are no longer content with

humanities and social sciences re- limiting ourselves to the approaches
searchers, we have been trained in defined by our disciplines and this
relativist thinking. It is possible that has transformed, expanded and re-
such exposure has helped us de- shaped our individual research out-
velop, even before participating in side of the HCIC project.
HCIC, a personal epistemology that
was more prone to accept an under- Addressing methodological chal-
standing of the nature of knowledge lenges
as complex, interrelated and fluid.
Had the team included hard disci- This process has not been easy,
plines, it is very likely that reaching clearly, and it has required some
an agreement on basic concepts time, patience and a willingness to
would have been more difficult. try out new approaches. Once em-
Students within HCIC all clearly barked on that journey though, we
identified significant changes in very quickly realized that we were
their conceptual thinking as a direct questioning our epistemological
result of their collaborative and in- stance: what constitutes knowl-
terdisciplinary work on the project. edge and how do we get it? In a
All of them said that the theoreti- very practical sense, these inter-
cal base from which each is work- rogations translated in our group
ing is richer for having listened to, into issues of scientific methodol-
and worked with, each other. The ogy. Methodologies are modes of
literature person now sees histori- procedure, or systematic ways of
cal, anthropological and sociologi- doing things. Methods, in turn,
cal implications to literary texts, the are the techniques researchers use
sociology student is incorporating to access and interpret their data
philosophical concepts and liter- (Hesse-Biber and Leavy 2004).
ary images to expand and enrich Methodologies and methods are
her social analysis, and the hu- very important parts of the research
man ecologists have expanded process, and therefore also make
the interdisciplinary theory they had up some of the charms and chal-
already absorbed into a larger con- lenges of working with an interdisci-
text. We do not suggest that these plinary team.
approaches have magically synthe- In the social sciences and hu-
sized into one overarching or meta- manities, researchers apply a vari-
discipline, nor, would we want them ety of methodologies: some rely on
to. Rather, we have instinctively be- quantitative approaches drawing
gun to integrate other approaches from national or even multinational
into the questions we ask and into surveys, performing complex statis-
the class of objects we apply them tical analysis and elaborating graph-
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 49

ics and tables to interpret and de- dently of our minds. In this sense,
pict their data. They work with large for qualitative investigators, the po-
numbers and anonymous samples sitions of both the researcher and
that make possible the generalisa- the researched are intrinsic to the
tion of results to a wider population research process (Sale, Lohfeld &
with an estimated degree of error. Brazil 2002). In short, there is no
Others are more closely associ- such thing as value-free, neutral
ated with qualitative methodologies knowledge-production processes.
and assemble their data based on In most disciplines, one of these
observation, interaction, interview, approaches is usually privileged over
narrative and discourse analysis, the other. Students are frequently
and other unobtrusive modes of more familiar with one tradition or
gathering information and knowl- the other, as the two paradigms
edge. They work with smaller sam- tend to be taught as independent
ples, collecting stories, meanings of one another, and it is uncommon
and worldviews, accumulating field that graduate programs emphasize
notes, searching archival docu- both to the same degree. HCIC
ments, examining images and texts. encompassed a large, multidisci-
Their data is interpretative, process plinary team and involved multiple
oriented and holistic. projects that employed qualitative
Academics from the two traditions and quantitative methodologies. Not
work within very different paradig- surprisingly then, from a method-
matic frameworks. The quantitative ological perspective we found that
paradigm is often associated with participating in HCIC was beneficial
positivism (and post-positivism), as it provided us with exposure to a
which assumes that all phenomena wide range of approaches. In sum,
can be reduced to empirical indica- as one student put it, being a mem-
tors, that an objective reality exists ber of HCIC has helped us in devel-
independent of human perception, oping research skills and becoming
and that the investigator and the more competent researcher[s].
investigated are independent enti- Curiously, student responses did
ties (Sale, Lohfeld & Brazil, 2002). not express many concerns in rela-
In this sense, positivists assert that tion to collaboration around meth-
research can be conducted within odological issues. Part of this may
a neutral, value-free framework. In actually stem from the way that we
contrast, the qualitative paradigm approached collaborative research.
is based on interpretivism and con- We spent a lot of time just talking in
structivism. It claims that reality is HCIC: talking as a research group,
socially constructed and constantly talking as student researchers,
changing, and therefore is multiple and talking as colleagues. The un-
and cannot be accessed indepen- intended effect of these dialogues
50 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

was that it allowed us to explore and has offered us, in terms of enriching
overcome methodological differenc- our academic training and enhanc-
es both before and as we were col- ing our career prospects as future
laborating on research projects. researchers.
While the HCIC initiative offered
students great exposure to a variety Against all odds: confronting
of methodologies, it was not neces- pragmatic difficulties in collab-
sarily a multi-methods approach. orative research
Collectively, the various research
projects conducted under HCIC em- The third key area identified in
ployed different methodologies, but student discussions around inter-
individually each one of them was disciplinarity and collaboration was
more closely associated with a qual- the pragmatics of working together.
itative or a quantitative approach. After the conceptualisation of a proj-
It was only towards the end of the ect, and the subsequent planning,
project, and especially in the context there comes a time when the proj-
of discussions regarding a possible ect has to be put into motion. This
second application for funding, that is the pragmatic stage of collabora-
the possibility of mixing and match- tive research, which we define as
ing methodological approaches in the actual practise of implementing
single studies in order to acquire a a project. This was the area which
more holistic perspective of a par- students most often identified as be-
ticular problem became more prom- ing a challenge and over the course
inent. This shift, again, was one of the HCIC research, we developed
that students seemed to experience a number of strategies to overcome
more acutely than any other mem- (both real and imagined) differenc-
bers of the HCIC team. Certainly, es.
with Bryman (2006) and others, we Power-sharing was principal
are aware that mixed approaches among student-identified concerns.
are not a panacea to all research, Because HCIC included scholars
and that ultimately it is the ques- from a variety of disciplines, as well
tion under investigation that should as practitioners, policy makers, and
guide our methodological decisions. community partners, this meant dif-
But by using multiple methods we ferences, not only in discipline, but
will be able to find broader, more also in member investment in the
comprehensive answers to our outcome of the project, goals for the
problems because we will be asking research and interests in the project.
different, more substantive and ex- This had particular significance for
citing questions. To us, the student students, especially at the beginning
group, this is perhaps one of the of the project, who perceived them-
most valuable experiences HCIC selves as the least senior members
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 51

of the research team. The physical spected and valued not as student
distances between team members research but as research in its own
was also identified as a major chal- right, we pushed ourselves to think
lenge, since the project involved a more broadly and more deeply.
number of universities and commu- When we presented our ideas to
nity agencies across Canada and others in the project, the response
other countries. we invariably got, is not can we
We believe that there was a make this work? but how do we
strong commitment to interdisciplin- make this work? and what are the
ary collaboration and to fostering tools with which we can provide you
student involvement from everyone to make this work?
involved in HCIC during the five This is not to say, however, that
years of the project. All the students there were no individual challeng-
consistently reiterated that the en- es with power-sharing. Although
couragement they received from the base for the project was at
senior team members and commu- one university, HCIC research was
nity and government partners was managed by a number of partner
a major reason for our positive ex- universities geographically distant
perience with HCIC. We were given from each other. As a result, it was
the opportunity and the funding to sometimes difficult to interpret di-
do week-long campus exchanges, rectives and suggestions from more
so that we could each visit another senior partners at other universities.
university campus and work with With multiple projects operating si-
other researchers involved in HCIC. multaneously, there was also the
Student-initiated research was wel- potential for some students to feel
comed and supported. One student, lost and isolated in the larger group.
in their response to our questions, To combat this, during annual team
suggested that this encouragement meetings, especially, we allotted a
gave students the belief that we large portion of our time to come to-
can and will be able to resolve dif- gether as a group (both as a whole
ferences and solve problems. We group and as a student group) to
were able to work successfully with- play games, exchange ideas and
in the project largely because it was discuss issues. This practice was
a strong expectation of the project fostered by the senior research-
that we could and would contribute ers and team leaders in the HCIC
in a real way. We were expected project and, as one student put it:
to offer insights and make sugges- Meetings are great opportunities to
tions, to integrate our research into put faces on names and re-connect
the larger project and to publish this with the team and the project. Its
work abroad. Because we knew that great to hear about what each one
our ideas and our research were re- of us is doing. Meetings really boost
52 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

my energy to continue for the follow- in collaborative research is often

ing year. Meeting face-to-face dur- undervalued, as studies on collabo-
ing the annual meetings made sub- ration tend to focus on the academ-
sequent discussions through email ic aspects of research. Yet experi-
and the telephone easier. ences at the personal level are as
We had the luxury of working important as those in other areas
together over an extended period, because the personal actually un-
which also allowed us to develop derpins the whole process of collab-
strong relationships with one an- oration. In our journey together, we
other. The challenge, however, is learned that the energy of interdis-
that the multi-year period of SSHRC ciplinary collaboration may actually
special project funding also meant be embedded in the socio-emotion-
we had to sustain our energy and al dimension, including the process
enthusiasm over months and years. of building and maintaining personal
This was where the planning and the relationships and trust.
practise sometimes diverged: while The HCIC project encouraged
we thought initially that WebCT and students not only to gain knowledge
email would be effective tools to of new academic-related skills such
help bridge the physical distance be- as multiple perspectives, method-
tween us, it was difficult at times to ologies, concepts, and process of
sustain conversations through this research, but also to develop less
very impersonal form of communi- obvious, but equally important skills.
cation. What came across in student Working in a team helped students
responses was that between team to learn how to interact with others
meetings, we could quickly lose at both professional and personal
momentum, and it was easy to fall levels, to develop negotiation and
back into the feeling of isolation. We problem-solving skills, and to learn
made it a consistent and conscious to ask people for help. Furthermore,
effort of the student group to try to we found a sense of community
keep in contact with each other, and belonging within this interdisci-
even if it was just to discuss minor plinary project, and took inspiration
issues. We found that frequent tele- from the personal and working ex-
phone and Skype meetings, where periences of other researchers and
we could hear the nuances of each partners. For example, over the last
others voices, helped us with this. year, while working on this paper,
our academic, topic-centered con-
The personal impact of collab- versations were often permeated
orative and interdisciplinary re- with personal anecdotes, providing
search deeper insight into our respective
worldviews. This ongoing process
The importance of the personal of exchange and sharing was ex-
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 53

tremely important in fostering mu- which is not given enough attention

tual understanding and bringing us in the literature on collaboration and
closer to each other. We began to interdisciplinarity, is our evolution
understand the world through each as individuals. Through our active
others eyes, to respect the unique engagement in the HCIC team we
contributions that each brought to learned more than simply how to do
the project while at the same time good research. Our constant expo-
allowing ourselves to transform with sure to each others work styles, life
the new concepts, methods and views and disciplinary influences,
perspectives that emerged through has quite simply transformed us.
and with this dialogue. These so- We are less ego-driven and more
cio-emotional experiences not only open to the input and approaches
apply to interdisciplinary collabora- of others. We are more supportive
tions, but will be relevant to the de- of our colleagues, and less inhibited
velopment and maintenance of our in how we learn and teach. As we
future personal and professional re- reflect on this journey against the
lationships. backdrop of the literature on inter-
disciplinarity, we want to reiterate
Discussion: lessons learned and the key lessons that have helped
challenges ahead us, both as students and scholars,
to overcome challenges and con-
The authors of this paper have tribute to successful collaboration:
travelled together along a collab-
orative journey as members of the Openness: For us as a
HCIC team. Through the research group, successful collaboration
process we have broadened our required flexibility to other per-
conceptual approach to issues, spectives, a genuine interest in
learned the epistemological value of understanding and learning from
methodological pluralism, and have others, a non-judgmental attitude
developed effective ways of working and a willingness to take the risks
together. All of these skills will not inherent in trying new approach-
only help us in our own individual es. In other words, we came to
work, but will also enhance our skills realize that successful collabora-
as future researchers and collabo- tive work builds upon personal
rators. epistemologies that accept intel-
While SSHRC requires that ma- lectual pluralism and the relativ-
jor funding initiatives involve stu- ism of knowledge and ways of
dents to provide training opportuni- knowing (Hofer and Pintrich
ties, we have gotten far more out of 1997; Schommer-Aikins, Duell
this experience than research train- and Barker 2003; Hofer 2004).
ing. An unexpected result, and one While all members of the HCIC
54 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

team were open to the process respect differences among team

of collaboration, as students we members and to define (and re-
were particularly eager to try on define) clearly the common goals
new ideas and new approaches. of the project. These experiences
Our experiences substantiate were not unique to our student
previous studies, which found group, as the importance of es-
an increase in interdisciplinary tablishing common goals and
programs of study among under- language is well documented in
graduate and graduate students interdisciplinarity literature (i.e.
who are often open to learning Klein 1994, Massey et al. 2006;
new perspectives (Committee Larson 2003). However, as we
on Facilitating Interdisciplinary reflect back on our experiences
Research et al. 2004). in HCIC, we realize the negotia-
Sharing power: In a multidis- tion of that common ground came
ciplinary, multi-stakeholder proj- largely through our willingness to
ect like HCIC, it is very important dialogue openly with one anoth-
to create a sense of shared power er.
and equal value among all disci- Trust: Trust was another key
plines and team members (Stead element in our experience. The
& Harrington 2000). As students more we worked together, the
who are typically at the bottom more we came to trust one an-
of the academic hierarchy, we other; the more we trusted one
were fortunate to be involved at another, the more we were com-
all levels in HCIC and we always mitted to the process of collabo-
felt that our opinions and ideas ration. Successful interdisciplin-
were respected and valued. ary collaboration requires a trust
Working in a less hierarchical en- both in the process and in each
vironment encouraged us to work other (Engebreston and Wardell,
harder and more creatively. This 1997). Project participants have
is an area that would benefit from to come to the project with a
further attention in research pro- commitment to working together
grams involving students. and a willingness to resolve dif-
Ongoing communication: ferences openly. At a certain level
Referred to in some studies as this also requires a belief that the
negotiating common ground other members of the team are
(Beers et al., 2006), a conscious as equally committed.
and consistent effort to maintain Time: Needing more empha-
open communication was funda- sis in the literature on collabora-
mental for our collaborative work tion and interdisciplinarity is the
to be successful. From the onset issue of time. None of this would
it was necessary to recognise and have been possible without the
Bruusgaard et al. : Are we all on the same page? 55

luxury of working together over little recognition of (and low funding

an extended period. Learning for) collaborative work. In the sci-
about each other and building ences and the social sciences there
trust, relationships and consen- is still not enough recognition of the
sus takes large commitment of value of a holistic perspective that
time and a considerable level of includes the arts, history, and phi-
patience (Larson 2003). Again, losophy. In some cases, we face the
this requires a commitment from problem of how to translate what
the project participants, both to we have learned for our individual
the process and in their invest- (and occasionally sceptical) depart-
ment in the outcome. ments.
Yet the process of interdisciplin-
We would like to point out that ary collaboration continues to mo-
there are challenges ahead for us. tivate and excite us. We did not
As the funding for this project has realize, for example, that interdis-
ended and we are each finishing our ciplinary work might offer us more
respective degrees, the authors of career choices down the road: with
this paper are faced with the chal- the economic downturn and a hiring
lenge of how to continue to work freeze in tenure track job postings,
together. Since the HCIC program several of us are looking outside of
began, SSHRC has shifted from traditional disciplines (and outside
funding 5 year programs to 7 year traditional academic jobs in several
programs. This is a positive move, cases) for our careers. We remain
as it allows for an evolution concep- firm in our belief that there is room
tually, epistemologically, and prag- in the academy for this kind of work.
matically into more integrated ways Choi & Pak (2006) argue that there
of working together. Importantly, it are varying degrees of collaborative
also allows team members to learn involvement which occur along the
from each other and grow as indi- same continuum:
viduals. Yet as we begin to look Multidisciplinarity draws on
outside of this one program of re- knowledge from different disciplines
search, we see difficulties ahead. but stays within the boundaries of
As acknowledged by the Committee those fields; Interdisciplinarity ana-
on Facilitating Interdisciplinary lyzes, synthesizes and harmoniz-
Research et al., home departments es links between disciplines into a
[that] do not recognize, encourage, coordinated and coherent whole;
and reward such activities may not Transdisciplinarity integrates the
be willing to make the extra effort re- natural, social and health sciences
quired for interdisciplinary activities in a humanities context, and in so
(2004, 62). Indeed, in the humani- doing transcends each of their tradi-
ties (at least in Canada) there is still tional boundaries. (359)
56 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

We would argue that transdisci- References

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Imperial Plants:
Modern Science, Plant Classification
and European Voyages of Discovery
Rachel ODonnell

This review essay considers Linnaeuss system of botanical nomenclature

and the eighteenth-century voyages of discovery to the Americas within the
framework offered by contemporary feminist science studies. The author
uses a feminist methodological approach toward concepts of natural knowl-
edge and knowledge production and summarizes here basic ideas that are
part of a larger project that looks at knowledges of particular plants from the
Americas and their properties, focusing on one plant still used for fertility in
the Guatemalan highlands. In this essay, the author investigatges the central-
ity of natural knowledge to the development of differing historical perspectives
on nature as well as the relationship between the development of European
botanical sciences and voyages of discovery to the Americas.

Key Words: empire, post-colonial, bioprospecting, Linneaus, botany,

feminist science studies, history of science

Botany became an important valuable plants such as cinnamon,

science during three centuries of cloves, coffee, maize, nutmeg, pep-
European empire-building from the per, rubber, sugar, tea, and tobacco.
sixteenth to the nineteenth centu- Europeans wanted to know what
ries. Ships from England, France, plants looked like and where they
the Netherlands, and Spain sailed grew; they needed to know they
to their colonies to make discover- found the plants they were looking
ies in the service of the state and for and had discovered the most
for profit. These profits did not arise valuable ones.
from precious metals as much as Botany grew and promoted
they did from other natural resourc- European voyages. Trade and
es: tropical plants, fruits, trees, capital, more than science, drove
and flowers from the Americas and collecting, classifying, and naming
the East and West Indies1. Great plants in the late seventeenth and
fortunes awaited those who grew eighteenth centuries. As it became
and handled colonial luxuries and more profitable to extract botani-
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
60 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

cal knowledge from native peoples, science, noting the relevance of bo-
Europeans created a modern his- tanical classification to a gendered
tory of cultural exchange and colo- history of science and the origins of
nial bioprospecting, i.e. Western en- such science into account. While
deavors to capitalize on indigenous some science historians argue that
knowledge of natural resources. historians of science take an almost
Science and the development of universally negative tone seeing
capitalism converged on the dis- modern science as all-too ready to
cipline of botany as ornaments in assist the powers-that-were, wheth-
European gardens, sought-after er domestic or imperial, (Drayton
medicaments, and profitable plants 2000, 128) feminist science studies
became the most important mate- often considers the political implica-
rials in the building of empire, but tions of the production of particular
only after a new objective science historical scientific knowledges. We
had taken ideological hold2. can only look at these specific mate-
This review essay takes an inter- rial events in light of their ideological
disciplinary approach to the relation- context since, as Merchant articu-
ships among science, nature, and lates, Descriptive statements about
gender in Europe in the early mod- the world can presuppose the nor-
ern period and explores the role of mative; they are then ethic-laden
Carl Linnaeus as one of the key de- (Merchant 1990, 4). Linnaeuss
velopers of modern science, placing classification system and its con-
his role in the context of political, nection to the voyages of explora-
economic and cultural changes in tion by botanists both prompted and
Europe in the sixteenth and seven- expanded much of this classifica-
teenth centuries. Beginning from tion. Indeed, constructions of gen-
the central historical analyses in the der are relevant to all this history.
field of feminist science studies, the As Ruth Watts (2005, 89) argues,
first section of this essay will outline not only were scientific impulses of
historical associations of nature and women restrained by gendered no-
science in order to put in context tions of science from the origins of
the second part of my essay and modern science, but the position of
the bulk of my argument. In order women was in line with conflicting
to fully understand the historical and modern principles that underlay a
ideological justifications for plant contested terrain in science for the
classification and European voy- centuries that followed.
ages of botanical discovery, it is im- It is in this light that I attempt to
perative to begin with a discussion illustrate the centrality of narratives
of early feminist science studies of empire to the production of rec-
works, such as Carolyn Merchants ognizable and legitimate narratives
work on the history of the origins of of science. I focus on the construc-
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 61

tions of exploration and science, Feminist writing has helped to re-

examining not only the ways in which evaluate the Western scientific rev-
ideologies are created and perpetu- olution as an essentially masculine
ated, but also the ways in which enterprise that served to classify and
they make certain responses, ac- dominate nature. Carolyn Merchant
tions and attitudes permissible and played an early role in elaborating
censor others. Scientific narratives this history, focusing on the early
are understood here as systems modern era in her 1990 text The
of meaning-production, rather than Death of Nature. Merchants efforts
simply statements or language, en- were to show how, in the context
compassing texts and images and of commercial and technological
systems that fix meaning, however change, the elements of the or-
temporarily, and enable us to make ganic frameworkits assumptions
sense of the world. Keeping in mind and values about naturecould be
the particular histories that shape either absorbed into the emerging
our knowledge, feminist science mechanical framework or objected
studies allows us to demonstrate as irrelevant (Merchant 1990, 5).
how the actions and priorities of a Feminist science studies as a field
few dominant decision-makers (in has become a valuable source of
many of these cases, European sci- information for those who challenge
entists such as Carl Linnaeus) have the hegemonic epistemology of
had repercussions historically and value-free research, and an asset
in our contemporary lives for what for all scholars, especially feminist
we understand of the natural world. scholars, who deeply value the kind
This paper takes science to be both of scientific inquiry that breaks the
part of culture and humanistic knowl- power of gender.
edge, since part of the history of sci- Londa Schiebinger is one of
ence is the formation of disciplines; these scholars, and as she has cor-
that is, what is known as science rectly articulated, what is partially
was specifically constructed in a at stake in reconceptualizing the
particular time and for particular in- history of science is access to the
dividuals, to be elaborated in the fol- missing world of knowledge, miss-
lowing essay. In its essence, then, ing as a result of sciences disciplin-
this paper moves toward a central ing of knowledge as well as a lack
question about the politics of knowl- of consideration of science as a set
edge: how is it that some theories of ideologies produced at particu-
become dominant over others? lar times in history when European
knowledge was considered superior
A Mechanized Marketplace: The and non-European cultures inferior.
Origins of Modern Science Knowledge from Europe was pre-
served and knowledge from other
62 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

cultures purposefully ignored, par- torical scientific conclusions about

ticular knowledge about the prop- womens bodies and minds, as well
erties of plants was systematically as the nature of scientific work and
removed from Western public un- the language of science (Kohlstedt
derstandings throughout the mod- 1995, 41-42). As Daniel Sherman
ern period. Colonial powers per- (2000, 712) writes, the study of co-
sisted from the sixteenth century lonialisms deployment of various
onward, the natural resources of kinds of knowledges and their con-
the Americas were transferred to struction as scientific has led to a
Europe while the bulk of plant knowl- related area of investigation: the
edge was not. Decision-making ways in which the colonial enter-
about science, therefore, must be prise has fostered, nurtured, and
analyzed as it was guided by a cer- decisively shaped disciplines, insti-
tain set of assumptions made by tutions, and practices in the metro-
scientists about people, lands, and pole and new analyses of how
traditions of knowledge and served these dominant understandings de-
to reinforce some and ignore oth- veloped. Other scholars have noted
ers3. how colonial historians of science
Also fundamental to feminist often wrote larger social and intel-
scholarship has been a historical lectual histories of Europe, not only
approach to theorizing the body, one histories of the colonies (Chambers
that understands bodies as the sites and Gillespie 2001, 222), con-
of dynamic social processes, and sciously or subconsciously detailing
brings presumed medical and sci- how societies are structured so that
entific conceptions of human bod- certain knowledges become reviled
ies more closely into view. Only an and their development blocked
historical approach to the body will (Schiebinger 1989, 232).
enable us to truly understand the What are these dominant forma-
strategies and violence by means tions of science that developed and
of which Western science has dis- blocked others? In modern scien-
ciplined and appropriated womens tific study, patterns of order and
bodies, and has done so in light of laws of nature are of utmost value.
ignorance of the medicinal proper- Sixteenth-century Europeans, how-
ties of plants. As Karen Harvey ever, considered nature without
(2002, 204) writes in her history of such stringent patterns within the
gendered science, Bodies were prevailing ideological framework
thus reassessed by scientists in as an organismic understanding,
the context of political imperatives. where the subordination of individ-
Some feminists correctly posit a re- ual to communal purposes in family,
lationship between the participation community, and state, and vital life
of women in science and the his- permeating the cosmos to the lowli-
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 63

est stone (Merchant 1990, 1) was to uncover its secrets. Both nature
of highest importance. Such un- and women began to be represent-
derstandings of the world involved ed as subordinate and passive. The
identifying nature and the earth with Aristotelian and Platonic concep-
a nurturing mother, which gradually tion of the passivity of matter could
disappeared with the mechanization be incorporated into the new me-
and rationalization of prevailing ide- chanical philosophy in the form of
ologies during the seventeenth cen- inert dead atoms, constituents of
tury, what would later be called the a new machine-like world in which
scientific revolution. Nature as fe- change came about through exter-
male earth and spirit was subsumed nal forces, a scheme that readily
by the development of the machines sanctioned the manipulation of na-
of capitalism; the image of a natu- ture. The Neoplatonic female world
ral earth had previously severely soul, the internal source of activity in
constrained what could be done nature, would disappear, in order to
to nature. With the disintegration be replaced by a carefully contrived
of feudalism and the expansion of mechanism of subtle particles in
European colonialism and capital- motion. Indigenous conceptions of
ism, commerce and profit became the land and a previous ethic of re-
more ideologically important to the straint disappeared as the ongoing
development of science than any- exploitation of resources available
thing else. for any nations use was justified by
Nature that was once seen as the new science.
alive, fertile, independent and ho- During the scientific revolu-
listic devolved into a mechanized tion, a grand narrative emerged of
science during the sixteenth and the earth not as center of the uni-
seventeenth centuries that created verse but as something available
new attitudes toward land. Such for industrial science. Tools were
intellectualized science lead to the now used in which to uncover this
domination of both nature and the natural philosophy with empirical
female: mechanistic approaches to and experimental methods and me-
nature brought about the creation chanical law. It was only in very re-
of objective knowledge developed cent history that science has come
by experiment and the active sub- to represent a field of study much
ject/passive object we know today more specific than its original gener-
as the modern sciences. Merchant al meaning or knowledge that one
calls our voyeuristic approach to has of things. Science lost such a
nature ocularcentric, (Merchant broad understanding by the nine-
1990, 2) describing the way in which teenth century and acquired specif-
Western sciences look out at na- ic meaning based on mathematics
ture as separate from us in order and controlled observational experi-
64 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

ment: Scientific method came to By the time Bacon wrote his New
mean particular techniques requir- Atlantis in 1624, significant class
ing particular training, while mathe- divisions motivated by capitalism
matical descriptions of the universe and perpetuated by the industrial
came to be acknowledged as more revolution were common throughout
exact models of the observed world Europe. Changing relationships be-
(Zinsser 2005, 4). How did natural tween local and large manufactur-
philosophy become science and ers prompted a doctrine of scientif-
move toward classification and sci- ic progress associated with the rise
entific exploration? of technology in support of capital-
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the ism. Further, as scientists became
celebrated father of modern sci- guardians of scientific knowledge
ence, developed an interest in in- and technical language, valuing
dustrial science and an inductive the objective over the subjective (in
method to reveal true science: which the philosophical disappears)
Female imagery permeated his became the dominant European
description of nature and his meta- ideology. Bacons efforts to define
phorical style and were instrumen- experimental method in these terms
tal in his transformation of the earth found the bodies of animals and hu-
as a nurturing mother and womb of mans secondary to developing true
life into a source of secrets to be understandings of nature.
extracted for economic advance. From the 1650s onward, Bacon
Bacon saw dominating nature as worked in developing a methodolo-
part of ensuring the good of the en- gy for the manipulation of nature, in-
tire human race: cluding a tendency to charge wom-
en with medical knowledge with
She [nature] is either free and witchcraft and celebrate particular
follows her ordinary course of constructions of femininity that were
development as in the heavens, not knowledge-based. Sciences
in the animal and vegetable cre- that women traditionally operated
ation, and in the general array of in, such as midwifery and alchemy,
the universe; or she is driven out were soon considered subjects that
of her ordinary course by the per- could be relegated to the periphery
vasiveness, insolence, and for- in search of true and objective sci-
wardness of matter and violence ence: an experimental and objec-
of impediments, as in the case of tive new science served the needs
monsters; or lastly, she is put in of capital and its accompanying ide-
constraint, molded, and made as ology, the privileged first-born twins
it were new by art and the hand of of modern science: the myth of the
man; as in things artificial (cited natural body and the myth of value-
in Merchant 1990, 165). neutral knowledge (Schiebinger
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 65

2000, 4). Nature became femi- cal knowledge it produced (Beinart

nine as it developed along the 1998, 778). Scientific findings and
lines of European ideologies that literature, as a result, served to nat-
reinforced a connection between uralize an objective and scientific
masculine and objective. Such an approach to travel for plant explora-
analysis suggests a new model for tion and took little consideration of
politically-oriented historical analy- the human encounters that came
sis of science, as Bacons model with it. Pratt describes the writings
allowed for particular constructions of these botanical explorers:
of knowledgewhich included the
classification of plants and the co- The landscape is written as un-
lonial exploration in search for these inhabited, unpossessed, unhis-
valued plantsthat would, in turn, toricized, unoccupied even by
come to reinforce a masculine and the travelers themselves. The
objective construction of science. activity of describing geography
and identifying flora and fauna
Kingdoms and Classes: structures as an asocial narrative
Linnaeuss System of Plant Clas- in which the human presence
sification, Natural History and is absolutely marginal, though it
European Voyages of Discovery was, of course, a constant and
essential aspect of the traveling
The need to look for pure sys- itself (Pratt 1992, 51).
tems of classification came about
during seventeenth century colo- In addition, the traveling natural-
nial expansion in Europe and was ist had the ability to walk around
prompted by the desire to collect as he pleases and name things af-
plants for their economic and me- ter himself and his friends making
dicinal value, amid the general in- European authority and legitimacy
terest among naturalist explorers uncontested where indigenous
to uncover the botanical secrets voices are almost never quoted, re-
of the world4. Mary Louise Pratt produced or even invented (Pratt
suggests in Imperial Eyes that the 1992, 63-4). Indeed, feminists
key moment in the development have long contemplated the particu-
of a Western classification system larly gendered nature of the way in
for plants came when in 1720 Carl which colonial plants were named5.
Linnaeus, a Swedish natural histori- These heroic narratives explorers
an, elaborated his system for classi- sent home to describe their find-
fying and naming species. This sys- ings and adventures went about
tem helped trigger a rapid increase naming plants, so each plant name
in natural history exploration and became a celebration of European
stimulate syntheses of the botani- men, many of whom were upper-
66 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

class physicians. The heroic narra- since among its merits was its abil-
tives they wrote served to heighten ity to disregard local circumstances,
a new version of heroic masculin- such as climate and soil conditions,
ity (Terrall 1998, 225-7) and high- without renouncing its claim to be
light the adventures of naturalists describing a natural, or universal,
who encountered the dangers of the order (Lafuente and Valverde 2005,
natural world. One German natural- 137). Kingdoms of plant species,
ist explorer who dramatized the dif- which Linnaeus imagined were ruled
ficulty of his passage: the weather by laws similar to those that gov-
was severe, the rain continual, the erned empires, were further divided
mud thick and stagnant. Food was into Classes and then into Orders,
scarce along the long road and plac- which were then broken into Genera
es to lodge nonexistent. Few people and Species. Global expansion,
of means go by foot in these condi- as much as it served to shape the
tions, he concluded, they arrange science of plants, included certain
instead to be carried in a chair tied forms of knowledge accompanying
to a mans back (Schiebinger 2004, global botanical exchange, and de-
67). pended on local negotiation and cul-
European respect for traditional tural encounters, and dealt with the
knowledges lessened over the eigh- failures of transportation, disease,
teenth and nineteenth centuries. and adaptations. Still, what re-
Interest in indigenous knowledge mained most important were plants
degenerated to superstition that that could easily be transported and
coincided with the development of turned into profit, such as coffee and
commercial crops and botanys goal opium. As Lafuente and Valverde
of charting commerce and state pol- conclude, Linnaean botany was a
itics from the sixteenth through the form of biopolitics, what we might
eighteenth centuries6. Such under- call imperial biopower devoted to
standings of plants as primarily prof- turning diversity, local variation, and
itable derive from early conceptions qualia into data (2005, 46). Indeed,
of the nature of science itself, where as others have argued, Empire re-
claims of objectivity coincide with quires that scientists and their pa-
little question of how findings are trons share the belief that the stuff
evaluated, who has access and au- of nature can be captured in words,
thority to the knowledge, or to whom figures, lines, shading, gradients,
scientific findings are presented7. A or flows (Lafuente and Valverde
consistent botanical language was 2005, 141). In fact, national identi-
crucial to the success of the expe- ties among European empires often
ditions of European empires to in- became centered around precise
vestigate the flora of the colonies: natural knowledge of New World re-
Linnaeuss system was efficient gions they colonized:
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 67

European naturalists, of whom and the growth of plants for profit

Linnaeus was only one, tended to within the empire itself (Schiebinger
collect only specimens and specific 2004, 7-8). These biopirates of-
facts about those specimens rather ten named such items and operated
than worldviews, schemas of us- within a narrative of imperial no-
age, or alternative ways of ordering menclature8.
and understanding the world. They It is important to recall that
stockpiled specimens in cabinets, Linnaeuss naming practices came
put them behind glass in muse- about at a point in history in which
ums and accumulated them in bo- naturalists had the ability to regulate
tanical gardensThey collected the who could and could not do science
bounty of the natural world, but sent and the restriction that scientific
narratively stripped specimens knowledge is only that generated
into Europe to be classified by a by scientists. Such professional-
Linnaeus supporting once again ization of knowledge of the natural
the notion that travelers never world also developed as European
leave home, but merely extend the science was establishing its power
limits of their world by taking their vis--vis other knowledge traditions.
concerns and apparatus for inter- As a result, Linnaeus closely guard-
preting their world along with them ed the power to name and wrote,
(Schiebinger 2004, 87). accordingly, no one ought to name
Linnaeus taught that the purpose a plant unless he is a botanist.
of natural history was to render ser- Linnaeus admonished that he who
vice to the state. He was among establishes a new genus should
many scientists in the service of give it a name, strengthening the
the colonial empires to desire, first priority of discovery as a chief sci-
and foremost, to grow plants that entific virtue. Further, he saw it as
could yield high profits like coffee his religious duty to engrave the
and opium. The science of botany names of men on plants, and so
itself was defined as expertise in secure for them immortal renown
bioprospecting, plant identifica- (Schiebinger 2004, 201-3).
tion, transport and acclimation Linnaeus system of naming that
that mirrored colonial expansion excluded native names proved in-
(Schiebinger 2004, 7). Botanical ex- strumental for colonial conquest:
ploration followed trade routes, and It was precisely this type of infor-
naturalists and physicians worked mationmedicinal usages, biogeo-
to improve commerce and served graphical distribution, and cultural
empire in three ways: cheap sup- valencethat was to be stripped
plies of drugs, food and luxury items from plants in Linnaean binomi-
for domestic markets, as colonial al nomenclature as it has come
substitutes for such luxury goods, down to us (Schiebinger 2004,
68 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

197). What should be clear is that land and sea travel; mine ores;
Linnaeuss system of plant classifi- identify the economically useful
cation and its repercussions never minerals, plants, and animals of
would have been accepted had it other parts of the world; manu-
not been already clear what consti- facture and farm for the benefit
tuted scientific knowledge and who of Europeans living in Europe,
was responsible for its production, the Americas, Africa and India;
but what should be elaborated fur- improve their health and occa-
ther are the definite links between sionally that of the workers who
Linnaeuss system and the voy- produced profits for them; protect
ages of exploration. Seventeenth settlers in the colonies from set-
and eighteenth century voyages of tlers of other nationalities, gain
discovery brought European culture access to the labor of indigenous
into contact with a variety of world residents (Harding 1991, 43-
cultures, but it is important to recall 4).
that European sciences were then
being developed to enable the ex- Epic scientific voyages spon-
pansion of European empires at the sored by colonial powers explored
expense of those Europeans en- the natural riches of the new world.
countered9. Certainly, European Political economic thinkers of the
expansionism changed the topog- day who touted Western European
raphy of global scientific knowledge expansion found that amassing
(Harding 1991, 29), and the under- great wealth and power relied on
development or decline of scientific exact knowledge of nature and cel-
traditions in other cultures: ebrated the resources could be ob-
tained for European powers through
Those aspects of nature about conquest and colonization. Indeed,
which the beneficiaries of ex- in the eighteenth century, there was
pansionism have not needed or a close alliance between medicine
wanted to know have remained and colonial botany or, the study,
uncharted. Thus, culturally dis- naming, cultivation, and marketing
tinctive patterns of both knowl- of plants in colonial contextswas
edge and systematic ignorance born of and supported European voy-
in modern sciences pictures of ages, conquests, global trade, and
natures regularities and their un- scientific exploration (Schiebinger
derlying causal tendencies can and Swan 2005, 2). Plants were
be detected from the perspec- important all kinds of New World
tives of cultures with different pre- travel, even missionary workas
occupations. For example, mod- a food source, in order to combat
ern sciences answered questions disease, and for building materials
about how to improve European (Bravo 2005, 63). Botanists were
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 69

active in colonial politics, so natural and universal order (Schiebinger

historical observation must there- 2004, 36). As Carolyn Merchant ar-
fore be viewed as a form of colonial ticulates, natural history and nature
government, in which cataloging ex- had been previously represented to
isting resources and acquiring new conform to particular gendered no-
ones served the ends of European tions of colonizing social and eco-
imperialism (Spary 2005, 193). As nomic systems. Technologies such
a result of the new ideologies of sci- as instruments, books, maps and
ence that took hold during the cen- tables, now continue to mediate be-
turies of empire, however, and cen- tween people (as subject) and na-
tered on its noble search for truth ture (as object). Linnaeus system
and objectivity based in empirical of classification and the botanical
method, historians of science of- exploration that both prompted and
ten construed Europeans as the follow from it, proved instrumental
producers of knowledge and indig- for colonial conquest and served to
enous peoples as mere suppliers of reinforce science and botany along
the material artifacts from which that particular gendered lines.
knowledge was born. Such research into classification
systems and scientific exploration
Conclusions: Toward a Political remains historiographically signifi-
History of Plants cant because it indicates that the
history of science and botany in par-
European sciences were devel- ticular, has moved from the margins
oped to enable the expansion of of a historical field to take center
European empires at the expense of stage in critical historical processes
those Europeans encountered, and such as capitalist expansion, global-
the continued expansion of empires ization, and colonization. Botanical
justified the continuing exploitation exchange, therefore, was a highly
of natures resources. Naturalists contested and complex procedure
who were able to bear witness to previously taken for granted in po-
flora in the field, provided a cer- litical analysis and provides a possi-
tain authority to travelers observa- bility for demonstrating insights into
tions, allowing them to represent the indigenous understandings of na-
plants they found and claim scien- ture and worldviews before Western
tific authority over them. Consistent disciplinary specialization took hold,
botanical language was necessary especially in light of the contempo-
in these endeavors, and Linnaeus rary focus that incorporates these
classification system was regarded plants from the colonial world and
as most efficient since it enabled their applications into pharmaceuti-
scientists to disregard local culture cal research as well as biotechnolo-
and use and claim botanys natural gy and international development ef-
70 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

forts. The commodification of crops Endnotes

and plant life continues as those
once imported to the West from the 1
In 1494, when Columbus brought sugar-
rest of the world are exported again cane cuttings into the West Indies, he pro-
vided the Spanish empire with what would
today to those former colonies in ex- become one of the worlds most successful
pensive, genetically modified forms. cash crops.
The question of bioprospecting and
the status of indigenous knowledge 2
For more on specific historical instances
and intellectual property rights is of scientific sexism and racism, see Londa
Schiebingers Feminism and the Body.
also very much a present-day and
relevant question, and a complete 3
See Schiebingers Feminist History of
analysis of the gendered history of Colonial Science (2004), in which she
these plants, as detailed by those in looks at the culturally induced ignorances
the field of feminist science studies, of the peacock flower, as the plant itself
traveled to Europe but pre-colonial knowl-
allows us to reaffirm the need for edge of the plants aborifacient properties
gendered understandings of natural did not, one example of many Schiebinger
history and explore new possibili- cites in her work of the ways bodies of sci-
ties for conceptualizing the natural entific and medical ignorancemolded the
world and the political history that very flesh and blood of real bodies.
surrounds it. 4
Many scholars have provided readings of
The colonial world still remains European botanical gardens based in their
marginalized by an overriding focus incorporation of plants from the colonized
on European naming and coloniza- world. During the time of empire, Jill Casid
tion, and international botany is still argues, even the presentation of nature be-
came imbedded with ideologies of empire
regulated by politics, not science. and gender: Landscaping was the pri-
Certainly, botany both facilitated mary means by which particular formations
and profited from colonialism and of family, nation, and colonial empire were
long-distance trade (Schiebinger engendered and naturalized. Casid, pg.
2004), but we must further ana- xxii.
lyze the links among botany, sci- 5
The search for female amazons was part
ence history and classification, and of the imperial inquest into South America
European commercial and territorial as were the heroic narratives or the bo-
expansion in light of contemporary tanical explorers themselves. Schiebinger,
biotechnological efforts and interna- Plants and Empire, pgs. 62, 65.
tional development practice. Such 6
New ideas of agricultural improvement
research provides us new possibili- developing in the seventeenth century pro-
ties for understanding the natural vided the right conditions for appeals to
and theoretical world, and sciences transform Kew Gardens in London from
perpetuation of certain ideologies of a royal pleasure garden for a garden with
use beyond beauty (Drayton, 92). An ac-
gender, race, empire and science count of this history uses specific details
that we often take for granted. of Kews development as links to a wider
ODonnell: Imperial Plants 71

range of more specific historical and cultur- 24(4).

al shifts in the global and local economies Bravo, M.T. 2005. Mission Gardens:
of horticulture. If we consider this within the Natural History and Global Expan-
development of science and the gendered sion, 1720-1820. Schiebinger and
ideologies shaped by the broader social
Swan, 49-65.
and political context, we see that economic
botany was, in part, dependent on gender
Casid, J.H. 2005. Sowing Empire:
norms and sexual divisions. Landscape and Colonization, Min-
neapolis: University of Minnesota
Schiebinger makes a point to explore the Press.
hierarchical system of sex difference that Cavendish, M. 2000. Paper Bodies: A
Linnaeuss practice of plant classification Margaret Cavendish Reader, ed.
actually represented, which I do not ex- Sylvia Bowerbank & Sara Men-
plore here, in Natures Body (2004). delson. Peterborough: Broadview
In Plants and Empire, Schiebinger ex-
Chambers, D.W. and Gillespie, R.
plores the politics of early colonial bio-
prospecting in the West Indies, employing
2001. Locality in the History of
the metaphor of biocontact zones to look Science: Colonial Science, Tech-
at the theoretical frameworks of local indig- noscience, and Indigenous Knowl-
enous botanical worldviews in contrast to edge. Osiris 21(2).
those of Europeans. In similar ways, but Desroches, D. 2004. Figuring Science:
dealing with Creole elites, Antonio Lafuente Revisiting Nature in Bacons No-
and Nuria Valverde (2005) have shown vum Organum. The Midwest
how the Linnaean system was contested Quarterly. 45: 9-26.
outside of Europe. Drayton, R. 2000. Natures Govern-
ment: Science, Imperial Brit-
Sandra Harding (1991) concludes that
modern forms of racism developed precise-
ain, and the Improvement of The
ly as remnants of colonialism that justified World. London: Yale University
the conquests: It is impossible to separate Press.
racism from colonialism and imperialism Findlen, P. 2002. Ideas in the Mind:
and the development of modern science in Gender and Knowledge in the
Europe, In addition, she argues, the stan- Seventeenth Century. Hypatia
dards for objectivity, rationality, and good 17(1).
method have been constituted in relation Gascoigne, J. 2002. The Expanding
to qualities and practices associated with Historiography of British Imperial-
non-European cultures. Harding, pg. 29.
ism. The Historical Journal 40(2),
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Jacob, M.C. and Sturkenboom, D. of Modern Science. Cambridge:
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Keller, E.F. 1995. Gender and Science: gers University Press.
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10, 26-38. pire: Colonial Bioprospecting in
Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory. 1995. Wom- the Atlantic World. Cambridge:
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58. Truth: Civility and Science in Sev-
Lafuente, Antonio and Nuria Valverde. enteenth-Century England. Chi-
2005. Linnaean Botany and Span- cago: University of Chicago Press.
ish Imperial Biopolitics. Schiebin- Sherman, D.J. 2000. The Arts and Sci-
ger and Swan, 134-147. ences of Colonialism. French His-
Merchant, C. 1990. The Death of Na- torical Studies, 23(4), 707-729.
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Scientific Revolution. San Fran- Botanists: The Colonial Cul-
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Pimentel, J. 2001. The Iberian Vision: Schiebinger and Swan, 187-203.
Science and Empire in the Frame- Terrall, M. 1998. Heroic Narratives of
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Schiebinger, L. 1989. The Mind Has
Hilde Jakobsen
University of Bergen, Norway

Hennink, Monique M. 2007. International focus group

research: a handbook for the health and social sci-
ences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 248
ISBN: 978-0-521-60780-3.
Key Words: focus groups, developing world, development research, meth-
odology, positionality, fieldwork

How can focus group discussions academics in the Two-Thirds World.

(FGDs) be used to their strengths in Monique Henninks International
the Two-Thirds World? While hand- Focus Group Research handbook
books for using focus groups in is a welcome and long-awaited
One-Third World contexts abound, response to precisely this need.
researchers and students seek- The author, Associate Professor of
ing guidance on this question have Public Health at Emory University,
been limited to sub-chapters, ar- draws both on her own experiences
ticles and footnotes in publications in African and Asian countries and
on other topics (Lloyd-Evans 2006; on interviews with other researchers
Vissandjee 2002). Standard focus who have conducted FGDs in Two-
group literature assumes a One- Thirds World contexts. The preface
Third World setting, which limits its promises to combine this nimble
applicability to other contexts (Bloor feel for the field with a commitment
et al. 2001). This dearth of relevant to data quality. One significant albeit
guidance on how to use the method obvious advantage over standard
in the Two-Thirds World has been FGD handbooks is the ease with
accompanied by an unprecedented which readers will be able to relate
surge in its actual use there. Focus it to their own research situations in
group discussions are now a staple the Two-Thirds World. Illustrative
- and sometimes the default - quali- examples and photographs from
tative method in evaluations and as- Africa and Asia help readers visu-
sessments by aid agencies as well alise the principles in the situations
as in applied and pure research by where they will actually be applying
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
74 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

them. qualitative methods book. The

Another major strength of the chapter on discussion guide is simi-
book is its clarity: in structure, lay- lar, excepting a sub-section entitled
out, and precision of language. It Discussion guides for international
comprises twelve chapters, each for focus group research, which deals
a separate stage in the research: exclusively with translation (64).
planning, participant recruitment, The challenges dealt with that are
data analysis, etc. One significant specific to the Two-Thirds World are
addition to the standard FGD texts logistical, for example translation
is a chapter devoted to training the and recruitment procedures, apply-
research team. This is pertinent be- ing for research permits, and seat-
cause researchers are more likely to ing and recording arrangements.
find themselves hiring and training However this privileging of practi-
assistants when conducting FGDs calities has three drawbacks. Firstly,
in the Two-Thirds World. The rea- it reinforces the very tendency she
sons for this are relatively mundane, is countering, namely to focus on
but Henninks no-nonsense commit- the management of fieldwork chal-
ment to lived fieldwork challenges lenges rather than methodological
is undeterred by their apparent ba- rigour. Secondly, it implies that apart
nality. This unpretentious approach from such practicalities, the chal-
will be appreciated by graduate lenges to methodological rigour in
students who wonder whether their FGD research are identical in, say
struggles are too quotidian to qualify Senegal and Switzerland. Lastly, it
for advice. fails to address challenges to meth-
The handbook is an unparal- odological rigour specific to FGDs in
leled resource on FGD methods. the Two-Thirds World.
However, does it fully live up to its Two such challenges that are
promise of addressing the main central to the literature on quali-
challenges to methodological rigour tative methods in the Two-Thirds
in FGD research in the Two-Thirds World, and more difficult there than
World? Readers who are familiar in One-Third World research, are
with the standard focus group lit- power gradients and positionality
erature, and concerned with using (Apentiik et al. 2006; Madge 1997;
the method to its strengths in the Scheyvens et al. 2003). Power gra-
Two-Thirds World, will unfortunately dients refer to unequal power rela-
recognise the bulk of the content as tions between researcher and re-
reviews of that same literature. The searched. Positionality in this case
chapter on data analysis is specific refers to how the identity the re-
neither to focus groups nor to Two- searched assign to the researcher
Thirds World research, and would influences what they say to him or
not be out of place in a standard her (Bell et al. 1993; Henry 2003;
Review: Jakobsen 75

Rose 1997; Srivastava 2006). The ral conversation norms that are
steeper the power gradient, the context-specific (Bloor et al. 2001).
greater an interest the researched This makes it especially problematic
have in adjusting their responses to that also the chapter on moderating
who they perceive the researcher discussions is largely a repetition of
to be. Researchers self-deploy- the standard FGD literature. The
ment may change who respondents few conversational norms that are
perceive them to be, but this does mentioned are more about topics
not change the extent to which re- that may be tricky to elicit responses
sponses reflect respondents per- on in general, than about challenges
ception of them, regardless of what specific to the FGD method. They
that perception is. The absence of are content-specific rather than
these two challenges is conspicu- method-specific, and say little about
ous because the standard FGD how the interactive processes on
literature claims the FGD method, which the method hinges may play
when used to its strengths, can shift out differently in Two-Thirds World
researcher-researched power rela- contexts, and how to handle this.
tions and thus reduce the extent to Given the challenges of steep
which positionality determines what power gradients, positionality and
data can be generated (Kambrelis et different conversational norms, this
al. 2005; Kitzinger 1999; Smithson book does not adequately explain
2000; Wilkinson 2006). Henninks how FGDs can be used to their
handbook gives no advice on this. strengths in the Two-Thirds World.
The advice it offers on moderation However this does not detract from
seems to blithely gloss over this the books immense usefulness
challenge: for one large group of readers.
Researchers familiar with the practi-
The deference effect (where calities of working in the Two-Thirds
participants say what they think World, and with the standard focus
a moderator wants to hear rather group literature, will find little new
than their own opinion about an here. In particular, readers of the
issue) can be avoided by clear- skeptical enthusiastic literature that
ly reinforcing to participants at followed the methods surge in pop-
the outset of the discussion that ularity, which hones in on what types
all views are valued and it is par- of data FGDs can reliably generate,
ticipants own views that are be- and how to conduct them in order to
ing sought. (184) generate this type of data, will miss
this level of epistemological aware-
Proponents of FGDs emphasise ness (Barbour et al. 2001; Bloor et
that most guidance on how to mod- al. 2001; Parker and Tritter 2006).
erate a discussion relies on natu- Nevertheless, One-Third World re-
76 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

searchers embarking on their first Grassroots Post-modernism: Re-

FGD research project in the Two- making the Soil of Cultures. Lon-
Thirds World will find the handbook don: Zed.
an invaluable companion. While the Henry, M.G. 2003. Where are you
really from?: Representation,
extent to which the textbook con-
identity and power in the field-
sists of reviews of other textbooks is
work experience of a South Asian
problematic, this does also have its diasporic, Qualitative Research
advantages when researchers pack 3(2):229-242.
their bags for countries where books Kamberlis, G. and Dimitriadis, G. 2005.
may not be readily available. For this Focus Groups: Strategic Articula-
reason, despite its neglect of central tions of Pedagogy, Politics and In-
methodological challenges to rigour quiry, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln,
in Two-Thirds World FGD research, Y.S. (eds.) The Sage Handbook
if you have never worked outside of Qualitative Research. London:
the One-Third World, and do take Sage Publications: 886-907.
Kitzinger, J. 1999. The Methodology
only one methods book for your fo-
of Focus Groups: The Importance
cus groups in Colombia, Cambodia
of Interaction Between Research
or Cameroon, Henninks handbook Participants, in Bryman, A. and
is a practical choice. Burgess, R.G. (eds.) Qualitative
Research. London: Sage Publica-
References tions: 138-154.
Lloyd-Evans, S. 2006. Focus Groups.
Apentiik , C.R.A. and Parpart, J. 2006. In Desai, V. and Potter, R.B. (eds.)
Working in Different Cultures: Is- Doing Development Research.
sues of Race, Ethnicity and Iden- London: Sage Publications: 153-
tity. In Desai, V. and Potter, R.B. 162.
(eds.) Doing Development Re- Madge, C. 1997. The ethics of research
search. London: Sage Publica- in the Third World, in Robson, E.
tions: 34-42. and Willis, K.(eds.) Postgraduate
Barbour, R.S. and Kitzinger, J. (eds.) Fieldwork in Developing Areas:
2001. Developing Focus Group A Rough Guide, Monograph no.
Research: Politics, Theory and 9, Developing Areas Research
Practice. London: Sage Publica- Group. London: Royal Geographi-
tions. cal Society: 113-125.
Bell, D., Caplan, P. and Karim, W.J.B. Mohanty, C.T. 2003. Under Western
1993. Gendered fields: Women, Eyes Revisited: Feminist Solidar-
men, and ethnography. London: ity through Anticapitalist Strug-
Routledge. gles, Signs: Journal of Women in
Bloor, M., Frankland, J., Thomas, M. Culture and Society 28(2): 499-
and Robson, K. 2001. Focus 535.
Groups in Social Research. Lon- Parker, A. and Tritter, J. 2006. Focus
don: Sage Publications. group method and methodology:
Esteva, G. And Prakash, M.S. 1998. current practice and recent de-
Review: Jakobsen 77

bate, International Journal of Re-

search and Method in Education
Rose, G. 1997. Situating knowledges:
positionality, reflexivities and other
tactics, Progress in Human Geog-
raphy 21(3): 305 -320.
Scheyvens, R. and Storey, D. 2003.
(eds.) Development Fieldwork.
A Practical Guide. London: Sage
Smithson, J. 2000. Using and analys-
ing focus groups: limitations and
possibilities, International journal
of social research methodology,
3(2): 103-119.
Srivastava, P. 2006. Reconciling Mul-
tiple Researcher Positionalities
and Languages in International
Research, Research in Compara-
tive and International Education
Staeheli, L.A. and Lawson, V.A. 1994. A
discussion of Women in the field:
the politics of feminist fieldwork,
Professional Geographer 46: 96-
Vissandjee, B., Abdool, S.N. and Dup-
ere, S. 2002. Focus Groups in
Rural Gujarat, India: A Modified
Approach, Qualitative Health Re-
search 12(6): 826-843.
Wilkinson, S. 2006. Analysing Interac-
tion in Focus Groups, in Drew, P.,
Raymond, G. and Weinberg, D.
(eds.) Talk and Interaction in So-
cial Research Methods. London:
Sage Publications: 50-62.
Agata Ignaciuk
University of Granada, Spain

Ortiz Gmez, Teresa. 2006. Medicina, historia y g-

nero. 130 aos de investigacin feminista. Oviedo:
KRK. 368 pp.
ISBN: 84-96476-52-9/978-87-96476-52-3
Key Words: womens studies, feminist historiography, hisotory of medicine,
academic teaching and research, Spain, Century

Medicina, historia y gnero by in womens and health issues is rep-

Teresa Ortiz can be considered a resented within various disciplines,
successful attempt at transferring with the most prolific areas being
the authors knowledge and expe- anthropology (such as Mari Luz
rience in researching and teaching Esteban), psychology (like Silvia
the history of medicine, science, Tubert) and sociology (e. g. Eugenia
and womens/gender studies. This Gil Garcia). Generally, these works
research was gathered during her provide either the theoretical back-
long career at the University of ground and methodological tools
Granada, Spain, where she is at necessary to study various aspects
present professor at the Department of women and health, or present
of the History of Science at the the results of research conducted
Faculty of Medicine1. Ortiz currently on concrete aspects of womens
teaches the history of science and health, especially those related
medicine to undergraduate medical to reproduction, violence against
students, and is also one of the key women or bodily issues. On the
lecturers in postgraduate womens other hand, feminist historians of
and gender studies in Spain. medicine such as Montserrat Cabr
Teresa Ortiz is one of the pio- i Pairet or Consquelo Miqueo have
neers in applying and teaching femi- published important works on the
nist interdisciplinary methodology in history of women in medical profes-
the field of history of medicine and sions and androcentrism in medi-
science in the Spanish context. In cal discourses. Teresa Ortiz herself
Spanish academia, feminist interest has published important works on
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
Review: Ignaciuk 79

women and medicine, especially on tory of Spanish feminist academia,

midwives and female medical pro- explains and dismantles common
fessionals. However, Medicina, his- inaccurate or imprecise uses of
toria y gnero is a reflection on the terms such as women, gender, gen-
histories of women and medicine as der relations, sexism and androcen-
disciplines. It offers an excellent ini- trism, and finally discusses the im-
tial reading of the development, sci- plication of womens studies in the
entific interests, production, meth- re-elaboration of the concepts such
ods, and intersections of the history as body, authority, and authorship.
of women in/and medicine2. The second part of the book is dedi-
Fundamental feminist epistemo- cated to a feminist historiography of
logical concepts, such as situated health and medicine from its early
knowledges (Harding 1991), have days in the late nineteenth century
most certainly influenced the author to the end of the twentieth century.
while working on this book, whose Here, the author traces the academ-
presence in the narrative is strong, ic traditions of feminist historians of
as she shares her inspirations, re- medicine and health, and critically
flexions, and experience in co-form- reports on the contributions of the
ing the Spanish feminist historiogra- most distinctive authors, outlining
phy of science and medicine. This the important phases in the devel-
quality, together with clear and com- opment of the discipline. The author
prehensive language in which the also points to the most recent trends
book is written, makes it very read- in gender and health (or women and
able. Thus, it can be recommended health) studies that have flourished
to readers with intermediate level of in the Western context and particu-
Spanish. larly in Spain during recent decades,
The main question posed by Ortiz such as the deconstructive studies
concerns how the history of medi- of medical discourse in relation to
cine as a discipline should be delim- women. The final part of the book is
ited, and how it interacts with gender dedicated to the history of medicine
studies, and especially with wom- from a more general perspective.
ens history and feminist theory. The Here, Ortiz critically examines her
book is divided into three parts. The own discipline and also discusses
first part broadly presents the theo- the most outstanding features in its
retical and academic context of the current development. Finally, the
feminist historiography of science author proposes a series of recom-
and medicine, or a historiography mendations regarding the academic
pursued from a gender perspective, teaching of a non-androcentric his-
within the last 130 years in Spain. tory of medicine, resulting from her
In the four chapters that comprise vast experience as a lecturer, and
this part, Ortiz focuses on the his- based on feedback she had re-
80 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

ceived from her postgraduate stu- ship in Spain. The book is based on
dents. rich documentary sources including
Medicina, historia y gnero is quantitative and qualitative publica-
primarily about interdisciplinar- tions by and on women in scientific
ity, which has been considered one journals, under- and postgraduate
of the main characteristics of the courses in gender and history of
methodological toolbox of womens medicine offered by Spanish uni-
and gender studies. Throughout the versities, the proportion of men and
book Ortiz discusses possible inter- women professors in Spain within
sections within the disciplines such the field of the history of science,
as womens history, history of medi- and more. Furthermore, the meth-
cine and history of science both in odological comments and observa-
research and teaching, providing an tions are of great value especially
excellent practical example of how to less experienced scholars, espe-
to pursue interdisciplinary scholar- cially as far as academic teaching is
ship. This dimension of Ortizs work concerned.
is emphasised in the third part of the With regards to drawbacks of this
book, where she refers to interdis- text, in Chapter 1.2 Ortiz extensively
ciplinarity as, along with pluralism, discusses rather basic notions such
one of the most distinctive features as gender, sexism, or androcentrism
of the contemporary history of sci- in a passage which is too rudimen-
ence and medicine, which seeks to tary for researchers with some ex-
include and combine different theo- perience in the field of gender stud-
retical and methodological para- ies. Meanwhile, the next chapters
digms. (1.3 and 1.4), which are dedicated
I would highly recommend Ortizs to feminist re-conceptualizations of
book to all scholars and students the body and the concepts of femi-
who work on issues related to wom- nist authorship, authority and sexual
en and medicine, especially within difference, only scarcely mention
or in reference to the Spanish femi- these concepts. Development and
nist framework. Above all, this work critical revision of these would have
provides an excellent and neatly increased the usefulness of this
organized bibliographical revision book for feminist researchers. Ortiz
of the most prominent works from does situate herself as a feminist
Anglo-Saxon, French and Spanish scholar, but this book would have
context. The extended reference benefited from more emphasis on
list can be useful to those interest- her own position within feminist the-
ed in (feminist) history of science ories and academia. However, the
and medicine, and also to all who simplicity and underdevelopment of
wish to learn about the origins and the mentioned parts of the text can
development of feminist scholar- be justified by Ortizs consideration
Review: Ignaciuk 81

for the broader public at which the Spanish edition of the Masters.
book is aimed. These are, as she
explains in the introductory part References
of the book, scholars who work in
the field of the history of medicine, Caballero Navas, M.C., Cabr i Pairet,
possibly with scarce knowledge of M. and Ferre Cano, D.. 2000.
womens studies or contaminated Las mujeres en la medicina he-
brea medieval: El libro de amor
with the common misuses of these
de mujeres o libro de rgimen de
terms, and postgraduate students las mujeres. Edicin, traduccin y
of history of medicine and womens estudio. Granada: Universidad de
studies. Beyond any doubt, both will Granada.
certainly find this work of great utility Cabr i Pairet, M. and Ortiz Gmez,
in their research and studies. T. 2001. Sanadoras, matronas y
mdicas en Europa: Siglos XII-
Endnotes XX. Barcelona: Icaria.
Esteban, M.L. 2001. Re-produccin
The book I review was published in del cuerpo femenino: Discursos y
Spanish only. The authors publications in prcticas acerca de la salud. Don-
English include chapters on the history of ostia: Tercera Prensa.
Spanish midwives in Marland (1993) and . Antropologa del cuerpo: G-
Marland and Rafferty (1997). She has nero, itinerarios corporales, iden-
also recently published a chapter on fe- tidad y cambio. Barcelona: Bella-
male medical professionals in Spain dur-
ing Francoism (Rodrguez-Sala & Zubieta
Garca 2005) and co-edited Dynamics of
. 2007. Introduccin a la antro-
health and welfare (published in Lisbon by pologa de la salud: Aplicacio-
Colibri in 2007), a collection of commented nes tericas y prcticas. Bilbao:
sources in history of medicine, in which she OSALDE
co-edited, together with Denise Bernuzzi Gil Garca, E. 2007. Otra mirada a la
SantAnna, the part entitled Perspectives anorexia: Aproximacin feminista
on gender and health. a los discursos mdicos y de las
mujeres diagnosticadas. Grana-
Teresa Ortiz is also one of the founding da: Universidad de Granada.
members of Instituto de Estudios de la Harding, S.G. 1991. Whose science?
Mujer [Womens Studies Centre], an inter- Whose knowledge? Thinking from
disciplinary body established at this univer- womens lives. Ithaca: Cornell
sity in 1986. It is now host to GEMMA: Joint University Press.
European Masters Degree in Womens and
Laurinda Abreu, P.B., Ortiz Gmez, T.
Gender Studies, a prestigious European
postgraduate programme, which is be-
and Palacios, G. 2007. Dynamics
ing developed simultaneously since 2007 of health and welfare: Texts and
in seven European universities (Granada, contexts. Lisboa: Edies Colibr.
Oviedo, Utrecht, Lodz, Ljubljana, Hull and Miqueo, C. 2001. Perspectivas de
CEU-Budapest) under auspices of the gnero en salud: Fundamentos
European Commission. Medicina, histo- cientficos y socioprofesionales
ria y gnero is used as a textbook in the de diferencias sexuales no previs-
82 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

tas. Madrid: Minerva.

Ortiz Gmez, T. 1993. From hegemo-
ny to subordination: Midwives in
early modern Spain. In The art of
midwifery: Early modern midwives
in Europe, ed. Hilary Marland, 95-
114. New York: Routledge.
Ortiz Gmez, T., Delgado Snchez,A.,
Snchez, D. and Tvora Rivero,A.
2005. Female professional identi-
ties and Spanish women doctors
in late francoism (1965-1978).
In Mujeres en la ciencia y la tec-
nologa: Hispanoamrica y Eu-
ropa, eds. Mara Luisa Rodr-
guez-Sala, Judith Zubieta Garca,
119-128. Mxico: UNAM.
Ortiz Gmez, T. and Martnez Padilla,
C.. 1997. How to be a midwife in
late nineteenth-century Spain. In
Midwives, society and childbirth,
eds. Hilary Marland, Anne Marie
Rafferty, 61-80. New York: Rout-
Tubert, S. 2001. Deseo y represen-
tacin convergencias de psi-
coanlisis y teora feminista. Ma-
drid: Sintesis.
Tubert, S. and Fraisse,G. 2003. Del
sexo al gnero: Los equvocos de
un concepto. Madrid: Ctedra.
Beatriz Revelles Benavente
University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Re(con)figuring the ethico-onto-epistemologi-

cal question of matter

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum

Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning
Duke University Press: Durham, 2007, 524 + xiii pp.
ISBN 9780822339175
Key Words: apparatus, diffractive, new materialism, methodology, quantum
physics, language

Meeting the Universe Halfway is in order to challenge representation-

an answer to the reflective method- alism, which has, for all fields men-
ology found in representationalist tioned, unwanted consequences. In
scholarship which has previously so doing, Barad joins the theory of
characterised not just feminist stud- new materialism, which, though still
ies but social and scientific studies in the process of being constructed
in general, and which presumed (see Sheridan, 2002; Colebrook,
the separate ontological existence, 2008; DeLanda, 2006), is part of a
however mute or devoid of agency, wider movement in critical theory
of the object which is being repre- away from theories associated with
sented. The authors aim is to con- the linguistic turn. New Materialism
figure a diffractive methodology is an epistemological/methodologi-
[] to provide a transdisciplinary cal trend which has entered the aca-
approach (25) which cuts across demic arena not as a contestation,
quantum physics, science studies, but as one of the theoretical frames
the philosophy of physics, feminist of third wave feminism (Van der
theory, critical race theory, postco- Tuin, 2009), which postulates affir-
lonial theory, (post-) Marxist theory, mative readings instead of critical
and poststructuralist theory (25). ones of past theories.
This new methodology is necessary Karen Barad is a professor of

Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1

2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
84 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

feminist studies, philosophy, and the foundational separation be-

history of consciousness at the tween object of observation and
University of California, Santa Cruz. observer because this division as-
She has a Ph.D. in theoretical par- sumes the object as passive and
ticle physics, which forms the back- the observer as active. Her ontol-
ground to this book. Her previous ogy describes the world by means
work, and particularly her 2003 ar- of apparatuses in which both ob-
ticle, Posthumanist Performativity: ject and observer, human and non-
Toward an understanding of how human, are connected. As such, the
matter comes to matter, paves the differences that matter are provided
way for this book. Drawing mainly by the boundaries of the apparatus
on Bohrs philosophy of physics, as (140 & 148), and not just by the re-
well as the work of other major theo- searcher: apparatuses are specific
reticians such as Foucault, Butler, material reconfigurings of the world
Haraway, and Fernandes (among that do not merely emerge in time
others), she develops a new ethico- but iteratively reconfigure spacet-
onto-epistemological (185) theory imematter as part of the ongoing dy-
called agential realism, which is ex- namism of becoming (142). This is
plained throughout the book, but in why specific intra-actions (different
more detail and with practical appli- relations produced within the appa-
cation in chapter six. Her list of ref- ratus) matter, the materialization of
erences not only demonstrates her reality depends on all the entangle-
balanced reading of current theo- ments and is how the world acquires
retical debates relevant to her agen- its meaning (333).
tial realist account, but could also The structure of the book is very
be considered essential reading for complicated since the author moves
any new materialist researcher. back and forth in order to produce
Meeting the universe halfway more complex explanations, al-
enters the academic arena in the though each chapter can be under-
transitional period from second- stood by itself since the paramount
to third-wave epistemologies, of- concepts are repeated throughout
fering an agential realist ontology the book. The last two chapters are
which can help feminist studies to devoted to the entanglement of the
demonstrate the entangled state philosophy of physics with social
or complexity of matter. Agential theories and, as such, are the more
realism, the term that Karen Barad complicated ones for an audience
uses for her new ontology, is meant which is not familiar with quantum
to provide sensitive descriptions of physics. The first chapter presents
material-discursive practices which the problem of the present theory
promote differences that matter. and methodology, while the second
That is to say, this ontology rejects one moves to her solution to this
Review: Revelles Benavente 85

problem: a diffractive methodology subjectivities and identities (35).

which is very precisely explained Making the methodology part of the
in contrast to the reflective method object of investigation involves an
throughout an intra-active, yet bina- awareness and inclusion of the dif-
ry, table (89-90). ferent effects of instruments in an
Diffraction is understood by Barad investigation in both human and so-
as a material-discursive phenom- cial sciences.
enon that makes the effects of dif- In this book repetition does not
ferent differences evident, a way of become synonymous to fixity of con-
understanding the world from within cepts. The book can be considered
and as part of it (88). It is a physi- a perfect materialization of Barads
cal phenomenon (91) which entails own theory; concepts are entangled
a commitment by the researcher to everywhere and their definitions are
understanding which differences not entirely stable. For example,
matter, how they matter, and for the elements intra-acting are some-
whom (90). The researcher is re- times described as agencies (333)
sponsible for the different practices and sometimes as components
which construct different under- (269). In addition, the many neolo-
standings of the world. Drawing on gisms required to describe the ap-
Haraways work with technoscience paratus (such as intra-action), can
(94), Barad proposes a reading of further complicate reading of this
different theories which, instead of book. Though these difficulties are
opposing them, engages them with to some extent resolved after read-
one another (92-3). That is to say, ing the whole book, they can cause
the researcher engages with dif- reader to have doubts about what
ferent theories realizing affirmative is meant by phenomena, appara-
readings of them in order to provide tuses and agential cuts. In other
more sensible accounts of the world. words, reading and re-reading of
Instead of looking at differences, the entire book is beneficial for un-
she wants the researcher to explore derstanding Barads ideas in their
boundaries since they are what pro- full complexity. Ideally, clearness
vides meaning. This methodology goes hand in hand with conciseness
proves to be not only an analytical - something which is occasionally
tool of critical engagement (as tradi- missing in this book.
tional methodologies are), but also To conclude I would like to turn
part of the phenomenon, or object towards one of the most controver-
of investigation, since instruments sial aspects of Barads work which
of investigation produce differences she tries to clarify throughout this
that matter in the results. It helps book: her take on language. This is-
to explain power relationships and sue has created a strong debate be-
how they are entangled in bodies, tween some new materialists who
86 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

follow Barads agential realism and ism. European Journal of Wom-

some poststructuralists in feminist ens Studies 15(1): 23-39
epistemology (see Ahmed 2008). It Barad, K. 2003. Post-humanist Perfor-
is true that strong negative attributes mativity: Toward an Understand-
ing of How Matter Comes to Mat-
attached to Language (with a capital
ter. Signs: Journal of Women in
L) pervade her work. However, this
Culture and Society. 28(3): 801-
is focused on the erroneous con- 33.
ception of language as a mediator Colebrook, C. 2008. On Not Becom-
by representationalism (470, n. 41). ing Man: The Materialist Politics
Instead, language is seen here as of Unactualized Potential. Stacy
part of the apparatus (205); it is an- Alaimo and Susan Hekman (eds.),
other entangled agency as impor- Material Feminisms. Bloomington
tant as the rest in configuring the and Indianapolis: Indiana Univer-
phenomena itself since matter and sity, pp. 52-84.
meaning are always inseparable (as DeLanda, M. 2006. A New Philosophy
of Society: Assemblage Theory
highlighted by the subtitle of this vol-
and Social Complexity. London
ume). Thus, matter is made out and
and New York: Continuum.
understood through language and Sheridan, S. 2002: Words and Things:
so is language for matter. Some Feminist Debates on Cul-
This book is valuable not only for ture and Materialism. Australian
understanding new materialist the- Feminist Studies. 17(37): 23-30
ory in general, but also for rethink- Van der Tuin, I. 2009: Jumping Genera-
ing perceptions of dichotomies such tions: On Second- and Third-Wave
as nature/culture, subject/object or Feminist Epistemology. Austra-
reality/representation. In addition, lian Feminist Studies 24(59): 17-
it provides us with a new ontology 31.
based on previous social and sci-
entific theories. It is a move towards
the present new paradigm which al-
lows us to leave infinite paradoxical
dichotomies which often (and es-
pecially in posthumanist accounts)
have stopped feminism, and social
movements in general, in their politi-
cal fight.


Ahmed, S. 2008: Open Forum Imagi-

nary Prohibitions: Some Prelimi-
nary Remarks on the Founding
Gestures of the New Material-
Franois Briatte
University of Grenoble, France

Jonathon W. Moses and Torbjrn Knutsen, Ways of

Knowing. Competing Methodologies in Social and
Political Research, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan,
2007. 344 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780230516656 (pbk).
Key Words: research methods, epistemology, research design, positivism,
interpretivism, constructivism

While many textbooks conve- sises the importance of naturalism

niently opt for a shopping-list ap- in the initial constitution of social in-
proach to the description of re- quiry as a scientific practice, struc-
search methods in the current tured around the experimental, sta-
social sciences, Ways of Knowing tistical, case-oriented, and historical
retraces their historical and intel- approaches. The authors provide a
lectual lineage, focusing on the brief discussion of the various lim-
evolution of their philosophical its and perceived flaws of the natu-
underpinnings through time. The ralistic approach, most notably in
book is a successful attempt to relation to law-like patterns and
encourage students to be sensi- visions of the world as a single en-
tive to the methodological priors tity (pp. 148-149). These critiques
of social scientists, and to become help to explain the emergence of
more conscious and aware of how alternative frameworks of under-
these priors affect [their] work (p. standing grounded in constructivist
15). Those interested in the devel- and interpretive methods, which are
opment of the social sciences since the subject of the second section
the time of Francis Bacon have of the book. The authors historical
much to gain in reading this rich overview transcends disciplinary
contextualisation of ideas. boundaries, making it an appealing
The books division deliberately approach to social scientists, re-
accentuates the contrast between gardless of his or her research topic
two major perspectives in the study and preferred method of inquiry.
of society. The first section empha- A great strength of the book re-
Graduate Journal of Social Sicence June 2010, Vol. 7, Issue 1
2010 by Graduate Journal of Social Science. All Rights Reserved. ISSN: 1572-3763
88 GJSS Vol 7, Issue 1

sides in its in-depth coverage of counts of comparison as a method

both classic texts and recent schol- of analysis can be found in Newton
arship in social and political theory. and van Deths (2005) excellent his-
The works of Leopold von Ranke, tory of comparative politics.
John Stuart Mill or mile Durkheim The authors conclude their in-
to point out only a few are quiry with a call in favour of meth-
given extensive attention by the au- odological pluralism, which they had
thors, alongside contemporary dis- already announced in their opening
cussions shaping the current meth- pages. But the final chapter also de-
odological debates in academia. velops another interesting argument
Similarly, the work of Karl Popper, that distances itself from the episte-
Carl Hempel, Thomas Kuhn and mological equivalent of the e pluri-
other essential readings from the bus unum motto. That is, they do
philosophy of science find their way not attempt to reconcile the succes-
into all chapters. From a practical sive historical narratives presented
perspective, then, their writing el- by suggesting broad principles to
egantly solves the dilemma that the follow in order to produce valuable
postgraduate student faces when knowledge on society. Instead, the
having to select classic texts ver- authors claim that they are skepti-
sus up-to-date readings by putting cal of any attempt to create a new
them in dialogue with each other. hegemonic vision of science, which
The author handles an eclectic leads them to stress the need to en-
range of sources superbly, carrying courage problem-driven (not meth-
the reader from Galtons exploration ods-driven) science (pp. 289-290).
of statistical research (p. 76-sq.) to Accordingly, the authors subse-
Immanuel Kants thoughts on sense quent argument on methodological
perception (p. 170-sq.). The one rapprochement suggests reflexive
topic that arguably receives a slight- cross-fertilisation instead of an un-
ly less informed treatment is com- canny marriage of approaches. This
parative analysis, as the authors final statement resonates with the
refrain from engaging recent litera- authors own methods pursued in
ture on it. Specifically, their cover- Ways of Knowing.
age of classical approaches (from At this point, one might under-
John Stuart Mill to Przeworski and line the role a philosophy of history
Teune) eludes some of the impor- plays in defining ones approach to
tant debates in this field, such as the science. Ways of Knowing does not
work of Giovanni Sartori on concept describe a Hegelian narrative of sci-
formation and comparing small-N entific knowledge, driven by dialec-
cases with low degrees of freedom tical steps from naturalism to con-
(Sartori 1970; see also Collier and structivism and then into a joined-up
Gerring 2008). More precise ac- version of both. Instead, the book
Review: Briatte 89

supports a Kuhnian representation ary 2 34(3): 121141.

of wondrously different (p. 285), Newton, K. and Van Deth, J.W. 2005.
and eventually incommensurable Foundations of Comparative Poli-
approaches, historically connected tics. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
by paradigm shifts rather than conti-
Sartori, G. 1970. Concept Misformation
nuities. Any idea of a final synthesis
in Comparative Politics. American
sealing the tension between natu- Political Science Review 64(4):
ralism and constructivism would 10331053.
seriously contradict the message
supported by all the previous chap-
ters: that disagreement over analyti-
cal perspectives is essential to the
dynamics of science itself. The au-
thors reasoned pluralism is hence
very distinct from any hegemonic
project over the intellectual disposi-
tions of scientific inquiry.
In Ways of Knowing, the reader
will find an ideal springboard from
where to situate more specific dis-
cussions about the contemporary
issues generating some of the most
passionate debates within the social
sciences (for an excellent example
of such a view from the perspective
of an American political scientist,
see Hall 2007). The book stands out
as a particularly valuable addition to
the methodological and philosophi-
cal curriculum of the social sciences
through its provision of a detailed
historical inquiry of approaches to
its practices.


Collier, D. and Gerring, J. 2008. Con-

cepts and Method in Social Sci-
ence. The Tradition of Giovanni
Sartori. London: Routledge.
Hall, P.A. 2007. The Dilemmas of Con-
temporary Social Science. bound-