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DISABILITY-RESEARCH  October 1999

DISABILITY-RESEARCH October 1999

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Subject:

Re: Epistemologies

From:

"Dr John M Davis" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 26 Oct 1999 17:34:29 +0000

Content-Type:

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Hi Alison

My own perspective is  researchers should start from the 
humble perspective that they are not experts and that the experts are 
the people they want to study. Moroever, I think that means we have 
to be humble of about the social model as well and that there is a 
worry that if we take the 'social modle first' approach we could 
decend into anthropological hypothesis testing and that any of a 
respondents perspectives which don't fit with the social model would 
be written off as false conciousness (this  is outlined in a more 
measured sense in Davis, J. M. (2000):  'Disability studies as 
ethnographic  research & text:  Research strategies and roles for 
promoting social change?' Disability & Society (forthcoming)).  My 
perspective has been greatly influenced both by anthropologists and 
working with Mairian Corker and I would suggest that you follow up 
her work particularly

Corker, M. (1999a) New Disability Discourse, the principle of
optimisation and social change, in M.Corker and S.French (eds).
Disability Discourse, (Buckingham, Open University Press). 

and

Corker, M.(1999b) Differences, Conflations and Foundations: The 
limits to the accurate theoretical representation of disabled peoples 
experience, Disability & Society, 14: (in press)


I believe that researchers  should adopt a learning role. This is an 
ideal and it often doesn't work out this way when you enter a 
location that already has power structures in place (as Mandell's 
experiences demonstrate).  The complexity of this process when 
working with disabled children  is outlined in a paper Davis, J M, 
Watson N, Cunningham-Burley S (1999), Learning the lives of disabled 
children: developing a reflexive approach, in Christiensen P and 
James A eds, Conducting Research With Children, Falmer.  Which I have 
been told is coming out this month.  

Whilst  on the 'Life as a disabled child' project which ran as apart 
of the ESRC's Children Programme we linked ideas in the 'new 
sociology of childhood'  in the UK (surprisingly named concidering 
the amount of anthropologists who acted as fore mothers and fathers 
to the paradigm and still work within it) to disability studies.  

I myself specifically drew from Mandell in an article: Davis J M 
(1998) Understanding the meanings of children: a reflexive process', 
Children and Society 12 (5): 325-335

In her paper  Mandell, N, 'The Least Adult Role in Studying 
Children', in Waksler, F C ed. (1991) Studying the Social Worlds of 
Children: Sociological readings.  Falmer 

She is very good on the variable role of the ethnographer, however, 
she dissapoints when she only uses her role to explain the 
differences between boys and girls and fails to account (as pointed 
out by Barrie Thorne about children's research) for the fluid nature 
of gender relations in children's worlds.  Again this demonstrates 
the problems of using notions of culture in a fixed way, as Russell 
and Devva have themselves pointed out.  I havent come across any 
other of Mandell's works, do you have any more references that might 
be a bit more up todate?  

In terms of hermeneutics I think there is a lot to be gained from 
people like Geertz in anthropology, however problems arise when 
hermeneutic based research only represents the one voice of 
a percieved 'group', 'tribe' 'culture' (this criticism can be found 
in the text Writing culture which I referenced in an  earlier email) 
and the one voice of the researcher.  I think multi-voiced texts are 
much more interesting and recently, myself, Mark priestly and Nick 
Watson presented a paper at the BSA in Glasgow which illustrated the 
way that different children negotiated the terms Disability and 
Disabled.  (If  can send you a copy of that if you are interested).  
Also Mairian Corker and myself have just finnished a paper (as 
indicated in an earlier email) looking at the multiple selves of the 
researcher and the shifting roles which are encountered in the 
ethnographic research process.  This text includes our own two voices 
(including verbal and visual voices), the voices of children we 
worked with and adults whom they encountered on a daily basis.  These 
texts don't desend into cultural relevatism (which is a worry 
outlined in Mark P and Emma Stone's papers on emanciipatory research) 
 becaseu the web of cultural, structural and material forces which 
the children,  adults and researchers  encountered in their lives are 
evident in their talk and bodily practice.  This also includes talk 
about impairment.  


Sorry once again for the shameless self publicity

Much Enjoying the recent postings and the fatc that I'm too tired to 
stay here and spell check this message.
 Cheers
John
Dr John M Davis
Department of Public Health Sciences/
Research Unit in Health and Behavioural Change
The University of Edinburgh
Medical School
Teviot Place
Edinburgh
EH8 9AG

tele 0131 650 3244/6197
fax 0131 650 6909
email [log in to unmask]


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