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Professional symmetry in clinically based ethnographic research: an asset or liability?

Scamell, M. ORCID: 0000-0003-2770-0341 Professional symmetry in clinically based ethnographic research: an asset or liability?. .


Purpose: To offer methodological reflection on the complexities of being an insider ethnographic health service researcher.

Methods/data: Taking ethnographic fieldnotes that describe an observed episode of midwifery care in a UK-based maternity service, the shared identity between the researcher and research participant will be explored as being at once comfortably shared, while at the same time, a source of pernicious estrangement. The methodological reflections came from a study investigating the work midwives (n32) did, in a range of intra-partum (labour and birth) settings, when making sense of the concept of risk. Data were collected during fieldwork carried out in an NHS maternity service offering intra-partum care in four distinct clinical settings: the home; freestanding midwifery-led units (n2); alongside midwifery-led units (n2); and obstetric-led units (n2). Fieldnotes were compiled over a period of 13 months.

Conclusion: Detailed interrogation of the potential tensions that can arise out of a common identity shared by both the ethnographic researcher and the participant helps to expose some ethical dimensions of insider ethnographic research in clinical health care settings.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: Copyright the author, 2022.
Publisher Keywords: Ethical inquiry, Ethnography, Critical Theory, Focused Ethnography, Feminist Research
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
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