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Co-existing with uncomfortable reflexivity: Feminist fieldwork abroad during the pandemic

Jia, X. ORCID: 0000-0002-3595-8302 (2023). Co-existing with uncomfortable reflexivity: Feminist fieldwork abroad during the pandemic. In: Ryan-Flood, R., Crowhurst, I. & James-Hawkins, L. (Eds.), Difficult Conversations: A Feminist Dialogue. (pp. 113-129). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003088417-11


During the global Covid-19 pandemic, fieldwork abroad involved inevitable uncertainty, tension, and dilemmas. Reflexivity on the part of the researcher – developing an explicit awareness that requires them to be introspective about their positions and power relations – is arguably even more necessary during such challenging times. This chapter provides a retrospective and reflexive account of ethical challenges and considerations as experienced during the fieldwork in Xi’an, China between 2020 and 2021 for a project on audience reception studies of a reality dating show. The fieldwork involved a group of young and highly educated women as respondents, who participated in text-in-action viewing sessions and qualitative interviews. The research dilemmas that present difficulties in ethical, practical, and methodological dimensions are explicated. Factors affecting the level of trust between the researcher and participants are considered, given the feminist sensitivity of the topic. Referring to the asymmetrical relationship between the researcher and researched, I propose ways of building on a reciprocal and non-exploitative relationship, particularly through conversations that are interactive, communicative, and dialogic. I also reflect on how different meeting places shape participants’ behaviours and interpretations of reality dating shows, highlighting the importance of contextualism in media consumption for analysis. By highlighting the notion of uncomfortable reflexivity, I navigate new ways of understanding and addressing difficulties in the research process to transfer the feelings of confusion and despair into self-reconciliation, healing, and solidarity. With a specific focus on fieldwork across borders and the field of audience reception studies, this chapter seeks to contribute to literature on research ethics and feminist research praxis and inspire further discussion about difficult conversations.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Difficult Conversations: A Feminist Dialogue, on 1 Feb 2023, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Chinese feminism and gender; Feminist fieldwork; Feminist media studies; Feminist research methods; Feminist theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QR Microbiology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
[thumbnail of Jia X 2023 Co-existing with uncomfortable reflexivity feminist fieldwork abroad during the pandemic_In R. Ryan-Flood I. Crowhurst and L. James-Hawkins eds Difficult.pdf]
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