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Introduction: Why emotion matters

Loughran, Tracey ORCID: and Mannay, Dawn ORCID: 2018. Introduction: Why emotion matters. Loughran, Tracey and Mannay, Dawn ORCID:, eds. Emotion and the researcher: sites, subjectivities, and relationships, Vol. 16. Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Bingley: Emerald, pp. 1-18. (10.1108/S1042-319220180000016001)

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All researchers have stories to tell about why they chose to research particular topics. In some cases, there is a direct and uncomplicated link between personal experience and research agenda. We are not surprised to find that the sociologist who interrogates the relationship between class, inequality and education was once a child, ‘working-class, troubled, difficult, out of place in schooling, a fighter but also a survivor’ (Reay, 2017, p. 2), or that the historian of self-harm is scarred by self-inflicted wounds (Chaney, 2017, pp. 7–17 and 236–243). In other cases, the connections between researcher and subject are more oblique. Who would have guessed that a career in neuroscience hinged on a moment of boredom during a family holiday, when a young girl resorted to reading her grandfather’s books, and became captivated by a volume on the brain (Fowler & Shigley, 2018 [this volume]). How could anyone else know that, as an unhappy adolescent, the historian of the First World War found a distorted mirror of her own pain in the symptoms of traumatised soldiers (Loughran, forthcoming)? Whether such tales confirm expectations or provoke astonishment in the audience, they usually hold profound emotional resonance for the teller. As researchers, many of us feel intensely vulnerable about the prospect of telling our own stories, even if we firmly believe that our research is embedded in our selves. These stories are not peripheral to our research. They are about where it starts and what keeps us going in the face of obstacles that sometimes feel insurmountable. Yet, for the most part, when we present our research to audiences we deliberately exclude the stories that suffuse that work with meaning. The same pattern is evident when we think about emotion in the research process. From our own experiences, and from our conversations with colleagues and students, we know that undertaking research is often an intensely emotional experience (Ehn & Löfgren, 2007). There is the frustration at data that will not yield easy answers, the anger at an aggressive question at a conference, the despair when reviewers do not like your work, and, of course, the joy when suddenly all the pieces fall into place and that tricky problem somehow resolves itself. Emotion is not an intrusion into the research process, but a constitutive element of it. So why do we so often pretend it is not there?

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Emotion; Qualitative Research; Positionality; Reflexivity
Publisher: Emerald
ISBN: 9781787146129
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 07:10

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