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Unfinished business: a reflection on leaving the field

Thomas, Gareth ORCID: 2023. Unfinished business: a reflection on leaving the field. Smith, Robin and Delamont, Sara, eds. Leaving the Field, Manchester: Manchester University Press,
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Whilst confessional tales are a common feature of the research process, stories of exiting the field remain scarce. In this chapter, I reflect upon my experiences of leaving a post-industrial town after a long period of study. First, I trouble the popular narrative of ‘leaving’ as a voluntary and deliberate decision. My abrupt departure from the research site prompted questions and anxieties about researcher responsibilities and commitments. Second, I highlight the affective nature of leaving the field and sketch out the interpersonal intensity of the relationship between both the researcher and the participants. Third, I reflect upon my trepidation about writing once I had left the site, both in terms of doing justice to participants’ lives and not further stigmatising a maligned community. By sketching out not the reasons for leaving the field, but what concerns emerged because of my departure, I argue that researchers must treat disengagement as a serious matter – pragmatically and analytically – which rarely leaves us unaffected.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 November 2022
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2022 12:25

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