n Education as Change - Outsider from within : reflections on my fieldwork journey in a native / foreign Eastern Cape school governance research context

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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This paper is a reflexive account of a number of methodological issues that arose in the field as I was conducting a study of the relationship between identity and participation in school governance in six African, Xhosa speaking communities in the Eastern Cape. I conducted this study periodically in four phases between April 2002 and May 2005. I collected data using 'residence' methodology, and included surveys, in-depth interviews and participant observations. Research sites comprised four rural and two townships. This paper aims to explore the nature of my own researcher identity, which in this context translated into both insider and outsider positions. This shows the fluid nature of my identity as a researcher. This paper intends to make a contribution to the researcher status debate that challenges the simplistic insider-outsider dichotomy evident in popular qualitativeliterature, and suggests, rather, that we begin to imagine the possibility of a continuum in which the researcher is located. In this I suggest that positionings of oneself as 'native' and 'stranger' shift, providing the researcher with a complex challenge of constantly having to 'read' his or her location. Such a reading, I argue, can be utilized to inform and enhance the research experience. Reflections are made on the advantages of being an insider, and the challenges, incompleteness and destabilizations that come with recognition of this status. Recommendations are made for young researchers to be conscious of the complexity of fieldwork politics, which at times require one to adjust to unexpected situations.

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