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On the social relations of contract research production: power, positionality and epistemology in housing and urban research

Allen, Christopher (2005) On the social relations of contract research production: power, positionality and epistemology in housing and urban research. ISSN 1466-1810

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Abstract

The growing interest in reflexive social science has been matched by a voluminous literature on the epistemological consequences of positionality in social research. Inter-subjectivist approaches to positionality emphasise how social interactions within the field produce ‘interpretative moments’ and thereby consciously affect the process of knowledge production. Objectivist approaches to positionality emphasise the ‘background thinking’ that social researchers carry into the field, unexamined, as occupants of social positions that are class, gender etc. based. It follows that this (class, gendered) background thinking unconsciously influences the process of knowledge production. However, since this literature has had little impact on the field of housing and urban research, its relevance to these fields remains to be established and vice versa. In this paper, I discuss both of these approaches and find them helpful but limited in their relevance to housing and urban research. Since housing and urban research tends to be undertaken on behalf of ‘policy funders’, I argue that constant exposure to the ‘disciplinary gaze’ of those funders means that the positionality of housing and urban researchers is also moulded during the course of the academic career. This means that the positionality of housing and urban researchers is not simply established within the field nor carried into the field. Rather, the positionality of housing and urban researchers develops over time of constant exposure to the ‘disciplinary gaze’ of research funders and manifests itself in what Foucault refers to as ‘docility’, i.e. research practices intuitively and uncritically oriented to satisfying the needs and demands of research funders. I draw on my own research career experiences to demonstrate this argument and, in doing so, show how my docility manifested itself during recent ‘policy funded’ research into the housing and urban problems of visual impaired children.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article was originally published following peer-review in Housing Studies, published by and copyright Routledge.
Divisions:
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2010 13:56
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2016 13:57
URI: http://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/89138

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