technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Anthropologist, Heal Thyself: Conducting Qualitative Research as Both Research Instrument and Research Subject



mental health


Attempts at unsettling normative (re)presentations of disability have only recently begun to incorporate Mad-positive perspectives. My fieldwork across various peer support networks in Boston investigates peer support as a medium through which the chronically mentally ill and/or psychiatrically disabled (re)constitute a sense of self, in light of the persistent challenges•internal and beyond•to the legitimacy of their own subjectivity. From navigating various markets of care, peers come to know and negotiate experiential knowledge in a way that both questions and compliments hegemonic psychiatric explanatory models. Leveraging my illness narrative as a passport into these diverse microcosms of convalescence exemplifies a kind of “interlocution-based fieldwork” (Borneman 2011) whereby processes of self-disclosure as a mentally ill person studying “other” kinds of dis-eased people is politicized and potentially disabling. Considering identity-development as intrinsically reflexive, I use this paper to identify how tensions around my positionality as simultaneous research instrument/research subject influence the validity of my intersubjective research contributions. Fusing auto-and-net-nography, I reflect upon pervasive methodological challenges around exploitation, as well as ways in which they might be more ethically reckoned with. Keywords: auto-ethnography; disability; madness; peer support; qualitative research ethics; recovery


Transcript English (automatic)

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