Cesagen biopolitics Plows

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An autobiographical account of feminist methods http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/cesagen/politics/ .


overview My own research story: PhD on UK eco- activist networks, to CESAGen emerging politics project- multiple publics. Emerging methodological practise- qualitative methods. Using an autobiographical approach to discuss methods issues- practical and epistemological- which have arisen through my research -autobiography itself a feminist methodological principle (Stanley 1991)- along with reflexivity, and the practise of “engaged”, “action research”- how ‘the personal is political’ transmutes into academic practise story telling – a feminist approach (auto biography)- narrative as ‘user friendly’ and ‘demystified’ academic practise people “theorising their own experience” (refs)

My own activist background- site of my PhD and early ESRC project work: 

My own activist background- site of my PhD and early ESRC project work Roads protests early/ mid 90’s. (“eco –warriors” “eco –terrorists”) theorising our own experience- resisting being framed by the media, ‘the academy’ :PhD 90’s UK environmental direct action movement- ‘grounded theory’ of my ethnographic practise - broad base of research site “snapshot” approach to methods (data from range of sites) combined with in-depth case study immersion Initial methodological concerns: being ‘too close to my material’ It was great to read feminist and other accounts (critical realist) of research methods which validated my approach (Stanley 1991, Roseneil 1993, Harding 1987, Becker 1974) swings and roundabouts with any research approach-

Feminist and other literature taught me to appreciate, academically:: 

Feminist and other literature taught me to appreciate, academically: No such thing as objective value- neutrality “whose side are you on?” (see later) (Becker 1974). objectivity “not only a value, but a male value” (refs). Reflexive practise, autobiography- “accountable knowledge”(Stanley 1991:209) The locating of self in the research. developing qualitative research methods: an academic template to engage- embedded PO- and deconstruct the practise of mobilisation in my ethnographic case study site- reflexivity about pros, cons, limits of (feminist, insider, action) research led me to appreciate ‘horses for courses’ -Viability/ suitability of any methdological approach is context- dependant

Methods lit application overview continued: 

Methods lit application overview continued “insider” research- shared narratives-pros and cons “the problem is that of …becoming empirically literate...you have to be knowledgeable to collect good information”. (Miles + Huberman 1984: 48). Of course knowledge can also be acquired. Trust, access key issues especially in these types of ethnographic setting (gate-keeping) “Engaged” research- (‘whose side I was on’) example: my support for/ engagement with eco action. Also a critical account. Engaged research can give key grievance frames of identified actors a ‘fair hearing’. Thus focussing on discourse frames- issues-( which are often ‘framed out’ by media/ policy, another key point)- can count as ‘engaged’ research, especially in a climate where such POVs are marginalised

New research site:, researching different publics engaging with human, medical genetics: : 

New research site:, researching different publics engaging with human, medical genetics: Several issues made the practise of engaged research a lot more challenging: “beyond pro and anti”. How to be ‘on a side’ when issues and actors are so complex? multiple issues, multiple actors, complexity ‘beyond pro and anti’- ambivalence. (Venn diagram, examples) Ethnographic/ methodological focus was to get an overview of the field: which publics are engaging and what are they doing and saying? Needing to feedback accounts from different actor groups; new research field I needed to find out about. “objectivity?” fairness, certainly, insofar as I could- pro life views etc (reflexivity). Developing my snapshot/soil sample ‘grounded theory’ approach – to who/what/why/how etc questions] - being ‘empirically literate’ – see insider research discussion earlier- can be achieved in different ways (‘fast tracking science information, also key informants in continued network relationships in case study sites -anti GM, anti corporate actors)

Developing rationales for/ ways of doing engaged “action research”, feminist and qualitative methods in new contexts- : 

Developing rationales for/ ways of doing engaged “action research”, feminist and qualitative methods in new contexts- Ethnography ‘snap shotting’ multiple (latent) publics as ‘upstream public engagement’- Identifying under- resourced etc public groups “framed out” Resourcing publics by identifying full range of issues (debates, ‘knowledge transfer’) Identifying how academics and regulators are also ‘prime movers’ co- constructing meanings , policy ( Jasanoff, EU science in society): revisiting feminist critiques of ‘value- neutrality’- useful for unpacking, for example, views of eg Harris, Savulescu et al – they are engaged actors, part of actor networks -my own ethnographic practise as method, as engaged academia- and as data generation

example: the feminist seminar series: 

example: the feminist seminar series last feminist seminar-eggs ‘donation’ issue and HFEA- participants choosing to foreground key issues and not others (action research)– how policy and scientific practise is/ will be impacting on women (sides?) Seminar and resulting statement generating capacity amongst ‘organic’ ‘loose’ feminist /academic network which is evidently gathering momentum/ critical mass in a variety of sites -seminar a good example of my own ethnographic practise/aims as ‘public engagement’, as a method- tracing emergent views- and as a catalyst of this; helping to co- construct /feedback meanings- (see also WONBIT 2007): ongoing research –grassroots- led.

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