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Observing the Observer

Understanding Our Selves in Field Research

Shulamit Reinharz

Publication Date - 05 May 2010

ISBN: 9780195397802

240 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The only book that covers the issue of "reflexivity" in field research


Ethnography or participant observation research has been performed since the early nineteenth century and is now one of the most common ways for field researchers to gain an in-depth understanding of social life. In Observing the Observer: Understanding Our Selves in Field Research--the only book that covers the issue of "reflexivity" in field research--author Shulamit Reinharz provides a captivating analysis of her yearlong stay in Israel, where she engaged in a study of aging on a kibbutz. Exploring the issue of "reflexivity," this unique volume focuses on the key tool in fieldwork--the self. It discusses how the many facets of the self (or "selves") of a researcher--research selves, personal selves, and situational selves--can affect how research is enacted and reported on. The book addresses many of the current debates on fieldwork, especially those that have arisen in the feminist literature. Ideal for graduate courses in qualitative research methods, ethnographic methods, or ethnography, Observing the Observer can also be used in upper-level undergraduate courses on qualitative methods.

About the Author(s)

Shula Reinharz is Jacob Potofsky Professor of Sociology at Brandeis. She is also Founding Director of the Women's Studies Research Center and Founding Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Dr. Reinharz is the author or coauthor of several books, including Feminist Methods in Social Research (OUP, 1992).


"Observing the Observer makes an important contribution to the literature on social science methodology by focusing on the process of conducting field research and how this process shapes our findings (and ourselves). The book fills an important gap in this literature by not only highlighting various nuts-and-bolts aspects of carrying out field research but also by bringing in a personal perspective on the process."--Melanie Cammett, Harvard University

"Several sections are quite unique to the literature on qualitative research (i.e., the sections on motherhood and fieldwork and on absent selves) and will make a significant and very useful contribution. The book raises issues that are not addressed in any other methodological text I have seen. I think it would create rich discussion and ultimately be helpful for doctoral students preparing to embark upon ethnographic projects."--Cynthia Miller-Idriss, New York University

"Observing the Observer is the best discussion of the self in fieldwork that I have read, without a doubt."--Linda Grant, University of Georgia

Table of Contents

    1. Developing Research Selves: The Desire, Opportunity, and Preparation to Do a Study
    2. Becoming Independent of the Sponsor
    3. Gaining Allies, Overcoming Antagonists, Being Tested
    4. Personal Selves
    5. Understanding the Elderly as a Consequence of My Mothering Role
    6. Being a Woman, a Wife, 33 years old, a Jew and a Potential Member
    7. Being an American, an Academic, a Sociologist/Anthropologist/Gerontologist, Dancer and Daughter
    8. Situational Selves: Being a Worker, Being Temporary
    9. Being a "Volunteer" (Neither a Volunteer nor a Hired Worker) and Being Sick
    10. Being a Neighbor, a Friend, a Homemaker, a Hostess, and a Leaver
    11. Theoretical Conclusions

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