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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. Qualitative methods touchy, feely, look-see? Progress in human geography. 2003;27:494-504.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

In this second report (see also Crang, 2002) I want to suggest, first, how qualitative methods are now undergoing a period of some more mature reflection and evaluation, and, second, to highlight some as yet less well-trodden paths. I want to suggest that much current work follows through a constructionist agenda – in terms of seeing people discursively creating their worlds, seeing the field as discursively constructed and indeed both the fieldwork and field worker as socially constructed. That is, we
acknowledge the (co-)construction of the field by researcher and researched where ‘fieldwork is a discursive process in which the research encounter is structured by the
researcher and the researched’ (England, 2001: 210). I want to interrogate the limits resulting from this ‘cross between ontological constructivism and epistemological
realism’ (Crang, 2001: 221). So this report will begin with some textbooks to look at the state of play with qualitative methods. Then it will turn to the notion of the construction
of knowledge and the field through autobiography before following through the issues raised by approaches engaging with performative, embodied and haptic knowledge, and finally visual approaches. Through this I want to ask whether methods often derided for being somehow soft and ‘touchy-feely’ have in fact been rather
limited in touching and feeling. Rethinking notions of feeling will also be suggested as a way of working at the thorny issue of the dominance of certain forms of vision in the
discipline.

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Department of Geography