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A Critical Review Of Recent Developments In Qualitative Human Geography Methods

1782 words - 7 pages

“Qualitative research is used to gain insight into people’s attitudes, behaviour, value systems, concerns, motivation, aspirations, cultures or lifestyles.” (Ereaut G. 2007) Human Geographers continue to adopt backbone qualitative methods of qualitative research including the study of texts, the conduction of interviews, engagement in ethnography and the use of focus groups. Davies and Dwyer (2007) contend there are changes in the way they (qualitative research) are being conceived and carried out, and related to this there are transformations in the way these methods are being used to make claims to understanding and intervening in the world (Davies and Dwyer 2007). Recently there have been a number of debates as to which qualitative methods are appropriate and credible to use within Human Geography. Smith argues that the choice of qualitative methods used is fundamentally a political decision. The methods chosen are ‘a way of challenging the way the world is structured, the way that knowledges are made, from the top down. We are adopting a strategy that aims to place non-dominant, neglected knowledges at the heart of the research agenda’ (Smith 2001) Qualitative research has evolved through recent years. Human Geographers understand that social worlds are dynamic and not fully stable or predictable; social life is produced through human and non-human actions. There are social worlds with distinctive and sometimes competing social meanings, competencies and practices (Gregory et, al. 2009). We have to figure out what it means to engage with the world, both in methodological practice, but also in our choice of interpretive strategy and ethical aspirations (Bennett, 2001). “Developments in qualitative research have proceeded in different areas, each of them characterised by specific theoretical backgrounds, specific concepts of reality and their own methodological programmes.” (Flick U. 2009:445) This essay intends to investigate recent developments within ethnographic developments in Human Geography qualitative research.
Ethnography is ‘long-term, in-depth engagement with specific communities’ (Gregory et. al, 2009) Ethnography enables Geographers to be able to forge politically enabling understandings of processes glossed by the term globalization and to illuminate the possibilities of social change (Gregory et, al. 2009). Crang (2003) criticized ethnographic researchers who ‘unwittingly rely on class, colonial and/or racial privilege to gain access to informants and other information to produce knowledge’. Chari described ethnography as ‘a process of alienation, through which for instance, ethnographers poach on working class narratives for very different ends: like getting a job or tenure (2003, p 171). These criticisms have left qualitative human geographers to rethink their strategy to obtain more reliable and truthful observations. Routledge (2002) Decided that one ‘ethically wrong’ technique was to go undercover posing as a tourist agent...

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