The teaching of the other: Ethical vulnerability and generous reciprocity in the research process

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Journal Article
Human Relations, 2018, 71 (10), pp. 1295 - 1318
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© The Author(s) 2018. How is it that researchers can engage with those they research ethically? In response to the challenge of this question, we articulate an ethics of research engagement based on vulnerability and generosity. This is explored with a special focus on the practicalities of organization studies research. Building on developments in reflexive methodology, we draw on Emmanuel Levinas’ relational ethics to consider how research can be approached as receiving a ‘teaching of the other’. Such teaching involves a radical openness to other people’s difference such that knowledge arises from being affected by those others rather than claiming to know them in any categorical sense. The possibility that emerges is that of a reflexively ethical position from which to conduct research premised on letting go of the egotistical comforts of one’s own epistemic authority. Self-reflexivity becomes rendered subservient to other-vulnerability in embodied research encounters that are open and generous. The promise for research is a deepening of our corporeal, affective and aesthetic engagement with others and an enlarged sense of the ethical meaning of research.
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