Bourdieusian reflexivity in insider research in higher education: Considering participants as a critical audience

Palgrave Macmillan
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Bourdieu's Field Theory and the Social Sciences, 2018, pp. 165 - 180
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In this chapter, I explore insider research within higher education from my perspective as a doctoral candidate who also holds a full-time academic position. I position doctoral education as a subfield of the higher education academic field and consider the homologies of these fields. This exploration uses concepts of Bourdieu’s “participant objectivation” in relation to the social and career trajectories of myself as an insider doctoral researcher and as an academic and explains how this reflexivity of my positioning within these fields led to the development of a new methodological “gaze” or “metanoia”. Bourdieu’s concept of “illusio” or sense of the game within the field is explored as it relates to the parallel formation of a “habitus” as an academic and a researcher over time. The chapter makes reference to Bourdieu’s “socio-analysis” of his presentation of the French higher education field to his peers, and discusses how this analysis has informed my own research and its representation Following Bourdieu’s example, this chapter takes a reflexive sociological analytic approach, to explain how my own positionings within the higher education field influenced methodological decisions and strategic moves within the field. I develop an argument to demonstrate that insider research in the higher education field is a unique form of insider research and that certain discourses relating to the practice of doctoral education may be inappropriate, potentially self-sabotaging, and even wasteful in this context. The chapter addresses the construction of the object of research within an insider context and discusses the process which led to the selection of a new analytical lens. In this chapter, field analysis is used to analyse my position as a researcher and work colleague, and the impact of this reflexive analysis on my analytical and representational choices. The chapter is likely to be useful to doctoral students and other researchers who are considering undertaking an insider study, particularly those who are considering a study which involves research relating to the practice of their peers and colleagues—especially when those peers are academic researchers themselves. The chapter begins with a critical reflexive moment which dramatically changed the direction of my research.
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