Volume 9 Issue 1 (2013)
Main Articles

Challenging Fieldwork Situations: A Study of Researcher's Subjectivity

Thomas Bille
Roskilde University
Vibeke Oestergaard Steenfeldt
University College Zealand
Published June 19, 2013
  • philosophy of practice,
  • reflective practice,
  • research philosophy,
  • research methods,
  • awkwardness,
  • ethnographic fieldwork,
  • phenomenology,
  • ethical dilemma,
  • researcher’s subjectivity,
  • duoethnography,
  • mutual interviewing,
  • cooperative analysis
  • ...More


Researching two different work settings, police work and hospice care, the authors experienced a strange sense of discomfort in their bodies during their fieldwork when investigating professional training and work situations, especially in encounters with citizens and patients. In some of those situations, the authors withdrew physically or mentally from the situation without wanting to do so, feeling emotionally affected by the uncertainty of the situations, not fully grasping the meaning of what was going on. In a strange way they felt awkwardly detached from their research activities and their bodily involvement in their fieldwork. In this article, the authors seek to explore the meaning of awkwardness embedded in some kinds of ethical dilemma. Through a phenomenological analysis based on the concept of intentionality of the body and a model of inner dilemmas, they reach a renewed understanding on the phenomenon of awkwardness as a natural way for researchers to respond to challenging fieldwork situations. Finally, they propose and unfold mutual interviewing and cooperative analysis as methods of investigating researcher's subjectivity in facing such situations.