Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process : Feminist Reflections book cover
1st Edition

Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process
Feminist Reflections

ISBN 9780415452144
Published November 25, 2009 by Routledge
336 Pages

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Book Description

Feminist research is informed by a history of breaking silences, of demanding that women’s voices be heard, recorded and included in wider intellectual genealogies and histories. This has led to an emphasis on voice and speaking out in the research endeavour. Moments of secrecy and silence are less often addressed. This gives rise to a number of questions. What are the silences, secrets, omissions and and political consequences of such moments?  What particular dilemmas and constraints do they represent or entail? What are their implications for research praxis? Are such moments always indicative of voicelessness or powerlessness? Or may they also constitute a productive moment in the research encounter? Contributors to this volume were invited to reflect on these questions. The resulting chapters are a fascinating collection of insights into the research process, making an important contribution to theoretical and empirical debates about epistemology, subjectivity and identity in research. Researchers often face difficult dilemmas about who to represent and how, what to omit and what to include. This book explores such questions in an important and timely collection of essays from international scholars.

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Interpreting and Theorising Silence 1. Choosing Silence: Rethinking Voice, Agency and Women’s Empowerment 2. Forms of Knowing and Un-knowing: Secrets about Society, Sexuality and God in Northern Kenya 3. Unknowable Secrets and Golden Silence: Reflexivity and Research on Sex Tourism 4. The Desire to Talk and Sex/Gender Related Silences in Interviews with Male Heterosexual Clients of Prostitutes 5. Silencing Accounts of Silenced Sexualities  Section 2: The Unspoken in the Research Process 6. Not Telling it How it is: Secrets and Silences of a Critical Feminist Researcher 7. Critiquing Thinness and Wanting to be Thin 8. Inside ‘Doorwork’: Gendering the Security Gaze 9. Silencing Differences: The ‘Unspoken’ Dimensions of ‘Speaking for Others’ 10. Raising the Curtain on Survey Work Section 3: Silence, Secrecy and Telling Research Stories 11. Avoiding the ‘R-Word’: Racism in Feminist Collectives 12. Suppressing Intertextual Understandings: Negotiating Interviews and Analysis 13. Dirty Work: Researching Women and Sexual Representation 14. Keeping Mum: Secrecy and Silence in Research on Lesbian Parenthood 15. Silenced by Law: the Cautionary Tale of Women on the Line  Section 4: Affective Dilemmas 16. Animating Hatreds: Research Encounters, Organisational Secrets, Emotional Truths 17. Secrets, Silences and Toxic Shame in the Neoliberal University 18. Silence and Secrets: Confidence in Research 19. Shameful Silences: Self-protective Secrets and Theoretical Omissions 20. Living in the Real World? What Happens when the Media covers Femenist Research 21. The Place of Secrets, Silences and Sexualities in the Research Process

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Róisín Ryan-Flood is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Essex. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, kinship and migration. She is the author of Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Families and Sexual Citizenship (2009). Her current research explores sexuality, citizenship and diaspora.

Rosalind Gill is Professor of Subjectivity and Cultural Analysis in the Faculty of Social sciences, The Open University. She is author of Gender and the Media (2007) and is currently writing a book about mediated intimacy.


Róisín Ryan-Flood and Rosalind Gill have given us a treasure trove of intellectually powerful and unflinching analyses of the secrets and silences within the processes of research. Gail Lewis' technique of focusing closely on one small moment of data collection will become a teaching classic. This chapter is not just essential for researchers; it needs to be included in the training of social workers and other public-service professionals. I found myself wishing that this kind of research culture had been available when I was a young fieldworker. Times Higher Education Supplement