Chapter_02-PERSPECTIVES AND METHODOLOGIES.pdf

Perspectives and methodologies 25 gray 2eresearch

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PERSPECTIVES AND METHODOLOGIES 25 Gray 2e(Research)-3778-Ch-02:Gray 2e(Research)-3778-Ch-02.qxp 10/7/2008 5:20 PM Page 25
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FEMINISM Like Marxism and critical inquiry, feminist epistemologies take the view that what a person knows is largely determined by their social position. But whereas Marxism defines social class in terms of a person’s relationship to the means of production, feminism regards women themselves as an oppressed social class. Because men come from a position of dominance, their knowledge of the world is distorted. In contrast, women, being subject to domination, have a less dis- torted social experience that has the potential to produce less distorted knowl- edge claims (Williams and May, 1996). But what counts as knowledge is also challenged. Attempts at rational or objective approaches to research are seen as the remit of male researchers, reflecting and prioritizing male values. In contrast, women have access to a deeper reality through their personal experiences (of oppression), and through their feelings and emotions. POSTMODERNISM Postmodernism is far from being a unified system of thought and is sometimes used interchangeably with concepts such as deconstructionism and post-struc- turalism. Emerging from the disillusionment of French intellectuals with Marxism after the events of 1968, postmodernism was not just an attack on positivism, but on the entire historical agenda of modernity – and particularly Marxism (Delanty, 1997). Postmodernism rejects any notion of social ‘eman- cipation’, emphasizing instead multiplicity, ambiguity, ambivalence and frag- mentation. Whereas philosophers such as Habermas had seen fragmentation in negative terms and as a threat to communication, postmodernism views it quite positively as an opportunity for choice. Hence postmodern analysis often focuses on themes within advertising, lifestyles, fashion, subcultures and gender. In terms of research, the primary task becomes the deconstruction of texts to expose how values and interests are embedded within them (Williams and May, 1996). The focus becomes not one of how these texts describe the ‘real- ity’ of the world, but how the social world becomes represented, and how meanings are produced. Texts are therefore seen as social practices, embedded with multiple values and vested interests, not the reporting of independent, objective judgements. As we have seen, in contrast to other epistemologies, postmodernism stresses a becoming ontology. RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES We have examined, briefly, the significance of both epistemology and theoretical perspectives in research design. Let us now look at applying these in practice by 26 PRINCIPLES AND PLANNING FOR RESEARCH Gray 2e(Research)-3778-Ch-02:Gray 2e(Research)-3778-Ch-02.qxp 10/7/2008 5:20 PM Page 26
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exploring some of the alternative research methodologies. The choice of research methodology is determined by a combination of several factors – for example, whether the researcher believes that there is some sort of external ‘truth’ out
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