The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 4, Number 1, October. 2005

ISSN 1602-2297


Bias, Intimacy and Power in Qualitative Fieldwork Strategies


Mikkel Funder
Department of Environment, Technology and Social Studies, Roskilde University
E-mail: Funder@ruc.dk


Abstract: Efforts to understand the inter-relationship between environmental trends and local livelihoods has led to the adoption of qualitative fieldwork approaches in many interdisciplinary environmental studies in developing countries. This paper discusses how bias, presuppositions and power relations affect and form part of such approaches, with a particular emphasis on data generation though qualitative household interviews. Specifically, the paper critically reviews the notion that we may shed our roles as pre-disposed outsiders by entering the field with an “open mind”, and by developing close relationships with community members. It is argued that these approaches, while effective in many ways, contain and are constrained by a number of biases, and that they therefore need to be complemented by explicit reflexivity. Such reflexivity includes greater attention to the power relations and epistemological frames of reference within which the researcher is embedded, as well as dedicated attempts to engage other disciplines and actors in highlighting unreflected biases and worldviews


Keywords: Fieldwork, transdiciplinary studies, epistemology, qualitative methods, bias, power, developing countries.



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