Unknowing Researcher’s Vulnerability: Re-searching Inequality on an Uneven Playing Field


  • Siew Fang Law


This article engages in critical reflexivity to investigate the researcher’s own sense of vulnerability when conducting research on social inequality. Using a disruptive experience in an immersive theatrical storytelling performance as a catalyst to deconstruct and raise consciousness about the author’s privilege and her own role in research, this article seeks to unpack the politics at play in qualitative research in social and political psychology. The extent to which our privileged role and our identity as researchers are nested in history, in systems, and in structures is explored, and the risk that this shields us from being able to truly understand the reality, or epistemology, of the vulnerable groups we are seeking to investigate, is examined. The notion of unknowing the researcher’s vulnerability in research is discussed, along with the ways in which systems and structures have allowed researchers to maintain emotional control and dominance in knowledge production. Moreover, through othering vulnerable emotions and legitimising a researcher’s position as emotion-free, value-free, neutral, and objective, we may continue to engender epistemological injustice. Finally, the author emphasizes the importance of reflexivity and re-searching researchers’ humility as ways to address this challenge.