How to be reflexive: Foucault, ethics and writing qualitative research as a technology of the self

David Bright, Amanda McKay, Katherine Firth

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This paper explores reflexivity in qualitative research, challenging conventional perspectives that revolve around the binary of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ positioning. While traditionally reflexivity has been understood through the lens of a researcher’s socio-historical positionality, we argue for a more dynamic understanding, emphasizing that academic self-formation is an ongoing process of self-creation. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Akadēmía, where writing was a method of self-reflection, we recontextualize reflexive qualitative writing, aligning it with Foucault’s interpretations of Ancient Greek and Renaissance concepts. We posit that writing, especially in doctoral research, is not just a tool for communication but a means of self- formation. This perspective redefines reflexivity as a transformative intellectual and existential process. The paper critically examines the prevailing insider/outsider binary in the research literature, suggesting that researcher identities are fluid and constantly shaped by interactions. By integrating Foucault’s later work on ethics, we explore the ethical dimensions of reflexivity and the formation of the ethical subject. Ultimately, this paper contributes to the academic discourse on reflexivity, offering a more fluid, transformative view of the doctoral process and reflexive writing in qualitative research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Research and Method in Education
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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