Ordering identities: exploring the emergence and consequences of researcher identity

Paul W Chan, Vivian Liang

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Researchers in the field of construction management have often focussed on developing objectified knowledge to help improve working practices and performance in the industry. Less attention is paid to articulate the researcher’s position and how this shapes the way knowledge about the industry is produced and used. However, with growing interest in the co-production of knowledge and the use of more participatory research methods in the field, there is an urgent need for injecting more researcher reflexivity in the analysis and authoring of research. This article is therefore concerned with the significance of the researcher’s identity on how new knowledge in the field is claimed. Specifically, the article is based on an ongoing ethnographic study of how airport operators make decisions about developing infrastructure to meet the sustainable development agenda. Data collected to date include field notes from over 750 hours of participant observations, analysis of more than 200 documents, numerous formal interviews and informal conversations with staff at an international airport. A number of ‘stories’ of critical events have also been co-produced with participants to demonstrate how the airport is trying to become more ‘sustainable’. The critical focus of this article is on how these ‘stories’ have emerged. Ethnographic research has often been associated with benefits of being embedded in the research context and yielding richer and thicker descriptions of observable phenomena. However, becoming an insider can be immensely challenging. This is especially so in the case of the airport where the context is continually shaped by the multiple identities that occupy its space. Consequently, our identity as researchers kept shifting as we sought to make sense of the research problem, the participants and their perspectives. In doing so, attempts were made to find some order in the identities of research participants at the airport and of our selves. Yet, ordering our identities meant that the ‘stories’ we re-tell were constantly being altered as we sought to simplify what remains a chaotic context. Thus, the implications of ordering the researcher’s identity on the way findings are written up and presented are discussed in this article.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationhost publication
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2012
    EventCIB Conference on Management of Construction Research and Practice - Montreal
    Duration: 26 Jun 201229 Jun 2012


    ConferenceCIB Conference on Management of Construction Research and Practice


    • ethnography, identity, order, research reflexivity


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