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Researching Old Age


Fri 28. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 204

Formalised research ‘ethics’ and the reproduction of social inequalities within ‘the field’: Othering practices, resistance and (dis)empowerment in research involving older ethnic minority people


Zubair, Maria (1); Victor, Christina (2)
1: University of Nottingham, United Kingdom; 2: Brunel University London, United Kingdom

Research involving older ethnic minority people, as with older people more generally, is often presented as being fraught with significant methodological and ethical challenges. A key concern has not merely been with the difficulties experienced in terms of access and recruitment, but also with the perceived vulnerability of these social groups within the research process. The ‘ethical’ conduct of research with this perceived vulnerable group in turn continues to be defined and regulated through formalised research ethics frameworks and structures. However, an emerging body of scholarly literature is now beginning to point to how official research ethics frameworks and regulations, and the assumptions that underlie these frameworks, are often incongruent with the realities of ‘the field’ for the researcher and the participant and their own lived experiences of research. In line with this literature, we will draw on some of our own experiences of fieldwork with our older Pakistani Muslim participants in our ESRC New Dynamics of Ageing study: Families and Caring in South Asian Communities, to present a critique of the formalised research ‘ethics’ for engaging in a routine process of othering and disempowering of the older and ethnic minority participant. We will conclude the paper by arguing for the need for a more systematic and thorough consideration of how the formalised frameworks, and the agendas and processes employed by White, middle-class and bureaucratic institutions may be perceived and experienced (and hence often resisted) by certain older populations as putting them in a particularly vulnerable or less desirable position.