Haunting and the knowing and showing of qualitative research



Wilson S (2018) Haunting and the knowing and showing of qualitative research. Sociological Review, 66 (6), pp. 1209-1225.

This article focuses on the representation of qualitative sociological research to academic and non-academic audiences. It argues that a broader, ethically informed consideration of the communication of findings is required, rather than the current, audit-shaped approach, to do justice to complex (affective) data and to research participants. An important catalyst for this article is the concern that the current predominance of peer-reviewed articles may contribute, however unintentionally, to the maintenance of stigmatizing social imaginaries of groups including marginalized young people. This article draws on interdisciplinary sources to extend Avery Gordon’s work on haunting to the representation of research. It contends that research ‘outputs’ can ‘haunt’, or stay with and produce empathy in their audience, by communicating the ‘seething absences’ that trace the everyday effects of power affectively and by highlighting the ‘complex personhood’ of those affected. The possibilities of such an approach are illustrated through consideration of textual and visual representations of findings from a project that explored understandings of ‘belonging’ among young people in state care, and particularly a short film, co-produced with, and featuring, a participant. While ‘representation’ is employed here primarily in an everyday sense, this article discusses ‘non’ or ‘more than’ representational approaches, while advocating a strategic negotiation with representation in relation to social justice.

audit culture; automatic anonymity; Avery Gordon; ethics; haunting; representations of research; visual methods; young people;

Sociological Review: Volume 66, Issue 6

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date01/11/2018
Publication date online13/04/2018
Date accepted by journal04/03/2018

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Dr Sarah Wilson
Dr Sarah Wilson

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

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