Standpoint Epistemology and the Uses of Self-Reflection in Feminist Ethnography: Lessons for Rural Sociology*


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    This article is dedicated to the memory of Janet Fitchen, whose commitment to ethnographic investigation of rural poverty continues to inspire. Thanks to Gil Gillespie and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Sociology and Women's Studies, University of California, Irvine, CA 92612; (949) 824–5749 (phone); (e-mail).


Abstract We explore how feminist researchers informed by standpoint theoretical frameworks employ the process of self-reflection to counter the reproduction of inequalities in ethnographic investigation. Although it is not a cure for this dilemma, we argue that researchers can be self-conscious about the ways in which they reproduce power in the course of their work; furthermore, sustained attention to these dynamics will enrich ethnographic accounts. We begin by outlining the diverse ways in which feminist ethnographers draw on standpoint epistemology to generate strong reflexive methodological strategies. Then we describe challenges posed by postmodern and postcolonial critics, and outline how feminists have contributed to these debates and have responded with innovative methodological strategies, especially in relation to self-reflexive techniques. In conclusion, we discuss how rural sociologists might incorporate these methodological insights into their ethnographic investigations.