Researcher reflexivity and positionality when interviewing in intercultural contexts

Roxburgh, David (2022) Researcher reflexivity and positionality when interviewing in intercultural contexts. In: British Association of Applied Linguistics 2022 Conference, 2022-09-01 - 2022-09-03.

[thumbnail of Roxburgh-BAAL-2022-Researcher-reflexivity-and-positionality-when-interviewing-in-intercultural-contexts]
Text. Filename: Roxburgh_BAAL_2022_Researcher_reflexivity_and_positionality_when_interviewing_in_intercultural_contexts.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript
License: Strathprints license 1.0

Download (667kB)| Preview


The teaching of Mandarin Chinese in UK primary schools has developed over the past decade or so but remains significantly under-researched. This paper draws upon a research project examining the promotion of Chinese language and culture (CLC). The study offers a unique and innovative insight into the topic as the author does not belong to a Chinese heritage or linguistic background, which has often been the case within this context. This allowed the research process to be revisited from the perspective of a ‘cultural outsider’ and to specifically explore reflexivity and positionality, which also highlight issues round social justice. The paper draws upon some qualitative aspects of the wider mixed methods study and the processes involved when preparing to interview focus groups of ‘Hanban teachers’: visiting Chinese specialists in CLC. This offers insights into some of the methodological challenges that faced the researcher when working interculturally and multilingually. Initial consideration is given to his own understanding of reflexivity (Berger, 2015) with particular reference to ‘positionality’ and ‘intersubjectivity’. These bring to the fore some of the broad issues of research ethics that can arise when working with participants from the cultural Other. In addressing these, specific illustrations from the interview processes identify where the author’s reflexivity came into play. These highlight links to the literature base that helped shape his positionality with regards to the framing of notions of culture within the interview questions used (Holliday, 2018), ways of mediating power imbalances between participants (Birks et al., 2007), and some thoughts on maintaining meaning in the process of translation (Srivastava, 2006). Finally, a summary of considerations when trying to carry out interviews in a reflexive manner is given to assist others, particularly teacher researchers, who might wish to consider research within cultural contexts where they are an 'outsider'.