Religious positionalities and political science research in ‘the field’ and beyond: Insights from Vietnam, Lebanon and the UK

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Abstract

This article contributes to the growing literature on researcher reflexivity by broaching the often-ignored issue of religious positionalities within political science, as well as speaking to the methodological implications of researching religion more broadly. We present and compare two autoethnographic case studies of research on politico-religious conflict in Vietnam and Lebanon, exploring how a researcher’s religiosity presents unique fieldwork challenges, opportunities and insights. We then discuss the ambivalence faced by religious researchers within the highly secularised academic environment, thus blurring the artificial dichotomy between ‘the field’ and the academy. Our reflections centre around three findings: (1) the importance of taking an intersectional approach which neither essentialises nor ignores religious aspects of positionality, whilst also being sensitive to spatial and temporal shifts in how they interact with a researcher’s gender, ethnicity, class and other identifiers; (2) the opportunities and perils of a researcher’s apparent religious common ground with participants (or lack thereof) in building rapport and negotiating a degree of insider status; and (3) the similarities and differences between suspicions of religious partialism during fieldwork and within academia.

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Rumsby, S., & Eggert, J. P. (2023). Religious positionalities and political science research in ‘the field’ and beyond: Insights from Vietnam, Lebanon and the UK. Qualitative Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/14687941231165884

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