Event: Emotional Journeys: Navigating emotional content within complex life histories and its impact on the research process – a C & S seminar with Nicky Spawls

Date & time: 24th January 2018, 1-2pm

Location: W159, Williams Building Middlesex University, London


The aim of this paper is to explore issues regarding the role of emotion in the research process. Ryan (2008) suggests that emotions may be a topic within research but may also impact upon the research process. Listening to the stories of the children of Somali refugees who are now graduates, within my PhD research project, has meant encountering tales of hardship and success, struggle and achievement. Many of my interviews, despite being focussed on educational achievements, have a strong emotional aspect to them eliciting powerful emotions from the participants and inducing equally strong emotions in myself as the researcher.

How should the researcher respond and integrate this emotional content meaningfully, with the appropriate degree of respect in their research? How does the researcher protect themselves from the difficult and painful emotions of their participants?To what extent does the interview process have the power to be therapeutic to the participant enabling them to assimilate complex and challenging emotional experiences?  Such questions present ethical and methodological dilemmas. To what extent can the concept of ‘emotion culture’ (Hothschild 1979, Ryan 2008) help us to understand the participant experience? These questions will be considered within this presentation, with respect of my current research process and with regard specifically to one case-study.