This research workshop series dealt specifically with questions relating to the research process, societal encounters in the field, and knowledge production. The workshop series developed out of the need to reflect on the challenges that continuously bring us back to the problems encountered when conducting research and using certain research methods. A number of informal discussions have unfolded at SWOP over a period of time where multiple students and other researchers have reflected on encounters with, and in, the field and its challenges. 

These have constantly thrown up issues around gender, race, class, power relations and positionality when undertaking research. Field research, and the related processes of writing and knowledge production have brought up the need to reflect on unequal hierarchical relationships at the research institute, the meaning of a research community, and pertinent questions around developing a voice and a sense of intellectual ownership resulting from this process. 

Added to this, the Covid-19 pandemic demanded that we focus our attention on digital research methods which provide flexibility, and yet also pose a new set of challenges. As such, the pandemic significantly shifted how the research process is viewed and undertaken, and has transformed thinking around research ethics. The workshop series engaged with these changes including how the pandemic raised difficulties with the digital divide and poses new sets of questions for researchers. As a starting point, we take the research process as one that is uncertain. Both students and seasoned researchers will have had to deal with uncertainty in the field, and have found different ways to navigate this space. In thinking through the global pandemic, then, we see this as part of a broader sense of uncertainty that comes from doing research. 

Although this series has ended for the time being, we will be returning over time to the questions and themes that it brought up. Furthermore, we invite anyone who is interested in taking forward these questions with us to get in touch: tasneem.essop@wits.ac.za

Workshop information