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Reflexivity and Social Location: A Case Study on the Maasai

By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case study explores how research design and data are affected by a researcher’s social location. In this case, the researcher reflects on her outsider status when she conducted a case study on the Maasai ethnic group in Kenya. The research aim was to understand how the Maasai were responding to external efforts aimed to eradicate their practice of female genital cutting/mutilation. Qualitative data were obtained by interviewing 25 participants who were either active in working to stop female genital cutting/mutilation or were directly affected by these efforts. Field notes from participant observation complemented narratives offered by participants. Key findings revealed that education, religion, family, and personal experiences influenced participants’ embracement of anti–female genital cutting/mutilation attitudes. Participants also discussed how the continuation of the practice was directly linked to early marriages and poverty. Implications from this study shed light on how anti–female genital cutting/mutilation campaigns might be implemented in similar settings, most notable the inclusion of Alternative Rites of Passages. Although the study uncovered fruitful findings, the researcher notes the influence her social location may have had in building rapport and acquiring honest responses. The case concludes with an explanation of various techniques that were intended to diminish possible pitfalls given the researcher’s outside status to her participants.

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