When reflexivity is not enough: researching Polish Catholics

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This article addresses the issues of reflexivity and emotional strain in fieldwork with religious populations. Undeniably, gaining access to, and forging relationships with, any social group is a challenging enterprise but the difficulty is particularly intensified when the researcher shares biographical characteristics with the researched. Based on two research projects with Polish nuns and Polish Catholic migrants, I explore the role of reflexivity in dealing with the emotional stress of fieldwork. I argue that although the lessons of feminist methodology have made fieldwork a collaborative and equal relationship between the researcher and the participants, when objective conditions in the field collide with the researcher’s cultural biography and dispositions, exercising reflexivity may not be sufficient to fix the problem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-96
Number of pages19
JournalFieldwork in Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • ethnography
  • religion
  • Catholicism


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