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‘The project cannot be approved in its current form’: feminist visual research meets the human research ethics committee

journal contribution
posted on 2014-07-01, 00:00 authored by Penelope PittPenelope Pitt
This article reflects on a university human research ethics committee’s unease regarding a feminist visual pilot study within the field of education. The small exploratory study proposed to explore a migrant mother’s production of her son’s identity through her family photograph collection. The committee requested substantial changes to the research design which centred primarily on their concerns regarding risk of harm to pre-existing relationships, and also issues of anonymity and consent. I consider the combined liberal individualist, utilitarian and positivist biomedical basis for the ethics committee’s discomfort with the proposed research which was to involve members of my family. I draw on my experience of the review process to critique the human research ethics committee paradigm which constructs the ideal researcher as an objective and disinterested observer, hinges on a weighing of risks and benefits, and considers humans to be independent and equal. I demonstrate how the blanket application of these values acts to problematise some kinds of research, and how these values can be inappropriate, incompatible and even destructive when applied to research proposals that are exploratory, visual, and/or involve the researcher’s family members as participants.

History

Journal

Australian educational researcher

Volume

41

Issue

3

Pagination

311 - 325

Publisher

Springer

Location

Dordrecht, The Netherlands

ISSN

0311-6999

eISSN

2210-5328

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal