Fotheringham, S. (2013) 'Exploring the Methodology
of Getting Lost with Patti Lather'.
In The Qualitative Report 18: 1 - 4
Lather's book 'is an excruciatingly difficult
read'(1) which induces precisely the feeling of
getting lost in the theoretical and philosophical
complexities. It offers ambiguities
complexities are more questions than answers, and
argues that getting lost is important, and that
this is the appropriate reaction for the reader.
One of the first losses is the loss of 'researcher
expertise and authority'. Instead the
researcher is a person who knows is
problematized. The appropriate location is
being curious and unknowing rather than an
expert. This is defended by discussing
epistemology and how knowledge is produced,
allowing a space for new knowledge to
emerge. This agrees with work on indigenous
research and the role played by stories, although
Lather prefers to appear as a witness to the lives
of others. New forms of knowledge are
required, however. In social work, there has long
been talk about sharing power in research and
developing anti-oppressive research, but support
for the researcher as expert remains.
Feminist methodology can no longer remain
innocent, and must examine its own unintended
consequences. It needs to open itself to
contestation and critical investigation [rather
than assuming it is automatically right and
anti-oppressive]. Lather did some work with
women living with HIV, to trouble normal forms of
representation, and to allow the women themselves
to participate, but also examines how feminist
researchers can be made more accountable.
They must acknowledge the problems of
representation their ubiquity in research.
This implies by constructing the role of
researcher as expert, hence getting lost.
The book also deliberately breaks boundaries
between academic and other forms of writing, and
Lather's '"naked methodology"' (3) involved
running a seminar from a hot tub literally
stripped of authority and innocence.
Researchers and social workers should also take
off their clothing of doing good and engage in
theoretical debate instead of assuming that
feminist social workers are simply well meaning.
The book ends by arguing for imperfect incomplete
and indeterminate knowledge as part of a larger
shift away from positivism. Social work
should engage in this debate and be prepared to
get lost a little.