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‘You have time—you sit with them and their everything’: Listening as caring practice in research relationships

Authors: Kelsey Hanrahan*,
Topics: Field Methods, Africa, Cultural Geography
Keywords: care, listening, Ghana, ethnography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I contribute to work within feminist approaches to ethnography in which listening is explored as a strategy for gaining an understanding of everyday experiences that can be difficult to articulate. I engage in a critical reflection of the spaces that were co-created with older women living in rural northern Ghana and examine the social reproduction engendered within productive research strategies and reflect upon the implications for focusing on listening over talking in pursuing careful practices in research relationships. Older people emphasized the importance of greeting-- brief exchanges that are an important way of maintaining connections between people and households--for demonstrating love and care for others. In the course of research, however, greeting also served as a foundation for developing longer, open-ended conversations in which older women inquired after my own well-being and engaged in intimate conversations detailing their everyday lives—indulging in the opportunity to complain about frustrations in their relationships, the trials presented by their bodies, their desires for others. They also expressed that they struggled with feeling isolated—brought about by both days spent alone and through experiences of being avoided, which generated feelings of shame about their bodies and their intimate spaces. In this paper, I explore how a shift towards listening opens up the space to understand the emotions and embodied experiences that exist in between the words spoken, creating caring spaces for research relationships.

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