Embracing the emotional turn: Responding to researchers’ emotions




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Bristol University Press



Peer reviewed



This paper examines the role of researchers’ emotions when researching sensitive topics. Drawing on two different ethnographic research projects, experiences of imprisonment and hate crime victimisation, respectively, we reflect upon the important role that our emotions occupied within the research context. Within the framework of sociology of emotions, we discuss our subjective experiences of qualitative research with prisoners and victims of hate crime. We actively celebrate the work by Bondi (2005) and offer an extended discussion on the value of using emotions as important methodological tools that should be used as part of the methodological and analytical process. We employ the concept of the ‘emotional turn’ to emphasise the importance of researcher emotions in ethnographic work, and the value of those emotions in guiding methodological and ethical decision making. Specifically, we use envy, guilt, and shame – three key emotions that we both experienced and utilised throughout our independently conducted research projects – to illustrate how and why emotions are important for guiding decision making in research. The particular emotions centred here (envy, guilt, and shame) are not tied to hard to reach groups or sensitive topics; rather, emotionally-engaged research is important as all researchers need to understand how their emotions could/should shape their methodological choices. The paper concludes by assessing the value and challenges of embracing the emotional turn, and offers some methodological guidance for future researchers. Within this we raise important questions about the universality of emotions experienced during research. We tentatively conclude that research work does trigger shared emotive responses. Keywords: Guilt; shame; envy; emotion work; emotion management; reflexivity


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


guilt, shame, envy, emotion work, emotion management, reflexivity


Knight, V. and Zempi, V. (2020) Embracing the emotional turn: Responding to researchers’ emotions. Emotions and Society, Vol.2:2


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice