“Sociologists in White”: Constructing Professional Position in Medical Field

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Anastasia Novkunskaya
Daria Litvina
Anna Temkina


This article presents research reflections on the fieldwork conducted in a medical organization in Russia. We emphasize how our professional positioning in the field was changing as a result of the ethnographic immersion into the empirical work. Addressing the insider/outsider dilemma and testing some of the feminist principles of interactions with research participants, we find that we neither become “insiders” nor remain “outsiders” in the organization we study but obtain a temporary position of svoi (literally, ”ours”) for its “inhabitants.” We focus on the construction of our own positioning in the field, which is accomplished through the participants’ perception of and interactions with us: they identify, examine, (un)dress, and trust (or do not trust) us. We believe that the “making” of the feminist sociologist is accomplished through the process of research reflection and care happening in the field. We use the metaphor “a sociologist in white” (as an allusion to the classic 1960s book Boys in White: Student Culture in Medical School) to denote this particular kind of positioning of the researcher. The article is written in an experimental format: In the first (analytical) part we discuss the basic principles that help to analyze the experience of being a researcher in the medical field. In the second, “operational” part we reconstruct conditions in which the research and our professional positions have become the subject of our reflections as well as the reflections of other participants of the study. In the article we reconstruct conditions and situations of the actual fieldwork and, drawing on our individual experiences, show different interpretations of our professional positions.

Article in Russian


Positioning in Qualitative Research, Feminist Research Principles, Ethnography, Medical Organization, Insider/Outsider, Trust, Care

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