'You Are What You Research': Bias and Partisanship in An Ethnography of Boy Racers

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Despite social researchers directing a great deal of attention to methodolog- ical and theoretical arguments relating to bias and partisanship, and the reflexive turn within the social sciences, explicit reflections of the opera- tion and experience of these in criminological research have been scarce. In a sense, partisanship is frequently presented as if it needed little support- ing argument and is discussed in ways that cover over controversial issues. These arguments are not taken seriously by social researchers because they are seen to have been undercut by developments in the philosophy and soci- ology of science (Hammersley 2000). According to Hammersley (2000, 11): ‘Nor do we find, in the literature on researcher partisanship, explicit value arguments about what goals research ought to serve. Instead, ‘“whose side to be on” is treated as a foregone conclusion, as if the world were made up of “goodies” and “baddies’”. However, when conducting ethnographic research on deviant or criminal cultures the researcher can be required to balance the interests of powerful or elite groups with those of the less powerful or the ‘underdogs’ (Gouldner 1973). Thus, it is essential that the criminologist is visible in the text in order to ensure that he/she does not exploit his/her authorial position (Brewer 2000). According to Devine and Heath (1999), the best way to proceed is not to pretend to be value neutral, but to be hon- est about one’s own perspectives and beliefs on any given research topic and then seek to represent the data in as objective a way as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReflexivity in Criminological Research
Subtitle of host publicationExperiences with the Powerful and the Powerless
EditorsKaren Lumsden, Aaron Winter
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-37940-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-37939-9
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • boy racer
  • reflexivity
  • criminology
  • deviance
  • bias
  • qualitative
  • ethnography


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