SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Gender and Linguistic Fieldwork Abstract

High heels or football boots?: Reflections on gender, decision making and data collection in sociolinguistic fieldwork
Sarah Foxen, University of Exeter

My current research investigates the interaction between accent, language attitudes, perceptions of language, and notions of identity in the Franco-Belgian borderland. Having recently returned from a three-month visit to Belgium where I was collecting data, in this paper I reflect on some of my experiences in the field; in particular I talk about certain decisions I made with regards to data collection – both prior to entering the field and once in situ.  

This paper begins with a reflection on the period leading up to the fieldwork and the consideration – or rather lack thereof – that I gave to the significance of my gender. I make suggestions as to why I accorded my gender so little significance in the run-up to my fieldwork. I then move on to evoke five different situations in which I made a decision shaped at least in part by my gender. The first of these was the decision to reach out to the local football community. I explain how this action was motivated by the knowledge that I needed to find male working class informants; informants whose demographic make-up was opposed to my own. I then evoke two decisions I made in which my heteronormativity led to distinct outcomes. Following this, I talk about two further decisions I made in which my gender had a negative impact on the data collection: in the first of these the impact was economic; in the second it was emotional and psychological.  I conclude by presenting some of the questions I feel have emerged from this experience of fieldwork.