On parallel fieldwork as a methodology for studying relational work in social psychiatry

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperResearch


Doing fieldwork, is never a neutral position. A lot has been written about challenges, ambivalences and possible strategies to be taken. In relation to the professionals, one challenge is that the fieldworker risks being seen as a suspicious observer who is there to assess and evaluate the professional’s work. However, for now, we will limit our focus to the challenges of doing fieldwork among service users.

Fieldworkers who emerge themselves in fieldwork among service users may face the challenge that they are read as part of the social service staff. One way to avoid this is to actively assume a service user perspective and deny oneself any staff privileges there may be (such as keys to staff toilets, staff coffee etc.). Sally Andersons studies - which are centered around a different empirical setting and group than ours, but nonetheless has some important pointers that can guide the understanding of this argument - has pointed out the seriousness and consistency we have to develop while working with adopting a service user perspective. In her own anthropological fieldwork among Danish children enrolled in kindergarten, Anderson describes how she actively demonstrates her non-adult privileges by sitting in the same chairs as the children and striving to adopt the same opportunities and constraints that the children live by, and for example call on an adult when in need of a high hanging scissor, instead of standing up and reaching it with her own adult sized body (Anderson 2000). To renounce adult privileges such as being allowed to go to the toilet or taking a break without asking permission is vital in being recognized as one of the children.
However, to position oneself like that may seem awkward and strange and stir confusion at first, but is often accepted with time.

Regardless of what strategies one adopts it is important to keep in mind, that not all positions are available for the fieldworker to choose from (Hasse 1995) The fieldworker is often assigned a position and specific role by the different actors and is not free to choose whatever position they find most relevant.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEuropean Conference for Social Work Research 2017 - Ålborg Universitet, Denmark
Duration: 19 Apr 201721 Apr 2017


ConferenceEuropean Conference for Social Work Research 2017
LocationÅlborg Universitet
Internet address


  • research designs, theory and method

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